African Photography: Self-Portraiture, Part 1

African Photography: Self-Portraiture, Part 1

Posted in Photography

In the 1990s, African photographers gradually embraced the self-portraiture. Mainly using their self as a subject, they explore the multiple ways cultural identity is created, redefined, and represented. The photographers open up the possibilities of the self as an embodiment of and stage for countless desires by adopting various personas. They also use the power of self-imaging to question the notion of the archive as a coherent field of knowledge.

Samuel Fosso

Samuel Fosso was born in 1962 in Kumba, Cameroon, a city near the Nigerian border and later moved to Nigeria with his family. In the years following the Biafran war, he moved without his family to Bangui, Central African Republic. Fosso set up a studio at the age of thirteen, taking portraits of his clients during the day, and turning the camera on himself during the night. His photographs were initially meant to his family who remained in Nigeria, but he rapidly produced images that became the foundation of his work in self-portraiture. In front of his camera, individuals dress and pose in order to project an identity they wish to have, while Fosso tries to enhance their illusions with staging and props. Over the years, his work became increasingly satirical and political. Most of his photographs record the look of people or famous personalities at a certain age, in a certain year. For instance, in his series African Spirits (2008) and The Emperor of Africa (2013), Fosso is impersonating civil-rights and African-independence leaders. After winning an award at the African Photography Encounters in 1994, Fosso gained international recognition. His work has been exhibited internationally and is part of some private collections.

Emperor of Africa by Samuel Fosso

Oladélé Bamgboyé

Oladélé Ajiboyé Bamgboyé was born in 1963 in Odo-Eku, Nigeria. In 1975, his family moved to Glasgow, Scotland where he earned a degree in Chemical Engineering in 1985. He later settled in London where he studied Media Art. Bamgboyé turned to photography by using himself as the subject in order to investigate the fragile composition of self. Creating emotional and often overtly erotic images, he questioned and addressed the perception of the black body in a predominantly white society. In The Lighthouse (1991) series, Bamgboyé and a woman, both pictured nude, strike different poses that loosely resemble crucified, tied, or restrained positions that are simultaneously sexual and violent. Using his engineering background, Bamgboyé has also produced visual effects on his pictures through multiple-exposure. This highlights in particular, his interest in the dichotomy between stillness and movement. In the series Celebrate (1994), he is waving colourful fabric around his naked body as he dances with a positive energy, reminiscent of peace and liberty. Bamgboyé has participated in international exhibitions such as Documenta X and the Johannesburg Biennial, and in several local venues.

Celebrate by Oladele Bamgboye

Barthelemy Toguo

Barthelemy Toguo was born in 1967 in Bandjoun, Cameroon. He studied Fine Arts and Multimedia in Abidjan, Grenoble, and Dusseldorf. Toguo is a prolific watercolorist and sculptor, and also makes video and stages live performances. Even though he is not a photographer in the tradition of Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibé, he often uses photography in his installations. In Transits (1996), a series of satirical and political performance works, Toguo criticizes the representation of black people against the backdrop of the security state, whose mechanism of classification and control contribute to perceive a person as either citizen or alien. His performances were played out in situ on a train, in airports, or at national frontiers, with no formal audience. The resulting self-portraits are snapshots of supposedly factual events such as visa check, border patrol, and identity-card photography. Toguo’s work is in the collections of various museums and has been exhibited worldwide. In 2007, he founded Bandjoun Station, a centre for artistic exchange between local and international artists featuring residencies, an exhibition space, a library and plantations.

Transit by Barthelemy Toguo

Zineb Sedira

Zineb Sedira was born in 1963 in Paris, France to Algerian parents. She moved to London, United Kingdom in 1986 where she studied art at the Central Saint Martins. In 1997, she completed her postgraduate studies at The Slade, and subsequently studied Photography at the Royal College of Art. Sedira uses photography and video to frame questions about migration, memory, and the transmission of history. She relies on her own experience to depict women and their relationships with the world and each other. In the video installation Mother Tongue (2002), Sedira explores the traditional gender role of Arab women, particularly as passed from mother to daughter. The three-channel video presents person of three generations discussing childhood in their native languages —the artist in French, her mother in Arabic, and her daughter in English—until communication breaks down between daughter and grandmother, who have no language in common.

Mother Tongue by Zineb Sedira


Posted in Photography  |  April 22, 2017