The concept at the heart of this work is an African vision of afterlife known as Sasa and Zamani. Sasa refers to the period during which the deceased is survived by people who knew him or her in their lifetime, while in the Zamani period, everyone who knew the person has died.
Marwan T. Assaf examines photographs of the departed through the prism of Sasa and Zamani with a focus on the works of the artists Nan Goldin and Julia Margaret Cameron. Both Goldin’s and Cameron’s photographic subjects have physically departed, but there is a difference. Goldin in the 1980s took photographs of her terminally-ill friends, with the aim of keeping those friends ‘alive in memory’. More than a century earlier, Cameron photographed her circle of friends to give them an afterlife with a view to creating a ‘pantheon of Victorian heads’. Assaf explores the differences and qualities in the photographs that distinguish a Sasa from a Zamani.