Currently reading : Who is www.zimbabwe2003.tumblr.com ?
Akhen Aten is the 21 year old behind the popular tumblr http://zimbabwe2003.tumblr.com Unlike the usual juxtaposition of inanimate words that create most URL names for post adolescent tumblr users Akhen’s deals with his own situation much more directly. He lived in Zimbabwe until 2003 and was born there in 1992.
Crammed with what we all expect of the carefully sculpted attention to the creation of a digital self of this kind of tumblr user, the webcam selfies, nostalgic images from the most recent turn of the century and most importantly photographs of tropical plants, however Akhen page separates itself from what so easily becomes tumblr pastiches while still representing the aesthetic.
You might be thinking why are we interviewing the creator of a tumblr? What makes the bedroom fuelled narcissism of a digital profile important for you to read about? Everyone is now guilty of creating an internet self which exaggerates or shuns a truth to our physical self and as the internet excels the ways in which we express ourselves, the ways of creating an identity becomes more and more complex. In our world now where everyones mother has a Facebook how can we differentiate one profile to the next, what makes someone stand out?
Many use tumblr as a way to produce a false sense of their own experiences, a way to make a nostalgia before its inception could ever happen. But more than anything the internet has made the creation of the self a democratic chance for anyone to attract anonymous popularity and even fame for simply being projection of themselves.
Akhen of course isn’t the only person to do this but its rare to find someone whose internet self is so refreshingly authentic and creative without being so opaquely constructed.
It doesn’t use shock within aspects of gore, ultra realistic violence or saturised plastic pornography in the standardised way that tumlbr regularly presents us with but with a harsher reality from his own experiences.
Maybe describing Akhen’s tumblr as harsh isn’t completely fair but his re-blogging of Nigerian witch hunts juxtaposed next to fiercely masculine African men wearing pink fur and then selfies of himself create something intriguingly new. There is a coherence to the imagery of his tumblr which is really quite impressive.
We have interviewed and photographed Akhen to find out more about him, his motives and background.
Portraits by Sam Bayliss Ibram
Why did you start a tumblr?
I started a tumblr mainly because I was attracted by the bohemian allure of the site its ability to bring about new concepts and new ways of thinking, new view points that you would not find in mainstream culture.
When did you start a tumblr?
I started it in 2010 did not take it seriously at the time and I loved all these new underground art,music and fashion scenes emerging from the site
What is it that you like about tumblr?
The fact that you can discover and be mused by people all over the planet it is globalization in action,also the influence it has on the way people think talk and dress and the fact that you can share your mind and creativity without censorship or being misunderstood
Why did you change your URL name from zimbabwe1993 to zimbabwe2003?
Born in 1992. left Zimbabwe in 2003 due to economical crisis.. sad times
What kind of images do you look for when using tumblr?
I look and make images that both shock and titillate the subconscious mind, images with a new age 21st century meaning ,images that influence a creative drive in others, image infuenced by my journey through life
What advise would you give to someone starting a tumblr?
Be yourself and post your own unique conceptual art, don’t think in the box think out of the box,and don’t do what other blogs are doing don’t be generic be a rebel,you are unique use that to your advantage
What are your favourite tumblrs?
my favourate tumblrs arehttp://musicforyourplants.tumblr.com/ http://heroingranola.tumblr.com/ http://crakkdavid.tumblr.com/ http://ge-xo.tumblr.com/ http://llll—-llll—-llll.tumblr.com/ http://new-programming.tumblr.com/ http://veggieraptor.tumblr.com/
When you use tumblr, what are you looking for?
When I use tumblr im looking for inspiration,visual satisfaction and knowledge, we live in the information age and tumblr is a place for minds to exchange ideas.
What do you think you are trying to translate when you are putting images together?
Most of the pictures I post focus on social classes,racial stereotypes,globalization and 3rd world poverty but with a tumblrised approach ,they escape from reality but stay true to it at the same time,im also an escapist/futurist and am trying to create altenative worlds in my pictures
My mind,visual desire,humanity,corporate world
When you go back to Zimbabwe are you intrested in how the internet is used there?
The internet in Zimbabwe is really slow.
How do you think your images of Africa translate through your tumblr? Do you want to shock people with how graphic your portrayal of the continent is?
Africa is always ignored like its there but not there my pictures are there to impose the reality of Africa in a viewers mind,africa/african culture is aither shunned,fetishized or exploited by the fashion,art,media industrys in the west, I live in a world that constantly pushes it western ideals on me eg beauty, culture ,and being African/black you are made to feel less than perfect and Africa is always seen in a negative and sometimes dehumanising veiw,its seen as a place of suffering, war and hunger a hell on earth, I wanted to reflect this in my pictures but imposer it.
Where do you want to take your tumblr? Where can it go?
As far left as possible jk, I want to make people think and feel when they enter my blog ,so my blog might get darker and more shocking as time goes I’ve gone bad/evil life does that to you sometimes.
What is the future of tumblr? How can it evolve?
Tumblr is always constantly evolving
How would you explain that your experiences of living in Zimbabwe and then coming to England has effected you aesthetically?
It made me stronger and weak at the same time.too much trauma But id rather be in England than in zim ,I’m now too weird for zim
What is the point of tumblr?
If your think about it what’s the point of life what’s the point of living,this is why people worship gods they need an escape the same thing as teens on tumblr,on tumblr they are understood tumble become their religion their reason for existence .
Portraits were taken by Sam Bayliss Ibram