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Portsmouth Herald

A New Look at Africa

By Jeanné McCartin
October 28, 2012 2:00 AM

What started as a wine tasting with the addition of a lovely photo exhibition has blossomed into “Africa Is Not a Country,” a major exhibition of 27 national and locally renowned photographers, at the Seacoast African American Cultural Center, with a wine tasting included.

“We didn’t anticipate this much interest in the exhibit,” says Susan Manfull who, with William (Towny) Manfull, Vernis Jackson, SAACC’s founding president and Kel Edwards, organized the event. “It just swelled; it has been amazing.”

Initially it was a simple mixing of two events, not unlike others in the past, says Manfull. SAACC has held other wine tastings and the idea for the photography exhibit came from an earlier one featuring shots taken in Africa by Alexandra Manfull, her daughter.

“At the time of Alex’s exhibit, others said wouldn’t it be great if we had several different countries represented,” says Manfull. “I tucked that away. And so when it came time I thought it would be a nice complement to the tasting of South African wines.”

Manfull called a few friends, both current and past Seacoast residents, who happen to be quality photographers, reached out to individuals she knew shoot on the continent and sent notices to local photography clubs.

“And, well, people just started telling people. It just kept growing. I think the title, ‘Africa is not a Country’ resonated with people.”

Today there are more than 80 photos, representing 25 African countries.

Exhibiting local artists include Kelvin Edwards, Audrey Gottlieb (a U.N. photographer), Alexandra Manfull, William Manfull, Peter Newbury, Bess Palmisciano, Michael Sterling, Charter Weeks and Douglas Wheeler.

A lot of attention has been given to the international photographers exhibiting, such as John Kenny, of London, England; John Isaac of Bronxville, N.Y., and Betty Press, of Hattiesburg, Miss., says Manfull. “But I want to say we have some extraordinarily talented people right here. Their photos will take your breath away; they are really beautiful.”

“I have discovered in the process of getting to know all these photographers, that Africa has profoundly touched them,” she adds. “They love the countries they visited in Africa. This whole idea that people think of the continent of Africa as a single country is something that they find frustrating. So I think the title really spoke to them, and the reason for this fund-raiser.”

Event funds will support SAACC’S permanent exhibition designed in conjunction with the Black Heritage Trail to showcase the history of Portsmouth’s African Burial Ground. “The goal of SAACC’s exhibit is twofold, to bring alive the stories of the people who are buried there and to explain the process of discovery and analysis and interpretation of the grounds from an archaeological aspect,” says Manfull.

“Not a Country” will feature two receptions. There is special preview on Thursday, Nov. 1, that will include a tasting of South African wine, music by Carri Coltrane, dessert, an auction of select photographs, and a raffle, with a daily drawing for cash, ending with one for $1,000.

A second opening is set for Nov. 4, free and open to the public. It will feature music by Ray DeMarco.

Numerous related lectures are planned throughout the month and the film “Agadez, the Music and the Rebellion,” will be shown at 7 p.m., Nov. 17.

“And the photos are for sale. The prices will be really good deals …; priced less than (usual) for fund-raising purposes,” says Manfull. They included Kenny limited editions “one of his pieces sold at Sotheby’s in New York for a little over $10,000.

“It’s going to be quite an event,” says Manfull. And one that will likely have you seeing Africa in a very different way.

Portsmouth Herald

‘Africa is not a Country’ exhibit opens in Portsmouth

To benefit city’s Burying Ground project

Former U.N. chief photographer John Isaac, of Bronxville, N.Y., took this photo
of zebras in Namibia. This image is one of more than 80 that will be on display
in the “Africa is not a Country” exhibit at the Seacoast African American Cultural
Center in November. Courtesy photo
October 09, 2012 2:00 AM


PORTSMOUTH — More than 80 photographs of 24 different African countries will be on exhibit at the Seacoast African American Cultural Center throughout November.

