With his series “Cimarron”, the photographer continues to explore traditional costumes and masks around the world. Taken in America, his photographs are to be seen at the castle of the Dukes of Brittany in Nantes and in a book published by Editions Actes Sud.
They are costumes with amazing shapes and shimmering colors, funny custom-made masks, with all kinds of materials, from bull’s horn to crocodile skin … The outfits worn by the people photographed by Charles Fréger fascinate by the inventiveness shown by their authors and immediately throw us into a colorful carnival where the scores of oppressed peoples are played out. Because it is the great strength of this series rightly entitled “Cimarron”: the sublimation of a pain experienced by African-Americans, victims of the slave trade, and Amerindians, victims of the colonization of their lands. Many seek, through the laws of masquerade, entertainment, a way to avenge the past and reinvent it. “Cimarron” is a term that refers to the slave who fled and resists against his oppressors. Here is a title appropriate to this series that allows the voice of offended souls to express themselves.
“Each character carries in himself an inheritance, a multitude of layers that comes from the past and brings us back to the vision of a community,” explains the photographer. Complex story that made up people seize to sing its praises or denounce its flaws. Thus, this controversial figure of Yankunu refers to that of the merchant and warrior John Conny who, after trading in the slave trade, rebelled against the European powers. Today’s costume represents him clothed, as if he were still selling raw materials in this trade where people were exchanged, but he remains, in the spirit of some communities, a liberating hero . Often, the characters have a whip in their hand, recalling the role of the foremen who subjected the slaves to bullying and violence. Sometimes, it is a mask that evokes this painful past or conjures it by making people laugh or frighten them by his clownish attire. The importance of cults too, be it voodoo or other religions, make up this incredible palette of characters. “The strength of all these masquerades is to circumvent the condition of slave while paying tribute to it,” says the photographer. A tribute that particularly makes sense to Nantes, a city that once lived of the slave trade and now proves that a fruitful mourning job has been done.
From 02 February to 14 April 2019
Castle of the Dukes of Brittany
4 Marc Elder Square