A new exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, In and Out of the Studio: Photographic Portraits from West Africa, presents over a century of portrait photography in West Africa. Many of these works, which were taken between the 1870s and the 1970s, are being displayed for the first time. There’s a broad selection of images on show, including postcards and original negatives as well as conventional photographs. The choice of photographers is similarly broad, taking in both amateur and professional photographers who captured life in Senegal, Mali, Gabon and Cameroon, among others. What is interesting about these photographs is that they present us with an image of Africa that is seldom recognized – it is often presumed that photographs of Africa from earlier eras were taken by foreign photographers. West Africa, where photography arrived in the 1840s, became a booming photography centre on its own terms. In other words, photographic production was not controlled just by foreigners – rather it was adapted by locals to their own traditions and aesthetic preferences. European and …
Zimbabwean-born Virginia Chihota makes highly introspective work that occupies a place between dream and reality. The quietly striking works showcased in the following pages are from her series munzwa munyama yangu (A Thorn in my Flesh). Her expressive paintings result from a mixture of screen-printing and ink on paper, and the artist has said she finds inspiration in solitude. Chihota moved to Triploli, Libya, in 2012 and has spoken of how the culturally isolated experience of living in a foreign culture has fuelled her work. Continue reading about Virginia Chihota in the July/August issue of The Kurios. Photo: Virginia Chihota, The Root of the Flower we do not Know, screenprint on paper, 2014. Courtesy of Tiwani Contemporary.
In Boris Nzebo’s multi-layered works, human heads merge with urban cityscapes. These boldly coloured and patterned works evoke the visual dynamism of a West African city. Born in 1979 in Gabon, Nzebo now lives and works in Cameroon. He draws his subject matter from his hometown of Douala, where he is particularly inspired by the elaborate hairstyles of locals, which often feature as hand-painted advertising illustrations in West African beauty parlours. To continue reading about Boris Nzebo and see more images of his work, read the July/August issue of The Kurios. Photo: © Boris Nzebo. Photo courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London.
The first solo show of the Ivorian artist Yéanzi is taking place at Cécile Fakhoury Gallery in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. In Yéanzi’s mixed media paintings, he blends together successive layers of press cuttings onto canvas. He then melts plastic on top to form human images. The result is ambiguous and powerful imagery. Yéanzi is featured in the May/June issue of The Kurios, out now. Get your copy here. Photo courtesy of Cécile Fakhoury Gallery