“Africa is not a Country” is a collection of fine art photography that reflects the culture, people, wildlife and landscape of many of Africa’s 55 countries. The show will benefit SAACC’s permanent exhibit about the early 18th-century African Burying Ground on Chestnut Street.

The idea for the exhibit originated several years ago, when Audrey Gottlieb, former U.N. photographer, and several other local art enthusiasts attended a SAACC exhibit of photographs of Burkina Faso. They remarked that it would be interesting to see photos from many different African countries in one exhibit. Fast forward to the presidential primary season, when one candidate referred to Africa as a country while SAACC was planning this exhibit, and they had their title.

“As word began to spread about the event and the fund-raising cause, the submissions started pouring in,” said exhibit co-organizer William Manfull. “Photographers were deeply moved and told us that they really wanted to be a part of this event.”

More than 150 photographs were submitted in just a few weeks from prominent names in the world of photography. Former U.N. chief photographer John Isaac donated several of his renowned wildlife photos and London-based photographer John Kenny will contribute five photographs. The exhibit also includes the work of other internationally known photographers, including Betty Press, a former international photojournalist; Johann Hattingh, international photojournalist from South Africa; and Dominic Chavez, a Boston-based documentary photographer of Global Health. New Hampshire-based photographer Charter Weeks, who has traveled to two African countries on assignment, is also a contributor to the exhibit.

The exhibit will benefit SAACC and its creation of a permanent exhibit on the African Burying Ground. The African Burying Ground Committee is working to develop a memorial park at the site to be called “We Stand in Honor of Those Forgotten.”

“Africa is not a Country” begins Thursday, Nov. 1, with a preview opening from 5 to 7:30 p.m. It will feature a tasting of South African wines, jazz music by Carri Coltrane and many of the photographers will be in attendance. Tickets are $45 each and available at A general public opening is from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, featuring music by jazz pianist Ray DeMarco. Many of the photographers will also be attendance.

SAACC is at the Discover Portsmouth Center at 10 Middle St. For information about “Africa is not a Country,” visit For details about SAACC, visit

Portsmouth Herald

By Jeanné McCartin
August 16, 2012 2:00 AM


Susan Manfull is spearheading “Africa is not a Country,” a special, fundraising event for the Seacoast African American Culture Center (SAACC) with lots of moving parts. Primarily a photo exhibit, it also offers a wine tasting of African-made products, and a performance by Carri Coltrane, (Nov. 21). Related talks will be held and Manfull is creating a guide for school-age kids.

There’s a bit of back-story to the event and the theme’s intent.

A few years ago Manfull’s daughter Alexandra did volunteer work in Burkina Faso (West Africa). SAACC allowed itself to be used as a drop off center for donations to the orphanage she worked. When Alexandra returned she mounted a photo exhibit at SAACC to raise money for the orphanage.

“At the opening several photographers said ‘this is really cool, but what would be really neat are photos from all over Africa,'” recalls Manfull. “I stored that away.” The words flooded back recently as she listened to a number of political figures refer to Africa as a country, on the news. “Many people think of it that way. …; It’s a continent with 54 countries!”

The idea for an event demonstrating Africa’s diversity was born.

Photography seemed the right vehicle, says Manfull, “pretty, stunning and educational photos reflective …; of culture, geography, ethnic groups, religions and landscape — each country’s own identity.”

Manfull contacted Audrey Gottlieb, a friend and former UN photographer in Africa. Gottlieb put her in touch with other international photographers. The event committee also went on the hunt, reaching out to photography clubs and groups, doing e-mail blasts and scouring the web for artists focused on the continent.

“John Isaac, (former chief UN Photographer for Africa,) found out very late in the game and, and like so many of these people, was so taken by the purpose of the exhibit that he said he really want to be a part of it.” John Kenney, of London, an internationally renowned photographer also signed on as did local artists.

The event is a fundraiser for a SAACC project, developing a permanent exhibit showcasing the history of the early 18th-century African Burying Ground.

Winnowing down “Africa” submissions has proved difficult, which is why they plan on extending the show into the hallway, says Manfull — “and we’re looking at other ways to expand.”