Image: Apartment (Rita), project Tanzania Revisited, 2010
The division among classes is a two way problem
‘In the picture Apartment/Rita (Tanzania, 2010), I portrayed the cleaning lady of a temporary luxury apartment rented by my partner for work in another town. Rita behaved typically with regards to class standards. I’m white and my partner worked a lot, apparently she thought we were rich and looked up to us in a way which made us feel uncomfortable. We even felt that we couldn’t trust her anymore, because it seemed as though she’d like to take away something of us maybe. This division is somewhat common in Tanzania, though my partner maintains an equal and transparent relation towards his own personal assistant so I have witnessed this better possibility as well. It inspired me to photograph the lady in her cleaning clothes, while taking a break and sitting at our table. This was to photograph her more universal face, as if she could be an Afro-American or any Tanzanian woman, being at home and liberated from any determined or fixed position.
This inequality and division among classes has amazed me and therefore, become a source of inspiration for my work. I believe this relates to my background. The Netherlands is a multicultural and diverse country, but a class system as such is unknown and we are proud of our “poldermodel” (corporation despite differences, or recognition within pluriformity). Even today, when politics in the Netherlands is becoming more polarized and populistic, I think the “poldermodel” is and will remain deeply rooted in our culture. As a small western country with a relatively big population and a well organized social security system, we depend on a certain harmony-model and calculated risk culture. It is politically and socially safe when the majority belongs to the middle class. In fact, Rita has been a victim of my fascination, in a positive way. I portrayed her as if belonging to a middle class in Tanzania or elsewhere in the world, because, perhaps at that time, I couldn’t accept that we were divided.’ (by Mathilde Jansen)
Source: Her Cicle Ezine, fragment of interview by Beckie Jones
Rita in the bedroom (Tanzania 2010)