Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

WTF? #1 - Africans For Sale! Asking Price? Livestock!

Not a film-related topic, but it's about art and the Diaspora; It's also quite unbelievable and numbing! I was rendered speechless after reading it. There are so many dense layers at work (or at play) here, and I could write volumes... The ignorance (or is it arrogance) is certainly palpable.


Kristian von Hornsleth Buys Ugandans for Livestock

Danish Artist buys Africans

This morning I received an email from an artist from Uganda called, Eria Sane Nsubuga, who seemed fascinated by an artistic project, which took place last summer, 2007, in a small rural village in Uganda, by a Danish artist, Kristian von Hornsleth.

Here is the press release and website details:

How many Africans would change their name in return for 242 pig and 65 goats? The answer is 307. At least if they live in a small village in one of the worlds poorest countries.

This summer, the Danish artist Kristian von Hornsleth visited a poor village in Uganda and gave the local population a fantastic offer they could not refuse: He wanted all of them to take his name! In return, the 307 villagers would receive a large number of pigs and goats.

This has lead to a controversial artwork titled "We want to help you, but we want to own you."

This is the experience of artist Kristian von Hornsleth based on his visits to the village of Buteyongera in the Mukono district in Uganda. Kristian von Hornsleth has made visits to the village a couple of times to build up good relations and gain trust. Together with a team of photographers and film crew, he travelled to Uganda in June and convinced the local population to change their names to Hornsleth. As payment, the Africans received a large amount of creatures for making their choice. So far 100 of the villagers have taken the new name with the remaining 207 currently being processed. A further 365 are on waiting lists.

Following a lot of bureaucratic trouble and headshaking from the local authorities, the official name changing was fulfilled and the project was transformed into art. From October on it is possible to see 100 photographic super portraits in 1x1 meter as well as 20 pieces of 2x2 meter large portrait paintings of Africans holding their new ID cards in front of them. On the ID card you can clearly read their new beautiful surname: HORN$LETH.

The artworks will be shown in Copenhagen from 17th November and at the established gallery DDM in Shanghai in March 2007. Furthermore, a colour illustrated book with text of international philosophers and art experts is planned to be published in October – at the same time as a documentary, produced by the Danish TV-channel DR2.

The good artist

Kristian von Hornsleth is convinced that he has done a good deed for Africa.

"Basically I believe in free trade. You sell something to me, and I buy something from you. In this case the Africans are fond of the animals that I offer them – and I am happy to be able to give them a beautiful name and to make some art. The result is that both parts are happy. Nothing else matters", says Kristian von Hornsleth.

Apart from the villagers' initial problems with pronouncing the name Hornsleth, the Danish artist experienced only positive response from the local population. Of course they were a little surprised of the Danes' fine offer for them, but they ended up accepting it. Kristian von Hornsleth is now known in the village as "Birunji", which means "the good one".

The new "Hornsleths" want to be famous

The many new "Hornsleths" are now looking forward to their portraits being shown all over the world. Some of them hope to get famous and maybe someday come to Europe. Kristian von Hornsleth himself is enjoying the interest generated in his photographic artwork.

The next step is for the whole village itself to change its name to "Hornsleth". The artist is also working on creating a tree sculpture production and a smaller agricultural production in the area, which will produce African meat and vegetables to the West.

The name of the products will of course be Hornsleth.

Notes to Editors:

§ Each person will have a national ID card issued to show their new 'Hornsleth' name.

§ In five years 5,000 people will have received an animal from this project if it runs to plan.

§ 'Hornsleths' art project is set to premiere at the Hornsleth & Friends Contemporary Art Gallery in Copenhagen from the 17th of November and will be displayed in Shanghai at the DDM Warehouse gallery from March 2007 and later on in 2007 at more places in Europe.

§ You can follow the project on, which is often being updated with pictures and text concerning the project.

For images of the project or for further information, please contact Susie Dullard on 020 7067 0692 or Sophie Smith on 020 7067 0415.


  1. said...

    I too, am speechless; quite astonishing.

  2. Wendy said...

    I wish I was more dumbfounded... but, somehow, it doesn't surprise me too much. Africa is STILL the go-to place for people wanting to make a quick buck or a quick name for themselves.

    With Africa's national and regional leaders not doing much to bring their people out of poverty and into the 21st century, it leaves them ripe for the picking...

    Slavery is not dead, it's just redefined and comes in many guises. It could be worse - he could have opened a church and a liquor shop on every street corner... and thrown in a few guns, for good measure.

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