The Context of Their Reality: An African American in West Africa

The Context of Their Reality: An African American in West Africa
by Deborah Renee Smith

October 6 - 9, 2015 

chashama 461 Gallery
461 West 126th Street
New York, NY 

Open Hours:
October 6th, 4:00-8:00pm
October 7th-10th, 2:00-6:00pm

Opening Reception:
Tuesday, October 6th
Reception with Snacks and Libations from 5-8 pm
Spoken word at 6:30 pm

The Context of Their Reality
The title of this photo essay, The Context of Their Reality, An African American in West Africa was inspired by my reality of stepping and entering into the reality of the indigenous people of West Africa. Initially, I placed my own value judgments of how I perceived their lives to be. Entering the context of their reality inspired me to create 5 categories of 27 color photos that document my journey to Cape Verde Peninsula. Each image was captured with a 35 mm digital camera. 

About the Artist:
Solo artist/photographer/writer Deborah Renee Smith is excited to exhibit her photography for the first time. Smith is a published writer of the book, "When I Used to Wear Red Lipstick", and served as editor and contributing photographer to "Signifying Harlem", a literary journal. She also worked as a field photographer for the Will to Adorn, a project of the Smithsonian Museum in 2013.

"Born in the corn fed valley of Ohio, a product of the late 70’s, I carried the “Handbook to Higher Consciousness” in my backpack. Race and cultural identity were at the forefront of my parent’s consciousness. They endured the pain of the civil rights movement. Jet Magazine sported Afro Sheen ads with models wearing African print dashikis and big afros. My mother would not allow me to have one. I have always walked with my camera. In college, I attended a rally. The speaker was Dick Gregory, an advocate of political self-awareness. He encouraged us to travel to Africa to gain our individual historical perspectives and guaranteed that our lives would change forever. As an “African American” all of my ancestors were born in the US, yet, I was curious about my connection to Africa. Georgia and Alabama was as far back as I could go. Historically speaking, the context of my ancestral reality is my immediate family. In 2008, when I traveled to West Africa, I photographed over 1000 images of varied indigenous brown faces, some resembled my relatives, however the reality is that I do not have any kind of genealogical connection to those random beautiful souls."

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, contact the artist at 

Tags: gallery, photography, Harlem, chashama 461, 461 W 126th Street
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