Arts + Culture

Joana Choumali 'Hââbré' - Scarification Portraits in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire

Ivorian photographer Joana Choumali's portrais of scarification in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire

Ivorian artist Joana Choumali's portraits carry a tremendous raw truth with them. Her Hââbré, the last generation project documents a fading generation of Abidjan citizens with facial scarifications. As the practice becomes more uncommon, Choumali decided to create one of the only contemporary digital records of scarification. She explained to Afropunk: "This practice is disappearing due to the pressure of religious and state authorities, urban practices and the introduction of clothing in tribes. In many villages, only the older people wear scarifications. This series of portraits lead us to question the link between past and present, and self-image depending on a given environment. Opinions (sometimes conflicting) of our witnesses illustrate the complexity of African identity today in a contemporary Africa, torn between its past and its future. During my research, all I found were pictures from the beginning of the century, taken by ethnologists, and only a few contemporary images. I also had trouble finding people to photograph because of their rarity. This “last generation” of people bearing the imprint of the past on their faces, went from being the norm and having a high social value to being somewhat “excluded”. These last scarified are the last witnesses of an Africa of a bygone era." Scroll through our gallery to view the photographs and if you want to talk about it, tweet @okayafrica with #joanachoumali.


 

 

 

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While her mother's answer was no, the thought took hold in her young, entrepreneurial mind. She'd had palm wine—an alcoholic drink made from the sap of various species of palm trees and endeared to many Nigerians—at weddings and gatherings in the past, but it never quite "hit the spot" so to speak. "I realized that every time I've had palm wine in Lagos or Abuja, it's always off or sour. Because palm wine ferments, so the longer you leave it, it gets bitter and [undrinkable]. So anytime I've had it at weddings it just doesn't taste right to me."

This presented an opportunity for the young student who was just 18-years-old at the time and moving between Lagos, London and Abuja: she could improve upon an age-old product, still very much in demand, by revamping the production process and packaging it. After extensive research and visits to local palm wine farms in Abuja, Ekwueme decided she was ready to experiment. Along with a small team, she bottled her first batches of palm wine in December 2017, calling the product Pamii—a naturally-brewed, premium palm wine. Ekwueme's product is different—it fills a void in the Nigerian spirits market because it's actually Nigerian-made. She reminds me that while her company isn't the first to try bottling the beverage, others fell short due to "poor execution, poor branding," and failure to "cultivate a brand and lifestyle around it."

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