An Afropean Odyssey

An Afropean Odyssey (Penguin 2017)

I spent five months wandering Europe in the winter, armed with a train pass, a notebook and a camera. As an Afropean, I wanted to find a Europe beyond the stereotypical (and, it may be said, somewhat archaic…) national identities and images we see in the tourist brochures of the continent’s big cities. So I flaneured through the hinterlands: those areas where immigrants set up homes and gave birth to a second, third or fourth generation of Afropeans, too indelibly connected to Europe to identify with the motherland of their parents or grandparents, and yet not considered truly European by the place they were born and raised.

 

I attempted, somewhat paradoxically, to create images with my pen and tell stories with my camera, and those stories, some happy, some sad, needed to be told with a certain subtlety. As somebody who grew up on the outskirts of a large European city, I felt a kinship with the places I visited, and so I wasn’t looking for the exotic (hence travelling in the winter), nor was I inflicted with that obsession with victims or gangsters, as so many photographers who photograph black culture often are. Rather, I wanted to present the people I encounted as elegant lead actors in their own journey. I tried to show the life, the struggle, the love, the hope, the frustration and the bittersweet experience of those who, like myself, were trying to find coherence amongst their multiple cultural allegiances.

 

The photographs presented here are a small selection of the stories I encountered, from places such as Clichy Sous Bois in Paris, Cova Da Moura in Lisbon, Rinkeby in Stockholm and other areas across London, Amsterdam, Moscow, Berlin, Brussels and Rome. They are part of a larger collection of photographs and a travel narrative due to be published by Penguin UK in 2017. As part of the project, I set up www.afropean.com with funds provided by the ENAR Foundation Awards.