Sydelle Willow Smith
The short film above was part of a residency, I completed at Jiwar, Creation and Society based in Gracia, Barcelona, funded by The Africa Centre and the Spanish Embassy of South Africa. I focus my artistic practice on memory, place, and home making with a strong focus on migration. Spending the past five weeks in Barcelona I forged a small path through the city, and made this film: I am intrigued by how people who are a minority, such as African “migrants” in Barcelona, navigate the city. What is their experience of it? What happens after one survives the treacherous crossing by boat or how has the experience changed after living here for twenty years, like Xumo Nunjo who works as a musician/artist. How does one hold on to a deeply rooted sense of self, a cultural identity, and make new paths whereby lines of ethnicity, race, and nationality begin to shift and become malleable in order to adapt and make new forms of home? Armed with a complex position, a great deal of curiosity, and a wealth of questions, this project needed to be multi-layered. Thus Vecinos is a multidisciplinary project. I worked in different modes: from documentary portraiture to participatory photography, whereby people took pictures on disposable cameras of what they wanted to show of Barcelona in terms of their experience of navigating and negotiating the city, thus “neighbourhood making”.
I have been working with Makhulu (www.makhulu.co.za) in the film industry since 2009 as a camera operator, director, editor, producer and researcher. A short film I produced and worked on as a camera operator, Amazing Grace, received 6 awards in 2013 including a National Geographic Award, a United Nations Forum on Forests Award, and a Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival Award, and was selected as part of the Durban Film Mart pitching forum in 2013. We work with a variety of clients from NGOS like Doctors Without Borders and The Children Radio Foundation as well media outlets such as Red Bull Media House and brands like Volkswagen. I am the head of research for our media advocacy wing that focuses on community solar powered media screenings and new interactive technologies www.sunshinecinema.org. I hold a Masters in African Studies from The University of Oxford, my research focused on youth media advocacy initiatives in Southern Africa. I am a passionate and professional documentary photographer and have exhibited internationally.