Celebrating Black History Month — Featuring 10 African Emerging Photographers
February is Black History Month and we would like to put the spotlight on the African continent, honouring some of the most amazing talents working with photography. We took this opportunity to revisit and discover artists that deserve to be included in the contemporary narratives around photography. Some of the artists presented here were discovered thanks to important international festivals, fairs and institutions dedicated to champion Black artists, such as 1:54 Contemporary Fair, Addis Foto Fest or LagosPhoto, among others.
Let’s celebrate together Black artists! Join us in this article presenting some of the emerging photographers that are under our radar for 2022. And don’t forget to do your own research!
The Igbe religion is based on dance and it was founded in Nigeria in 1858. Aghogho Otega explores it through photography, performance and video, creating rituals as a medium to find spirituality in oneself. By getting inside himself through his performances and dances, Aghogho is able to project what’s inside out for the public’s appreciation.
Aghogho puts his body as the centre of his artistic practice. He enters a trance state in front of a mirror, which is traditionally associated with the otherworldly. Together with the movements and gestures, it becomes an essential path to access that alternate reality that he’s looking for in his practice.
Born in North Morocco, Mous learnt how to use a camera in an auto-didactic way. As a child, he moved with his family to Belgium and grew up showing a strong interest in fashion photography, always maintaining an interest for the Moroccan identity in his shots.
Mous works combine the North African tradition and culture, with the European world where he grew up. His vision of the rich Moroccan heritage is noticeable in all of his works. The light, the vibrant colours and strong contrasts, make us enter this contemporary vision of his motherland.
In this project, Ricky Weaver reimagines the language of Black women’s gestures, presenting their characters in the middle of spiritual practises. Her observation comes from a meditative standpoint, from where she is able to analyse time, identity and heritage, and pay tribute to Black women and culture.
For Weaver, image serves as a way of collecting histories, whilst the body is the medium that allows us to create, transmit and spread an archive of the everyday. In this image, Weaver shows her thoughts about releasing the heaviness in the body and making room for something new. Every topic that she explore in her work is created through a Black feminist metaphysic lens, where it stands out from a spiritual point of view.
Influenced by fashion photography and classical portraiture, Lakin Ogunbanwo mainly creates portraits that contain a subtle subversive undertone. Usually, his subjects don’t reveal their faces and if they do, are often masked by shadow or traditional drapery. The use of vivid colours in the background is also a homage to the African studio photography that was really popular in the 1960s and 1970s.
Ogunbanwo’s artistic investigation is related with the documentation of Nigerian culture, expanding the contemporary African visual culture, and presenting the African narratives through portraiture. His vision aims to reframe the uniform vision that Western cultures have towards the African continent.
Ghanaian-Austrian artist, Samira Saidi focuses her practice on shifting the sociological structures of race and belonging, she also studies the duality of intersectional identities through the body. Writing is also an important part of Saidi’s work, as it served as a starting point for bringing her ideas into reality.
In the last years, she has been able to expand her practice from photography to performance and multimedia in order to open a critical conversation about socio-economic topics. One of her last projects, Ecosystems of Healing, portrays the problems related with mental health in West Africa. In African communities, people have been alienated due to the colonial past and exploitative present, and this affects directly onto their mental health. Western point of view influenced this disassociation. Saidi’s series explores the understandings of what it means to be mentally well in these preconceived systems.
Wafaa Samir has two lines of investigation, the first one is about the relationships with urbanism and physical spaces, the other focuses on the figurative representation of emotions and the different states of the mind. These two lines characterise her practice and relate outer and inner perspectives.
Her background as a student of architecture, gave her a different perspective and approach to cities. She explored New Gourna, a village created to accommodate people from other small villages. Made from mud-bricks created from the surrounding materials, the town offered an eco-friendly community and low rents. Over the years, the structures began to deteriorate and most of the residents were forced to move out of their homes. She explored this phenomenon of what remained, putting her expectations of an ancient utopian city against the reality she experienced visiting this village.
From a humorous and critical point of view, Angolese artist Kiluanji Kia Henda examines identity, politics and perceptions of post-colonialism in Africa. Being a multidisciplinary artist, allows him to mix video, performance and photography in his conceptual work.
He was involved on Luanda’s art scene where he got influenced by music, theatre and having collaborations with local artistic collectives. An important part of his work reflects on history by appropriating public spaces and activating memory, in order to produce complex reactions on the spectators.
Photography is a great weapon for social criticism. Chagas has been using it throughout his career, not just to investigate daily life, but also to point to the actual culture of consumerism and the repercussions that it has in African society.
He photographs the everyday objects that surround us and follows a methodology that invites the viewer to analyse them. Deconstructing these items, or ‘documented times’ as he says, allows him to question historical, social, geographical, ethnic and even economic factors related to these objects.
Through bright imagery, Nana Yaw Oduro offers a local-inspired environment and invites the viewer to discover his inner emotions. He uses photography to expose masculinity, boyhood and promote self-acceptance.
Composition plays an important role in Nana’s works, the exaggerated torsions that their subjects present and the strong light contrasts, create unusual scenes that provoke curiosity in the viewer. Is unquestionably the way that he treats his models, empowering the naturality of their bodies and its daily tasks.
The city life and the personal stories of communities are the topics that shape Sianeh’s body of work. When we see her photographs, we discover a collection of moments of joy surrounded by an aura that projects happiness. But her goal is not to show just “nice pictures”, but how it truly is.
She is a storyteller. She likes to connect with people and connect with them through a process of learning, relearning and unlearning about African culture. In some of her series she focuses on championing the empowerment of women from different ages. On her scenes, women communicate between them whilst they are doing social and laboral activities.