African Photography: Artistic Photography, Part 2

African Photography: Artistic Photography, Part 2

Posted in Photography

In the 1990s, the influence of conceptual art gravitated toward many African artists, especially among artists working with performance and installation. Some of them, who did not describe themselves as photographers, started to use photography to document their performances or capture their installations. Most of them were born after the years of independence in the 1960s. They gained an international visibility in the art world with work that describes a contemporary Africa.

Goddy Leye

Goddy Leye was born in 1965 in Mbouda, Cameroon. He lived and worked in Douala where he created a contemporary art centre named ArtBakery in 2003. He was also a founding member of the collectives Prim’Art and Dreamers. Goddy Leye started his artistic career in 1992, after studying fine art at the University of Yaoundé and at the artistic workshop of the artist and art historian Pascal Kenfack. His work is inspired by the construction of history and memory based on African tales, myths, and mythologies. He mainly used signs and symbols to convey his ideas and emotions through painting, installation, and video. The video installation The Beautiful Beast (2009), which is the projection on the ground of a video that depicts the artist in fear moving in a closed space, evokes the idea of captivity or separation for instance. Goddy Leye was amongst the pioneers of video art in Africa and influenced several young artists until his abrupt death in 2011.

The Beautiful Beast by Goddy Leye

Pascale Marthine Tayou

Pascale Marthine Tayou was born in 1967 in Yaoundé, Cameroon. After his legal education, he began exhibiting in 1994, a time of sociopolitical upheaval across West Africa. His early works focused on sculpture that addressed significant issues and societal problems such as AIDS. Following international exhibitions started in 1996, Tayou went abroad to develop his art career. Assuming forms as varied as drawing, sculpture, video, and photography, his works depict a world inspired by the atmosphere of African metropolises. The diversity of his sculptural forms, hallmarked by the use of discarded objects and recycled materials – all of which are symptomatic of contemporary society – demonstrates his unique visual language. These heterogeneous items are linked together through narratives, drawings, and notes that highlight different passages, juxtapositions, short circuits, and readings.

Africonda by Pascale Marthine Tayou

Jane Alexander

Jane Alexander was born in 1959 in Johannesburg, South Africa. While studying in Fine Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand, she produced The Butcher Boys (1986), one of her most prominent sculpture, in response to the dehumanizing effects of Apartheid. The result of power and domination over the individual is a major theme in Alexander’s work; it has carried through much of her work. Her figurative sculptures, characterized by their mixture of humanoid elements, are also depicted in installations and photomontages. Many of her sculptures often reappear in different configurations with new additions and extensions, and in photomontages that situate them into the context of landscape and place. In 1994, Alexander started her international career with her participation at biennials in Havana and Venice the following year. Since then, her work has been showcased in many exhibitions worldwide and featured in several public collections.

The Butcher Boys by Jane Alexander

Zarina Bhimji

Zarina Bhimji was born in 1963 in Mbarara, Uganda to Indian parents. In 1974, she moved with her family to United Kingdom, after the expulsion of Uganda’s Asian community by Idi Amin. Upon graduating from the Slade School of Fine Art in 1989, Bhimji started to focus her work on the subsequent loss and the grief caused by that displacement. Her photographs and film installations capture human traces in landscape and architecture while avoiding depicting human presence. She works without any attempt at making a linear narrative, leaving space for the viewer to fit his own emotions into. For instance, the film Out of Blue (2002) presented in documenta 11, explores an arresting visual journey across her native country, with its terrain disturbed by the sound of bird songs and human voices. In 2012, the first major survey that traced 25 years of her work was held at the Whitechapel Gallery in London.

Your Sadness is Drunk by Zarina Bhimji

Berni Searle

Berni Searle was born in 1964 in Cape Town, South Africa. In 1994, during her master’s degree in Fine Arts at the University of Cape Town, she created a sculpture that examines issues around national identity. Then, she started to deal with issues of race and gender using an elegant combination of photography, film, and video to produce performance narratives and large installations. In the Colour Me (1998) series, she captured several close-ups of her naked body covered with spices such as turmeric (yellow), paprika (red), pea flour (white), and ground cloves (brown) to evoke the primary colors of racial stereotyping. Searle’s use of the body in performances echoes the conceptual art practices that emerged with artists such as Ana Mendieta, Hannah Wilke, and Marina Abramović. Unlike these artists, she brings to the task a distinct cultural history and personal gravity to the photographic processes. Since her career debut, Searle’s work has appeared in many exhibitions and biennials, and she received several grants and prizes.

Colour Me by Berni Searle


Posted in Photography  |  March 18, 2017