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First Substantial Exhibition for South African Artist Pieter Hugo at Open Eye Gallery
Londiwe Wendy Mkhize, Pietermaritzburg, 2005


LIVERPOOL, UK.- Open Eye Gallery and Autograph ABP present the first substantial UK exhibition by South African artist Pieter Hugo. This exhibition focuses on three bodies of work, all of which use portraiture to call into question our understanding of how we look at others.

Our selection of portraits of people with albinism is from the project ‘Looking Aside’ (2002-2005), which features people whose appearance is in some way unusual or unfamiliar. Albinism is an inherited condition usually characterized by a lack of melanin pigment in the eyes, skin and hair. Hugo's closely-framed, uncompromising portraits explore our responses to physical difference and the meanings we attach to the terms ‘black’ and ‘white’.

Hugo’s ‘Judges’ series (2005) was made during the final months of the longest-running court case in Botswana’s history. A group of Bushmen had accused the government of illegally evicting them in order to exploit the diamond and mineral potential of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. In a landmark judgement, the three-member High Court (which included Justice Unity Dow, shown here alongside two of her colleagues) ruled that the Bushmen were entitled to live and hunt on their ancestral lands.

'Gadawan Kura' - The Hyena Men (2007) is a study of an extended family of minstrels and healers from Abuja, Nigeria. The troupe stages performances in dusty streets with their hyenas, snakes and monkeys; they also sell fetishes and herbal medicines. Hugo writes that he was fascinated by “the hybridisation of the urban and the wild, and the paradoxical relationship that the handlers have with their animals – sometimes doting and affectionate, sometimes brutal and cruel.”

Pieter Hugo: Portraits was produced with the support of Michael Stevenson Gallery, Capetown.






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