This larger-than-life photographic portrait unapologetically inhabits the northwest wall of the Christchurch Casino, emphasising Black joy, life and emancipation.
Synthia Bahati’s photographic work here is an act of self-determination – her camera and her community-minded methodologies of photographing models reveal the ability to advance and shape cultural narratives of a Black renaissance emerging from Aoteaora is liberating. Through her vivid photography, Bahati normalises Black beauty, presence and strength – weaving codes of advertising material, fashion photogrpahy and representational resistance, the portrait D6NIEL oozes a celebrity quality. Larger than life, their eyes looking back to the viewer with immense esteem, D6NIEL challenges eurocentric views on gender and race while softly clutching onto a red handbag.
Bahati’s portrait replaces the figure of Queen Victoria, who presided over a vast empire and under whose rule the British Empire covered one-fifth of the Earth’s surface.
Noting that the Black African diaspora does not have a large presence in the city, Bahati has created an arresting portrait that demands attention even at a distance. She says she is intrigued to see how the public of Ōtautahi interact with the image, and hopes that the work opens up possibilities and the advancement of diverse communities to thrive and flourish without emotional, relational and moral compromise.