First Look: 'Platform Africa' Highlights What and Who You Need to Know in African Photography

A preview of Aperture's summer issue highlighting the dynamic spaces that have shaped conversations about photography in Africa.

JOHANNESBURG—This summer, you'll now have the opportunity to take a deeper look at the dynamic spaces that have shaped conversations about photography in Africa for the past 25 years, from biennials and experimental art spaces to educational workshops.

Aperture Magazine presents its summer issue, "Platform Africa," where it highlights and celebrates a new generation of artists you need to know. The issue is due to launch June 22 at Stevenson Gallery in Johannesburg.

"Platform Africa" was produced in collaboration with guest editors Bisi Silva, founder and artistic director of the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos, Nigeria; Aïcha Diallo, associate editor of Contemporary And, and John Fleetwood, former head of Johannesburg's Market Photo Workshop and current director of Photo:, a new African initiative.

Fleetwood started Photo:—a critical and engaging photography platform that produces curates and develops exhibition, educational and research programs—in 2015.

"Photo: is a photography platform that wants to develop and promote photographers and photography projects that speaks to photography’s role and place as a response to the vibrant, conflicted and changing societies of South Africa, the region and the continent," he says. "We work with many photographers throughout the continent in mentorships and exhibitions. So far, we have been part of masterclasses in Ethiopia, Sudan, Cabo Verde and in South Africa."

Fleetwood notes that Photo: is conducting an ongoing major survey on photography training institutions in Africa to develop links and connections amongst institutions, and to fast track relevant photography training.

"The updated edition will be launched later this year," he says. "Key to our understanding is the developing nature of photographies and visual languages in different contexts. In the next quarter, we will launch a photography competition to develop new work for Southern African photographers."

Sarah Waiswa, 'Seeking to Belong,' 2016, from the series 'Stranger in a Familiar Land.' Courtesy the artist.

One takeaway he'd like for readers to get out of "Platform Africa" is how photography continues to be a tool to analyze the challenges the continent faces.

"I love the diversity of terrains that photography has to encounter in Africa as it makes for such fresh and complicated meanings," he adds. "Part of these diverse roles and functions that photography has to the specifities of Africa, is that it can engage at a critical moment in the development of new understandings of the world. The vibrancy and energy that photography brings to identity and identity politics is also a reaction to the difficulties of the continent."

In the photo gallery below, catch a glimpse of photography by African photographers featured in Platform Africa—some of whom have debuted their portfolios in the issue. Be sure to check back for a continued conversation with Bisi Silva and Aïcha Diallo here on OkayAfrica.



6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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