When a misunderstanding is cleared up it can give rise to a new encounter. However, there are times when misunderstandings settle in permanently, as stable forms of relationship, generating a kind of total confusion from which it is extremely difficult to extract oneself. And it is this kind of confusion that has dominated the way in which Africa is faced by Europe, ending up in the non-comprehension of what we are seeing.
Historically Africa has been constructed in European imagination as an impenetrable place, by mystery and the astonishing. The dreams of the imagination and fantasy have been projected onto the continent, but also the nightmares, turning them into colonial reality, like an extension of the thought of slavery.
Even those approximations that sought to penetrate into the mystery of “Africa” to explain the astonishment have turned into unmanageable clichés whose devastating force still blinds, placing a veil of prejudice before the eyes, silencing all the images. With the passage of time and a mineral consolidation of the clichés in the present, the poetical content (and even a certain innocence) that shows through in the testimonies of early travellers has dissolved, to materialise in the foolishness of a permanent, dramatic misapprehension.
Initially the clichés responded to the impenetrability of the mystery; they should have had the function of making the elusive comprehensible, like a first step that would then open up to a more precise, closer knowledge. But the clichés have become entrenched like catchpenny truths that supplant reality and prevent us from understanding anything that happens to us.
How is it possible to summarize a continent, when the word ‘Africa’ itself has wound up as a convention? The world has shrunk, both in its dimensions and in our minds, and our perception sees distance and proximity from different parameters, parameters that no longer correspond exactly to spatial distances. We are beginning to understand that there are no uncontaminated essences and that places are built up every day through dialogue and experiences which are not always shared, but are often parallel. So why insist on the old (essentialist) meaning of the words that denote geography, now only a kind of generic direction in space?
We can no longer speak of Africa, but of Africas. As many as there are voices capable of relating its crossbred diversity and its present. And it is precisely this that is the work of the present; renaming, resituating, reconstructing, starting out from a basis that may be more tested by shared experiences, dismantling the notion of Africa as a safari of local manners and customs, relinquishing paternalism and dissolving the original misinterpretation that weighs on us almost like a sin, but without obviating it.
It is extremely significant that in the labyrinth of prejudices and clichés, the title of Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness, has been understood, above all and generally speaking, as a description and a definition of the place: the Congo River that cuts across the continent, the heart of Africa. Nevertheless, as we penetrate the novel further, and as Marlow travels downriver in search of Kurtz, the “darkness”, the “heart of darkness”, takes shape as a state of mind, as an interior nightmare, as a madness that is inside men and not inherent in the geography or the landscape.
True, the novel begins in the form of a conversation on the deck of a ship anchored in the Thames, the cruising yawl Nellie. Marlow, an experienced sea captain, along with a manager and some agents from the company that hires him, tries to explain his own individual perceptions underlying colonisation. Focussing on what any individual might think and perceive, he gives the example of an officer of Julius Caesar during the campaign for Britannia, and relives what the Romans must have felt as they sailed up that same river, perceiving the mystery of an undiscovered land: “And this also,” said Marlow suddenly, “has been one of the dark places of the earth.” (…)
Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and  in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him –all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There’s no initiation either in such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination – you know. Imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate.” [i]

This sort of introduction not only serves the purpose of setting a precedent for exploration and colonisation; all places were once places of darkness for those who first discovered them. It also works as a metaphor or image, in which men project the phantoms and fears that nestle inside them over geographies. Which is why the darkness has to be sought out in the interior of men. The “heart of darkness” lives in Kurtz, in men, through greed, in colonialism.[ii]
To the contrary of many other travel diaries, the diary Joseph Conrad wrote in the Congo barely provides any news of interest to a contemporary reader. It is excessively concise and centres on dry topographical description, with few anecdotes and even fewer appraisals. Nevertheless, all its value would appear to be concentrated in a sentence he writes in the first entry, on 13th June 1890, in the river port of Matadi, almost as a statement of principles and a tragic intuition: “Feel considerably in doubt about the future. Think just now that my life amongst the people (White) around here cannot be very comfortable. Intend to avoid acquaintances as much as possible. (…) Prominent characteristic of social life here: People speaking ill of each other.”[iii]
Some decades later, in 1925, André Gide embarked on a trip to French Equatorial Africa on an official mission for the Ministry of the Colonies which opened up doors for him and facilitated the means of transport on the ground.
His travel diary was to be published on his return to France in two parts, Voyage au Congo in 1927 and Le retour du Tchad in 1928, with the dedication “À la Mémoire de Joseph Conrad”. Conrad’s presence is a connecting thread, secret and intimate, a key to comprehension for what he sees: “I am re-reading Heart of Darkness for the fourth time. It is only after having seen the country that I realize how good it is.”
