25 May 2020
25 May 2020 - Written by PHmuseum
On the occasion of Africa Day, we asked Africa is a Country's contributor Drew Thompson to highlight 10 artists from the continent we should follow and support this year.
Founded by Sean Jacobs in 2009, Africa is a Country is a site of opinion, analysis, and new writing started as an outlet to challenge the received media wisdom about Africa. Drew Thompson is the photography section contributor of the platform and Africana Studies Director at Bard College, read his words to discover more about the selected photographers and their practice.
Working between Portugal and parts of Portuguese-speaking West and Central Africa, the Lisbon-based artist uses photography and video installations to model and interrogate the complex historical and architectural spaces that the descendants of formerly colonizing and colonized populations in Africa and the Diaspora occupy. Through a combination of storytelling and reenactment, she introduces still and moving images that allow for a visualization of the transmission of history along with the forms of looking at self and others that mark documented spaces.
Currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa at the famed Market Photo Workshop, the Egyptian photographer uses a highly-trafficked tram in Alexandria as her photographic backdrop. In ways strikingly similar to the late South African photographer Santu Mofokeng’s 1986 series “Train Church,” she photographs the intimate spatial and personal relationships commuters enter in order to travel. Seemingly invisible to her sitters, she looks outside and through the tram’s windows, giving form to passengers’ stolen glances, unsaid thoughts, and the conversations overheard. Here, daily life is about onetime moments of escape and reprieve.
How do you photographically tell the story of Nigerian female students who have been kidnapped by armed militias, and leave behind no visual trace. How do you photograph daily life within a space characterized by such violence? Elements of disappearance and recovery characterize the creative process of Rahima Gambo whose multi-media installation “A Walk” involves sculptures, collages, and still photographs. Drawings that resemble tree branches and plant stems provide new lines of sight by uniting and separating the torn photographs, thereby reinforcing the imaginative meanings mapped onto photographs and the memories that photographs impart.
Eric Gyamfi adamantly resists the notion that he photographs marginalized LGBT+ groups in Ghana. Instead, his photographs embrace and showcase highly-stigmatized and misrepresented aspects of sexuality and create a much-needed archive of people whose daily lives are cast to the shadows of history. His most recent work involves the layering of two photographs, one of himself and the other of the American composer Julius Eastman, and considers how the look and form of photographs change over time.
The childhood memory of seeing a dead body profoundly marked the South African photographer who grew up in shebeens, an informal social establishment. He disassembles and reassembles the photographic surface first by re-photographing elements of printed images, and by marking prints in obscuring and defacing ways. Aspects of his body appear intermittently throughout the series, thereby problematizing notions of self-portraiture. In the process, he mobilizes photography as a tool of healing and references personalized and fragmented histories of trauma and violence.
Born in Angola and having lived in Portugal without the privilege of citizenship, Jasse creates photographic archives out of largely found images with the aim of questioning the place of black populations in white settler rule. His experimentation with film printing processes and screen printing expose the gaze of colonizing populations and the normalizing effects of the images they viewed. His latest collages highlight the tensions between histories of colonization and independence in Congo’s Katanga province.
Photography is intensely personal for Lubondo whose father was a photographer. Coming off her participation at the 2019 Lumumbashi Biennale, she stages her own historical memories as well as those of the people of Congo. In “Imaginary Trips” (2016), she recreates the journeys of people and the activities they performed in specific spaces, like train cars and classrooms. Lubondo actively photographs herself as a participant in these explorations of Congo’s history, and, in doing so, offers a fresh and enlightening perspective on the moments of disappearance that are formative to the making of historical memories.
Far too often, fashion photography is an underrecognized genre in African photography. Barbara Minishi takes her cues from carefully constructed sets in order to showcase her clients' rich sartorial designs. Her deftness at photographing her sitters from striking angles under stark lighting makes fiction become reality. The stories she tells through her colorful pictures are playful and mystical.
Exile is a condition in which a person is separated, or broken apart, from a place, and Shanan’s series “Exile” involves trying to catch glimpses of circumstances and possible feelings of exile in Algeria. While sentiments of alienation and displacement can be intensely felt, we cannot see how they appear in the moment; Shanan explores this concept. By picturing scenes people deem unworthy of photographing or are not in a position to photograph themselves, notions of belonging appear ambiguous and unclear.
In her early body of work “Even this will pass” (2013), Silvestri focused on the experiences of Eritrean migrants to Great Britain. Rather than showing the faces of her sitters, she blurs their images and maps the routes they travelled through dots and lines. Almost in complete opposition to the fear many of her sitters confront with being photographed, in the recurring series “the Black History Month” (2018 and 2019), Silvestri presents an untitled and collective portrait of black existence—the often undepicted side of migration that exposes the identities not afforded to black migrants by nationality or citizenship alone.
Drew Thompson is a contributor at AIAC and serves as an Assistant Professor and Director of Africana Studies at Bard College. He recently authored, Filtering Histories: The Photographic Bureaucracy in Mozambique, 1960 to Recent Times (University of Michigan Press, 2021), and is currently at work on a book about the history of the Polaroid in Africa.
This article is part of the work PHmuseum have started in the last few years to support and promote photographers from the African continent. A work that has included initiative as the Prize in collaboration with African Artists’ Foundation or the online exhibition in partnership with MFON.
We're always working to improve our knowledge of projects and photographers from countries that are under-represented in the industry. If you are a photographer or artist please do create a free PHmuseum account and upload your projects. You can also get in touch with us at email@example.com.