Review – Photographer’s ginger army

You haven’t come to terms with ginger people until you’ve had a walk through the horde of images Anthea Pokroy is presenting at CIRCA on Jellicoe in Rosebank.

Pokroy, a Joburg-based photographer, has been collecting gingers or redheads, to be politically correct, since 2010 and two and a half years on, she has photographed over 500 of them.

This creative, a redhead herself, has put together what easily amounts to an army of redheads as part of her debut solo exhibition titled I Collect Gingers.

The images on show are arranged and numbered onto panels. The collective opus focuses Pokroy’s audiences on gingers as a special section of the human race. She does this by implying a common collective will and aspiration by redheads of the world working towards a certain Utopia. A mission to transcend the discriminative stigma that follows them.

In Greek mythology, for instance, it is believed redheads turn into vampires after dying. The Egyptians regarded the colour as so unlucky that they had a ceremony in which they burned redheaded maidens alive to wipe out the tint. There’s even a Russian proverb that warns: “There was never a saint with red hair.”

Red hair was apparently a sign of witchcraft in Christian Europe. Consider that Judas, Christ’s betrayer, is said to have had red hair too.

However, in modern day Denmark it is an honour to have a redheaded child, just as biblical King David was ginger too. Malcolm X, the American civil rights icon once known as Detroit Red was another notable heroic ginger. It is on the strength of these great gingers of the world that the artists is galvanising redheads.

Pokroy provides a rallying document mounted in the gallery as The Ginger Manifesto. It’s a declaration of intent and a will to ginger superiority, accompanied by identity cards and goals to increase the ginger population.

Though the exhibition merely presents, physically, a vast collection of numbered mug shorts, Pokroy manages to casts its range further.

She constructs a narrative, a history and future, along with a system of classification around this self-identified identity group or race.

We learn from her curatorial notes that she, “uses this minority, which forms 2% of the world population and mythical group of redheaded people to highlight the obscurities of racial classification and discrimination which remain prevalent in South Africa”.

Pokroy explains that, “it was only after my first photography session with seven ‘gingers’ that I began exploring the innate sense of community and collective experience that emerged from the otherness of the gingers.”

So she has summoned them to take a unified a stand against this sense of otherness.

0036 is a Jewish boy wearing a yarmulke (skulcap).

0032 is a picture of a redhead as a cool guy with earrings and a pierced lower lip. These two belong to the orange gingers. Then in the red ginger group there are the likes of the subject numbered 0079. It’s a picture of a young boy, possibly in his teens who could be of African descent. However, the identity document panel identifies him as Seth Pimentel, a Jewish-Scottish redhead.

Pokroy sidesteps the obvious race identity designation like black, Indian or white in order to attempt a less emotionally charged examination of the subject.

Though, in the end she manages to fan up a fascination for gingers more than she delivers us to a better race discourse. We don’t walk away from the show with a particularly better grammar to discuss race and its ugly derivative, racism. The show doesn’t get less fun for it, though.

Pokroy has constructed a symphony of redheads that stand like a sea of faces in demonstration. In this scheme, it’s possible to imagine gingers carry a special trait, call it an inescapable ginger gene.

Think here of the tragic Hollywood starlet, Lindsay Lohan, who was once one of the most sought-after actresses in the world. Shortly after she dyed her red hair peroxide blonde, Lohan seems to have lost her magic.

These days, she’s often associated with court appearances and bad parties rather than acting.

» I Collect Gingers is on at Circa On Jellicoe until March 2 2013

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