It would appear that he refers to the scenery alone, but he identifies ‘how good it is’ in the way the novel depicts the force of the internal laceration. In a way, Gide lives out a parallel with Conrad’s novel, faced with the cruel, predatory spectacle of the concessionary rubber companies that operated in the region. The publication of the diaries, accompanied by appendices with correspondence and reports on the franchises and articles in the press, would give rise to a bitter debate in France, with significant political consequences, although they may not have been sufficient to alter the logic of exploitation.
Unlike other travel literature on Africa from the same period, Gide’s writer’s perspective confronts reality with the dreamed images, although the latter do not usually surface other than as counterpoints to more new discoveries.
On the boat, during the first days of the crossing to Africa, in a conversation with another passenger Gide confesses to the ambiguity of facing “mystery”:
“What is it you are going to look for there (in Africa)?”
“I am waiting to arrive there to find out.”
It sounds like a presentation of principles. What he would find would adjust his expectations and the journey, like all journeys experienced from the premise of authenticity, was to be an interior process.
The project by Antoni Socías and Caramo Fanta unfolds within the framework of this category of interior process.
The title of the exhibition itself, “My other self with some contradictions” proposes something more than mere collaboration. On the one hand the approach is like an immersion into otherness; on the other it emphasizes a methodology based on contradictions with the objective (both) of establishing different visual procedures capable of dissolving clichés and of clarifying misconceptions (or at least attempting to do so).
The very idea of the exhibition took off as a device that shows visual experiences and processes, and in its results it too is a (shared) process where an attempt is made to rehearse an otherness that efficiently alters the ways in which the gaze is conditioned.
Otherness, which consists of questioning the principles of identity, resituates the gaze in the perspective of an ‘other’ who is indeed the ‘self’.
These series were produced on the basis of a visual dialogue in which the value of the authorship is relegated to the background, allowing the images to construct planes of vibration and tension: double mirrors to reposition gazes in a critical dimension. Looking from the outside as though it were from the inside, and looking from the inside in order to position oneself outside, the will to break with the hackneyed vestiges of the documentalism of local customs flows. Precisely this objective, which on this occasion appears as the undermining and invalidation of the gaze that has sustained the trip to Africa in the form of safari, was one of the critical objectives towards which the artistic work of Antoni Socías has pointed since the ‘eighties. The denial of the colonial dream/nightmare implies the questioning of the report, from the stance of a rehabilitation of the invention as an intrinsic mechanism of another possible modernity.
The (colonial) invention of Africa is sustained partly by the idea or belief that the white man opposes the black man, and the black man the white man, like two poles of a false dichotomy between reason and emotive nature, rational thinking and magical thinking, between modernity and that which is primitive, between authenticity and conventions. Selfishly, and trapped in the cul-de-sac of identities and essentialisms, both colonialism and the post-colonial discourses were founded on opposition and dichotomy, which represent the misinterpretation more precisely.
When Antoni Socías speaks of another black self, or paints his face with chocolate (exactly like the councillors who decide to play the role of King Baltasar during the kings’ parade, precisely because of his popularity with children) he is searching for the representation and expression of that black self who refuses himself in the dichotomy of identity.
On the other hand, in Rehabilitaciones arquitectónicas (“Architectural rehabilitations”), Caramo Fanta presents a series of portraits of black people whose faces painted white are the basis for geometric drawings which, like ritual paintings, seem to reflect the exotic desire for difference the “safari” gaze demands.

The paradoxes and nonsense produced by colonial patterns of inequality and submission have materialized in Africa as a constant theme, especially in the realms of a dramatization set between the psychopathology of imitation and a ludicrous catharsis of the grotesque representation of the customs and types of the colonialist “master”. In these manifestations of the popular folklore of the colony, the patterns of exploitation are reproduced in the unresolved contradictions of love-hate, like a pantomime of adoration and mockery, like a methodology of appropriation, in an incarnation of the other through their gestures and poses. Les maîtres fous (The mad masters) directed by Jean Rouch in 1955 in the area around Accra (the capital of what was then the Gold Coast, and British territory, and is now Ghana) documents a ritual by the Hauka sect, in which individual and collective catharsis involves representing the customs of the “white masters”. Surprisingly similar scenes are described by way of an anecdote in the diary published by Michel Leiris, under the significant title of Phantom Africa, after his journey from Dakar to Djibouti between 1931 and 1933. On the route leading to Bamako from Dakar, Michel Leiris and his travelling companions halted in the village of Malèm Nyani and there, along with the village authorities, they witnessed a strange spectacle:
“[…] the bama dedicates himself to caressing and fondling, mocking the French by successively imitating the affected woman, the elegant man and the brutal foreman, makes digs at the Mohammedan hermit and afterwards performs an obscene pantomime, accentuated by grand exclamations, during which he shams offering the spectators his arse and his penis in turn, also making as if to eat his own shit, taking his hand alternatively to his backside and his mouth.”[iv]
Along the lines of these displays, numerous observers have underlined the connection and continuity between the plundering of Africa perpetrated by the colonial administration and by the new African elites after independence, like an imitation of models. From this perspective and generically speaking, the current individual wielding of power, on the different levels and social strata, would be based on the reproduction of the forms of abuse that arose during the colony, occupying their places (spaces, houses and forms of ostentation) and appropriating – embodying – the role of master and owner, even that played by a simple colonial official.  
