Ghosts in the Machine Gun

These startling images were taken by the Johannesburg-born filmmaker and artist Ralph Ziman, who looked to the South African city’s violent past and present for his exhibition, Ghosts, at C.A.V.E. Gallery in Los Angeles. These ghosts, says Ziman, who nows lives in L.A., are “the unseen traffickers and the nameless faceless people” killed in the many wars and genocides made possible by the continent’s endless import of arms. “This is a trade that not only fuels, but also sustains conflict across the continent. Arms that are paid for and imported into Africa are used by individuals not just for defense but often by corrupt, autocratic governments to oppress their own people.”

For the project, Ziman commissioned six Zimbabwean craftsmen to produce a series of replica AK-47s, bullets, and clothing using traditional African beading and knitting techniques. He then took the guns and their creators to a derelict district of Johannesburg to photograph the results. With their rainbow-colored guns and outfits, the men appear both strong and weak, ominous and feeble. They are made to seem willing participants in, yet indifferent to, the glorification of gun violence that occurs across the African continent — and, as we know all too well, in places closer to home.

Ghosts — including the photos, ersatz guns and bullets — will go on view at C.A.V.E. Gallery, 1108 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, Los Angeles, February 8 – March 2, 2014. All proceeds will go to Human Rights Watch against arms trafficking. 

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