United Kingdom

Bartosz Nowicki



Bartosz Nowicki is Polish born photographer and curator living in Cardiff, Wales since 2005. He is a trustee and curator of Third Floor Gallery in Cardiff. The gallery is renowned, not only in the UK, as an institution responsible for bringing the most exiting contemporary photography to Wales. In his photographic practice Bartosz primarily concentrates on the social issues that surround him and which impact on his personal life. Currently he is a PhD student at the Ulster University, researching issues of minority communities in Poland.


The Wall of Silence

We went to Poland in the summer of 2008. Binta and me. It was her first time in my homeland, her first chance to better understand my past.. I grew up in Steszew, a little town of no more than 5000 citizens. I lived over there for 24 years and I never saw a black person.... As we walked, people stared at Binta... A black woman on the streets of Steszew. She was a sensation, something different, something to talk about.

Before I never looked at Poland from the other perspective. Now I felt that I have to...

Poland never had a colony (although there were attempts to generate them). Human migration to this country never existed on a scale observed in Western Europe. Consequently, the history of Africans living there is minimal. An average citizen of Poland barely has any contact with a black person, especially in small cities or villages. Black people, even if they are born and raised in Poland, are perceived to be 'the other' someone from a different reality, different world, different space... An absence of common personal contact and ignorance caused by highly promoted stereotypes, which are clearly visible in Poland's classical literature and poetry. This has its role in creating an atmosphere of 'fear’ and lack of trust to 'Africans'. This is often expressed in verbal or physical abuse. Today the number of people with African descent living in Poland is higher than ever (but still small relatively). Poles, as a society, appear not to be prepared for this fact; they seem not to be educated enough. There is a wall between the black and white people of Poland and this is not the wall of hate, but the wall of the unknown, the wall of silence. It makes the existence of Polish black people harder than it could and should be. The need for a change in the nation’s mentality has been recognised. This project is hoping to be a part of the taming process which is already taking place on many levels. There are foundations which organise cultural events raising awareness. In an educational book for teachers entitled How to Tell Polish Kids about Kids from Africa (2009) there are efforts to dismiss the unfair stereotypes. The change is also possible through everyday interaction. As Paul Runiga once told me: ‘through contact with me people here, in this small town, are changing their ideas about black people. They see me with my lovely son; I'm not drinking, not fighting on the street and have a good job. They start to think. Maybe the truth is not as we used to believe’.


Here I Am (Autobiography)

Images in this portfolio were taken between 2003 - 2012 in various locations but mostly in Steszew in Greater Poland, where I used to live. People in these images are usually my family and friends. I continue to work on this project and I photograph every time I travel back home. It is for me, as Chris Verene said about his 'Family' work: 'a life time project'. The text was written by my sister Gosia Nowicka.

The project started naturally, when I was discovering photography and when I began to photograph my family and friends. Through out the years Here I am (Autobiography) grew to be not only a long term personal story but also a record of the social changes that are happening in Poland. I started to photograph just before Poland became a part of EU and I've continued to document the changes in the years since. Many of my friends, including myself, emigrated to other countries and the life of those who stayed in Poland is different from what I remember. Every time I go back I feel like I've been dropped into another alternative reality.