For Sarah - The African Princess

PhotographerDagmar van Weeghel
PrizeHonorable Mention
CompanyDagmar van Weeghel Photography
City/CountryAmsterdam, Netherlands
Photo DateMay 2016
Technical InfoDigital Fine Art PrintBaryta
Entry Description

Homage to Sarah Forbes Bonetta, the African princess. Sarah Forbes Bonetta was a young girl from a royal family in Egbado Town in West Africa, who was orphaned in a brutal massacre in her home country at the age of four and captured into slavery by King Ghezo of Dahomey. Sarah was then given to Captain Fredrick E. Forbes of the Royal Navy as a gift. In a remarkable twist of events, Sarah was liberated from enslavement, and became a goddaughter to Queen Victoria. The well known archival image of Sarah Forbs presents a young black woman of high rank, dressed in the latest Victorian fashions of her social standing, but offers none of the Afrian royalty identity, and inner turmoil that must have been experienced by the woman who was stolen from her homeland and placed into Europe where she should we constantly be viewed as the other. I attempted to show her roots as well as the inner struggles of Sarah by presenting her in lush light, and contrasting black lace and satins that promotes ideas of regality. The portrait also deploys several tropes of the “white gaze” with animal skins. In this portrait I show Sarah's dual identity, pensive, distant, and in a world far from where she is placed. I combined empathy for the historical figure as well as the model, 2011 former Miss Uganda runner up, Kajote Barbara, an entrepreneur now living in Belgium, who was orphaned at age eight and experienced her own struggles as a black woman living in Europe.

About Photographer

I studied Film and Photography in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. I graduated from the Dutch Film Academy in 1998 and worked as a TV and Film professional. I was missing a connection. In 2002 I moved to the African continent alone, packed with a filmcamera, in order to connect to something bigger: connect with wild natural places and the people. My connection towards Africa and its people strengthened when I initiated an organization that produced and used entertaining film series to educate children living in various African countries on being environmentally engaged. For many years I lived and became a part of communities in Tanzania, Botswana, Uganda and other countries, thus promoting a sense of connectedness that permeates through my photography work these days. I married into a Zimbabwean family and my husband and I settled in the Netherland 8 years ago. All these experiences have shaped and inspired my storytelling these days with a main focus on telling stories of the African Diaspora. I picked up photography again end of 2015. My narratives often align themselves with historical data that somehow relates to the contemporary subject that I'm photographing. I'm a change maker; I like to tell important stories, present the unknown, the beauty and strength of people, women and girls especially, and change the way people see the world and each other.