Hellen Gaudence

Artist Name
Hellen Gaudence
Total number of artworks
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date of birth
About the Artist

Hellen Gaudence is a Tanzanian-born artist based in New York City, who specializes in photography and video art. Her work, which navigates the intricate realms of identity, migration, and the contemporary African Diaspora, is deeply influenced by her autobiographical narrative and historical memory. Gaudence has showcased her art across various platforms in the United States, Mexico, and Tanzania, and holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Arizona.

The turning point in Gaudence's artistic journey coincided with her transition from a student visa to U.S. permanent residency in 2015, thanks to the Diversity Visa Lottery. This change sparked a deeper contemplation of the external forces—be it politics, environment, or sheer chance—that propel individuals to move, and how they adapt in response. Focusing on African-born migrants in the United States, her work explores the complex interplay between identity, memory, and place, particularly through the experiences of migrants she met in Tucson, Arizona, where her immigration process was finalized.

Gaudence's project, "Magharibi" (Swahili for "west of the sun"), embodies her reflections on place-making within foreign environments, emphasizing the notion of absence. She draws on the idea that 'place' is more than a mere location; it is imbued with history, memories, and meanings. Inspired by historical western American portraiture, such as Edward Curtis's images of Native Americans, Gaudence employs a 4x5 camera to create black and white portraits, juxtaposed with color landscape photographs from Tanzania. This pairing intentionally presents Africa as a singular entity, despite the diverse origins of her subjects from various African nations.

Through her series "Inland," Gaudence delves into the nuances of migration and displacement, capturing fleeting moments in her homeland after extended absences. These photographs serve as a means to preserve time, allowing for the creation of familiarity and, consequently, the making of 'place'. Gaudence's work is a testament to the transformative power of getting to know and attributing value to space, as articulated by the geographer Yi-Fu Tuan.