Our mission is to bring Africa and Spain closer
Through outreach, educational, economic, and cultural activities, we foster mutual understanding and strengthen Hispanic African relations.
"It is from the other that all writing of the world truly becomes an event"
Achille Mbembe in his work "Salir de la gran noche"
Juan Valbuena embraced the journey of photography more than twenty years ago. His active participation in the NOPHOTO collective helped shape his way of understanding photographic practice as a participatory, open and shared action. Also noteworthy is his love for books and his vocation as a publisher through his publishing house PHREE from which, in each project, he takes us by the hand to tell us a different story in a different format.
Indeed, Juan is fascinated by stories. He leads us through his work to stories that try to bring to light invisible or silenced experiences. Hence, all his projects require time, many years of development and also demand an effort on the part of the viewer: they request our commitment not to be mere spectators, but interpreters of a present or a past time.
This continuous journey back and forth is what we offer in this exhibition, which is composed of two works that began practically at the same time and that were conceived, in both cases, in book format. These are, on the one hand, Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente (2008-2018), one of Valbuena's most ambitious projects, born from the memory of one of his schoolmates who was from Equatorial Guinea —a country that remains the great unknown in the history of Spain—, and on the other, Salitre (2009-2014), which arises when the author meets twelve undocumented Senegalese living in an overcrowded apartment in Salitre Street, in the Lavapiés neighborhood of Madrid.
Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente tries to rescue the lost images of the relationship between Spain and Equatorial Guinea, the only Spanish colony in sub-Saharan Africa. A chronological narration that covers two and a half centuries of history reconstituted through a network of official and personal archives, testimonies, experiences and found objects, as well as tracing a journey through photography during that period. A crossed story that Valbuena turns into political and social news with its publication in five newspapers. A way, in short, of approaching the other to try to understand ourselves and to sketch the elements that make up Spanish history and society, so that we all get involved in the exercise of recognizing and seeing ourselves.
In Salitre, in order to get to know who are those people who live together in such a reduced space, Valbuena establishes a new strategy that prevents the inhabitants of the house from appearing filtered by a mere documentary chronicle: he offers each one of them a blank book — another space— so that each one can tell their life, their story. By establishing this collaboration, the author invites us to read subjective stories in which hierarchies have been deactivated and where everyone occupies the same place. In this way, we do not break into the lives of twelve anonymous Senegalese, but we discover the human stories of twelve people with their faces.
Whether as an investigative journalist, as an editor or as a catalyst where the I-photographer disappears, gives voice to the voiceless and allows us, in these back-and-forth stories, to get to know our and their past in order to build a better present. To this end, there is no time when we visit exotic places or delve into the adventures of an island far away, but rather each of these stories establishes a direct and close connection with Spain and with our neighbors, with our others, both inside and outside. Those others who end up being us.
The exhibition can be accessed from March 4 to May 27, 2022 at Casa África, Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 6:30 pm. Admission is free.
The opening will take place on March 4 at 8 pm. An hour before there will be a get-together with the author. Free admission until full capacity is reached.