PER­SPEC­TIVE Nataal editor-in-chief He­len Jen­nings zooms in on Africa’s up-and-com­ing pho­tog­ra­phy stars


House and Leisure (South Africa) - - Contents - HE­LEN JEN­NINGS

Isalute the young army of African pho­tog­ra­phers who are busy smash­ing up the tired ethno­graphic gaze upon the con­ti­nent that the world has too long seen.

Their out­put adds an ur­gent rich­ness to the huge diver­sity of voices in­form­ing Africa’s emer­gent art scene. Whether chal­leng­ing ac­cepted no­tions of be­long­ing and iden­tity, blur­ring the bound­aries be­tween the ev­ery­day and the fan­tas­ti­cal, or look­ing to the past to shape a new fu­ture, what I find en­gross­ing is the con­fi­dent, un­shack­led en­ergy of this work.

Self-taught pho­tog­ra­pher from Ethiopia Girma Berta turns the myr­iad lives he finds on the streets of Ad­dis Ababa into fine art. His on­go­ing Mov­ing Shad­ows se­ries de­picts fig­ures jux­ta­posed against vi­brant back­grounds that cap­ture ‘the beau­ti­ful, the ugly and all that is in be­tween’. Shoot­ing ev­ery­thing incog­nito and on his iPhone, Berta has be­come an In­sta­gram sen­sa­tion (@gbox­cre­ative) – so much so that he won a Getty Im­ages In­sta­gram Grant last year and was se­lected for The New York Times’ 2017 New York Port­fo­lio Re­view.

Nige­rian snap­per Kadara Enyeasi stud­ied ar­chi­tec­ture be­fore cre­at­ing im­ages that span fash­ion, art and por­trai­ture. The La­gos-based artist plays with form, space and per­spec­tive, and of­ten uses the body as a land­scape. He’s also in­ter­ested in ex­am­in­ing how peo­ple in­ter­act with one other and with build­ings in the so­cial space. Most re­cently, Enyeasi has be­gun ex­per­i­ment­ing with col­lage and is also cut­ting his curatorial teeth at the African Artists’ Foun­da­tion, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that pro­motes African art. Kenya’s Mimi Cherono Ng’ok de­scribes her prac­tice as ‘an emo­tional car­tog­ra­phy’. After study­ing at the Univer­sity of Cape Town, she re­turned to Nairobi, from where she trav­els ex­ten­sively across the con­ti­nent pro­duc­ing nos­tal­gic im­ages that cap­ture a lim­i­nal state of be­ing. Of­ten deal­ing with is­sues of home and dis­place­ment, she’s less con­cerned with doc­u­ment­ing a lo­ca­tion than ex­press­ing a sense of be­ing adrift. She’s ex­hib­ited in­ter­na­tion­ally, in­clud­ing at Dak’Art 2016 (the Bi­en­nale of Contemporary African Art) and Ti­wani Contemporary in London, and this year was awarded a grant from the Mag­num Foun­da­tion Fund.

Namib­ian-born Kyle Weeks grew up ex­plor­ing the land­scapes of his coun­try and spend­ing time among the in­dige­nous Himba peo­ple. Since study­ing at Stel­len­bosch Academy of De­sign & Pho­tog­ra­phy and re­lo­cat­ing to Cape Town, he’s been drawn back to cap­ture a new view of this much­doc­u­mented, semi-no­madic tribe. Weeks has had his own show at the Na­tional Art Gallery of Namibia and is a Mag­num Pho­tog­ra­phy Awards 2016 win­ner thanks to his Ovahimba Youth Self-Por­traits, which fo­cuses on young men look­ing dap­per in their best sports­wear, and his Palm Wine Col­lec­tors se­ries, which shows how the sap of makalani palms is tapped to make a tra­di­tional drink called om­bike.

And then there’s the de­light­ful work of Joana Choumali, who spe­cialises in what she calls con­cep­tual por­trai­ture. Hav­ing stud­ied in Casablanca and worked in ad­ver­tis­ing, the Ivo­rian artist found her joy through her cam­era. Choumali’s se­ries Hââbré, The Last Gen­er­a­tion raises ques­tions around the dy­ing prac­tice of fa­cial scar­i­fi­ca­tion in Abid­jan, and won the POPCAP ’14 ( pi­ Prize for Contemporary African Pho­tog­ra­phy). Mean­while, her se­ries Adorn lauds the of­ten­ma­ligned trend adopted by some Sene­galese women for wear­ing ex­ces­sive make-up by pic­tur­ing them in a grand Ro­coco style. Pretty as a pic­ture in­deed.

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