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Photo Essays

Cécile Mella | Fictional Cape Town

Fictional Cape Town is a series of photographs taken in and around tv commercial production’s sets. It focuses on the foreign advertising production industry in and around Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town has a surprisingly large film industry. It’s not like Bollywood or Nollywood (Nigeria), where home- grown stories dominate. Most shoots are in fact advertisements for foreign companies selling everything from chewing-gum to yoghurt (the favourable exchange rate and sunny climate make it worth the long trip to the tip of Africa). What is fascinating is that these companies turn locations in Cape Town — an iconic African city — into European, British or American scenes. So a characteristic wine farm is transformed into a Dutch homestead, or a Long Street cafe becomes a Parisian bistro for a day or two.

The work documents the way the industry semi-colonises slices of the city and reflects on issues such as the outrageous world of advertising and new forms of colonisation of the African space.
I hope that it captures the appealing artifice of the advertising world, the careful manufacturing of a sense of place. But glimpses of the real Cape Town can also be noticed by the attentive viewer. The images, crooked landscapes of a crooked place, play with the friction between reality and fiction while portraying the area with humor and marvel.

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