Dagmar van Weeghel
Where we are born defines your place in life. But it can always be redefined by effort: you can become everything you want - or so people would like to think. If only it were that simple. People need heaps of luck and please add some more heaps of chance. Some believe chance and luck are what you make it - being prepared leads to good luck, being unprepared leads to misfortune. Others seem to think that luck can somehow be bought, like a ticket. But is luck truly a matter of monetary value, property and wealth?
Dagmar van Weeghel's portrait series For Sarah is inspired by the story of Sarah Forbes Bonetta (1843), whose parents were killed in a British slave raid. The 4 year-old girl was not killed and a few years later she was “given” to Queen Victoria, as a present from “the King of the Blacks to the Queen of the Whites”, eventually becoming Queen Victoria's goddaughter. Sarah’s traumatic past portrays the story of many African children, who have been orphaned and need to survive without parental love, care, protection, and money. But when given that one chance, bravery, strength, and determination may prove to be stronger and more important than descent and DNA. For Sarah is a two part series. The first part is Van Weeghel’s interpretation of Sarah Forbes Bonetta. For the second part of the series, Van Weeghel went to an African orphanage and photographed the ‘Sarahs’ of this era. These girls have traumatic pasts and stories, and little chance of being adopted once they're 8 or older. By sharing their stories and dreams, Van Weeghel hopes someone will notice the many ‘Sarahs’ who are still waiting for that one chance.
Dagmar van Weeghel studied Film & Photography in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She graduated from the Film Academy in 1998 and worked as a TV & Film professional. After some years, she moved to Africa and worked & lived in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Botswana, Uganda, and South Africa, amongst other African countries where she spent over a decade working on film projects with local communities. Van Weeghel experienced a large part of the continent, from its wild, natural places to the beautiful people, and working with local children on film projects, she moved back to Europe and began using photography as her main tool for storytelling.
The recurrent theme in her latest work incorporates her interests in African history, heritage, the diaspora, identity issues and the relationship between Africans and the rest of the world. On a regular basis, she would witness the treatment of her African husband in Europe as the ‘Other’.
In the years that she lived and worked in Africa, she encountered richness and diversity. Now, she returns to that knowledge of the traditions and events in history to present the unknown, the beauty and strength from the continent & people. While her work may appear as exotic because of aesthetics, the purpose is much more about the context from which they are created. Most of these works are exploring the challenges of being the 'other' outside of Africa in past & present times. These stories, she feels, are important and are worth telling, from human to human.