Artist Hans Poppe is currently showing his work in our Hallway Gallery. His exhibition, Fabric of Tanzania, is a unique collection of paintings that show the unapologetic day-to-day real life of Tanzanians. Some are of villagers, some are of city kids and some are of evening conversations with elders. They are an insight to their stories of trials and tribulation and their unfiltered, unbiased, honest beauty. Hans, a native of Tanzania, aims to deconstruct, question and eventually abstract the perceived image of Africans as told by Western media.
We chatted with the artist about his work and next steps.
Describe how this exhibition came into being and how it relates to your previous work?
This exhibition for me has been a long time coming. I knew from early in my life that I was going to be a practicing artist and I knew for sure that one day would have a solo show. Furthermore, I knew the solo show had to be something special, something I had never seen before and it had to be of my best efforts. What I did not know was the subject matter and or style of the paintings. In the fall of 2014 before leaving for an extended vacation to Tanzania, East Africa… I vowed that I was going to have a solo show by the end of 2015.
This body of work differs from my previous pieces of artwork in a few ways. These pieces are very personal to me. They come directly from my personal experiences in my travels in Tanzania since 2005 onwards, in a time when I was soul searching and trying to figure out who I am after living in Toronto for almost 20 yrs since I first left TZ. It was important for me to really understand what it is truly to be a modern day African.
Prior to this show, I had experimented in just about every medium, style, technique and subject matter. It was a bit of buck shot process before finally narrowing it all down to painting Africans on African fabric.
What influenced your choices about which pieces to show?
Growing up in Canada as a youth I never “saw” myself in the media. And if I did, it was always in a negative light. Which I never understood because my memory of growing up in Tanzania was completely different. It was filled with happiness, freedom and sheer joy. Poverty existed and still does, but not to the degree that they keep showing us. you can find the same images in Toronto. As I got older, I started noticing that I never saw African culture being represented in a modern day context. It usually had something to do with slavery or really old abstract pieces of Africa. Also in every gallery I went to, all I ever saw was European or Western subject matter and style (all very beautiful work), but never something I could personally relate to. I wanted to challenge and change the image of Africa shown in the west. It was important for me to show a truer version of the culture. The choices and subject matter of my work flowed fairly easily once I got started.
The energy, aesthetic, tapestry and technique of my work are an exploration of everyday Africans, or Tanzanians to be specific. These paintings show the real life of Tanzanians, the unapologetic day to day life. Some are of villagers, some are of city kids, some are evening conversations with elders. They are an insight to their stories of trials and tribulation and their unfiltered, unbiased, honest beauty. My on going body of work aims to deconstruct, question and eventually abstract the perceived image of Africans as told by Western media. I am offering the viewer a new way of seeing the otherwise familiar. Daniels Spectrum and Regent Park did not influence this exhibition, but exhibiting at this location was definitely an added bonus.
Do you have plans for your next/future work? How can people stay in touch with you so they get to see it?
I intend to keep at it, I love producing art in general. There’s something unequalled about releasing art to the world. I have a few avenues that I would like to explore a little further for sure. Feel free to stay in touch via Instagram and Twitter @hanspoppe, or my website www.hanspoppe.com.
Photo credits: Eliot Kim