PERSPECTIVE Nataal editor-in-chief Helen Jennings zooms in on Africa’s up-and-coming photography stars
LOOKS AT SOME OF THE BRIGHTEST NEW PHOTOGRAPHIC TALENT ON THE CONTINENT
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 ( piclet.org 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. nataal.com