Jaar, a Chilean-born artist and political activist, met the subject of Angel while shooting his 2005 film Muxima in Luanda, Angola. While they discussed some of the nation’s ongoing challenges, the boy spoke of the future and expressed his belief that the Angolan people would be protected by angels. Angel’s tripartite format evokes a triptych, a traditional format for Christian altarpieces. The religious connotation is reinforced by the boy’s gesture of blessing and hope, which relates him to—or even transforms him into—the “angel” of the photograph’s title. His impoverished circumstances, represented by the homemade Nike logo on his t-shirt, is set against a background of sprawling affluence. The rapidly growing cityscape of Luanda indicates the concentrated wealth that has arisen from oil production but failed to trickle down to Angola’s wider population.
Collections Curator, Ryerson Image Center, Ryerson University, Toronto