Born 1983, lives and works Nairobi, Mimi Cherono Ng’ok is a Kenyan artist/photographer. A recipient of the Edward Ruiz Mentorship for emerging photographers, in 2008 she produced a solo exhibition on African immigrants living in South Africa, which previewed at the height of xenophobic violence in cities across South Africa. Consequently her work was exhibited at the Market Photoworkshop in Johannesburg, South Africa and BCI Formenta in Maputo, Mozambique. Currently, as result of a Changamoto Arts grant, she is working on documenting Nairobi through a series of exhibitions and exchanges within the city.
Last year, as a result of the Edward Ruiz Mentorship for emerging photographers I documented immigrants from different African countries living in Cape Town, South Africa. My body of work exploring African immigrant experiences in South Africa addresses and investigates the notion of home, while documenting the people who exist in the space between the periphery and the centre. More importantly, the photographs give identities and faces to the meaningless statistics associated with immigrants in the media, and to the numbers who cross borders creating new homelands. While the portraits give a face to immigrants, the text accompanying the work is an exchange from different points of view around immigration in South Africa. It consists of snippets of interviews with African immigrants as well as discourse from government agencies, newspaper articles, refugee information and ordinary South Africans. Statements such as ‘fucking foreigner’ and ‘when are you going back home’ begin to signify the separation many Africans feel living in South Africa.
The work titled ‘I am Home’ is an affirmation by African immigrants themselves who do feel South Africa is now home. It explores issues of dress, language, and identity with immigrants ranging from Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and Congo Brazzaville to Angola and Kenya, indicating that South Africa has become the modern-day melting pot. It is a narrative pertaining to being black in South Africa but not black South African; capturing the experiences of people who are now part of South African society, yet exist on the margins.