Very often these transfers between the “black” and the “white” man have circulated through millenarianisms, through prophetic and religious movements which, as well as spiritual salvation, sought cultural and political salvation through independence. Outstanding from amongst these is the Kimbanguist church, established by Simon Kimbangu in the Congo in the ‘thirties, as a religion stitched together with Christian and Messianic elements, along with animist and anti-colonial ones, a religion that adopted a liberating character. The Belgian administration severely repressed the religious movement, and after being arrested its founder was to die in prison, presumably as a result of ill treatment and torture. Michela Wrong reproduces one of his maxims, which announces a liberation and resurrection that condenses the dissolution of otherness: “the blacks will become whites and the whites will become blacks.”[v]     
Is it possible to really unmask misconceptions?  
It is a difficult task, but it is possible.
The Socías & Fanta project is an attempt to reposition the marker on different parameters.
Every series fulfils a certain function, all of them are ultimately decisive, and in relation to the whole they appear as the pieces of a puzzle that is re-drawn as we discover the internal tensions and their combinatory and complementary possibilities.
To grasp the anti-safari scope of its intentions, we must halt for a moment at some portraits in which the white hand of the photographer presents, in the image, a black face that stands out from the scenery in this way.
Presentando personas” (“Presentation of people”) is a project Antoni Socías began years ago in Mallorca, but inserted into the African context it appears to turn into a mechanism that opens up to a reconsideration of the individual beyond his own surroundings, transgressing the format of the photographic portrait biased by the camera and assuming the importance of approach and contact. In short, the presentation emphasizes the nuclear character the act of sharing and participating has in any gaze.
To reconsider the landscape as a space of modernity, but deactivating the documental gaze and definitively rendering the report syndrome useless through fiction, Socías & Fanta establish a framework for dialogue of images that situates itself parallel to “Presentando personas”, but on this occasion there is no arm and hand to sustain the “other”: an image by Socías acts as the medium, via the “stratagem” of an advertising billboard, of an image by Fanta.
Facing the chaos, Dual product reconstructs an imaginary landscape, but one definitively more real than the one that appears to be real. This is not an invention, but rather an interpretation, which leads us irremissibly to the imprecise terrain of dreams as an expression of desires. Desire is the axis of change and condenses a new, symbolic imagery, unconnected to the idea of mystery (mysterious Africa) by now, or to phantoms (phantom Africa), or even to identity or origin (primitive Africa). Gradually we can position ourselves in a different world, where the journey has ceased to be a safari, where the noise of the jungle or the silence of the savannah give way to the (electronic) sounds of other instruments (I am thinking of the sound of the Congolese group Konono no. 1).
Also intertwined with desire is the function of Contemplaciones adjuntas (“Attached contemplations”): suggesting the ways in which the new images of modernity are inserted in the human landscape and the atavistic imagery, where nature is interpreted through signs, and dreams for the future and the present fulfil the function of a new catharsis of individual liberation. In short, the interior gazes are expressed by taking on as their own those other forms of modernity traced like dreams that are already reality and which finally break with the folkloric report, distancing themselves from any ethnographic temptation and from all “NGO do-gooding”. It is a route that serves to clear away other modes of modernity, made from crosses, which sometimes seem like stitched-up shreds, but which reveal an alternative to the reiterated image of permanent collapse.
Chinua Achebe entitled his first novel, published in 1958, Things Fall Apart and since then, and in spite of the parenthesis in the mirage of independence, everything appears to continue to fall apart. But there are always builders, architects of dreams and desires.
It is possible to reconstruct by re-reading the rubble.                                                                                                                           

[i] Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness and The Congo Diary. Mursia, Milano 1978-1983, p. 26-30.
[ii] I have found this same interpretation of Conrad’s work in Michela Wrong, In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in the Congo. HarperCollins, 2001. See also the exhibition “El corazón de las tinieblas” (English title: “Heart of darkness”, in La Virreina, Barcelona: <>.
(English: Michela Wrong, In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in the Congo. HarperCollins. (2001)
[iii] Joseph Conrad, The Heart of…, 1978-1983.
[iv] Michel Leiris, L’Afrique fantôme, Gallimard, 1988. See the Spanish edition: Michel Leiris, El África fantasmal, Valencia, Pre-textos, 2007, p. 58. To consult the German edition: Michel Leiris, Ethnologische Schriften in vier Bänden: Band 4: Phantom Afrika. Tagebuch einer Expedition von Dakar nach Djibouti 1931-1933. Zweiter Teil: BD 4 /Tlbd 2 (suhrkamp taschenbuch wissenschaft).
[v] Michela Wrong. Ibid, p. 221.