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Nicola Lo Calzo –Inside Niger

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« A great traveller with a passion for Africa, Nicola Lo Calzo knows that alongside cultural landmarks and fetish books, one needs a mentor and a guide to be shown the path. In his previous work “Morgante”, the role of mentor was played by Lyne Laure Nguewo, founder of ASCAPPT, the NGO that introduced him to the world of people of small stature. “Inside Niger”, however, sees the Niger river itself becoming the mentor, and its path dictates Nicola Lo Calzo’s itineraries while connecting the destinies of the characters depicted on these pages. And yet, aside from the few photographs where it appears in the background, the Niger river remains the silent character. Such is the river's fate, its disappearance foretold, and a caution about the manifold dangers that threaten it, especially in the Niger Delta in Nigeria where the activities of oil companies have turned life into a living hell for inhabitants. But this absence is not unusual, simply because Lo Calzo always capitalises on the human aspect as an insight into realism, or even tell stories through his protagonists. Thus Characters depicted here are intrinsically linked to a river condemned to disappear by virtue of its troubled ecosystem. Thanks to a rather simple and systematic setup – posed portraits and frontal postures, overseen by a contact verticality – the objects/subjects of the photographs, statuesque, stare back at us, reminding us of their journey through time. Lo Calzo’s empathy and respect towards his portrait models transforms them into heroes; a transformation that encapsulates Italian journalist Pietro Veronesi’s words: “No, all men are not equal, yes, races do exist and are divided between inferior and superior, superior to all is the African.”.

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