Gaby Messina began her professional career in publishing. Her interest in photography began almost incidentally when she received her very first camera as a gift from her parents. Initially, portrait photography was a way for her to channel her relationships with the people around her. Currently Messina, who identifies as African-Argentine, uses video art as a way of exploring her place in the world.
C&AL: In your career as a visual artist, there is a moment when you begin touching on topics related to Afro-descendants in Argentina. What brought about this turn?
Gaby Messina: I reached a point in my work when I realized that I needed to tell my own story instead of those of other people. It began with my projects Fe, Maestros, El Bosque and El Árbol (Faith, Maestros, The Forest and The Tree).
When I was twenty years old, my father was the victim of a violent assasination. Fe (2011) gave me an opportunity to express the frustration I felt at this death and at the fact that I hadn’t been able to talk about it for many years. I allowed myself to open up about the hopelessness I felt towards the Christian tradition in which I was brought up as well as towards the socio-political system that discouraged my mother from denouncing the death of my father.
In Maestros (2016) I interviewed 112 Argentine artists who worked actively during the dictatorship. They were all elderly people and soon after our interview, some of them passed away. This was a call for attention about myself, my identity, my roots, who I am and why I suffered so much in my childhood, why I felt different. In both projects I started to use the symbol of the tree as a metaphor for roots, identity and the search for oneself.
Margarita (2017) was the first project on Afro-Argentines and their invisibility in Argentina. In the experimental documentary Yo, Afro (2017) I immerse myself in a more analytical investigation, working together with political scientist Ana Paula Penchaszadeh.