Photo by Selina Avleshie

This Exhibition in Accra Celebrates the Brilliance of African Women Photographers

Take a look inside the Nubuke Foundation and Africa Lens' latest group exhibition which highlights the work of leading African women photographers.

The contemporary African visual landscape is constantly being refreshed with new images from different perspectives that represent the myriad of stories we have to tell. From performance art to literature, creatives work hard to produce vivid and honest depictions, not just of themselves, but their collective existence, as a means of expressing their experiences as well as countering the misrepresentation black bodies face. However, in most of these creative fields, the narratives tend to be dominated by men and or the male gaze. Nubuke Foundation, an Accra based gallery and Africa Lens have come up with a solution to this.

Over the past weekend the gallery and arts foundation located in East Legon a suburb of Accra, transformed the walls of its exhibition space into a shrine for Adama Jalloh, Amaal Said, Jessica Sarkodie, Heather Agyepong, Hilina Abebe and Lyra Aoko to tell their stories. The exhibition was based on the women focused 4th edition of the African Lens, a publication aiming at promoting visual storying telling by Africans, for Africans. Each room in the mazy gallery took on weighted emotions frozen in light by photography, and highlight a scope of techniques from fashion and lifestyle to documentary and portraiture.


Photo by Selina Avleshie

Being an extension of work debuted in print, the exhibition provided an exposition into the working practices of these photographers, each at different points in their careers. According to curator Bianca Manu at Nubuke who also edited this edition of Africa Lens, her selection of 6 photographers from the 11 published in the volume was influenced by an attempt to display diversity in the African narrative. "I wanted to show a range of photographers on the continent and the diaspora. I specifically chose photographers who had female subjects in their work, and were working across mediums. I wanted to have everything from lifestyle and fashion, documentary to reenactment. I wanted it to be a reflection of just how diverse we are a s a continent", she told me after the show.

Indeed, weaving through the space and the hundreds of viewers who made it to the opening night, you were able to glide across a spectrum of photographic brilliance. Nairobi-based Lyra Aoko's experimental fashion portraits certainly stood out as she played around with makeup pointillism as a way of layering texture onto the human face to remap expression in portraiture. Similarly, Amaal Said's series on young black women also brought some dynamism to the range of expression we see associated with black women by employing the emotional architecture of strong colors in framing her subjects. Ghanaian photography Jessica Sarkodie, with more of a documentary lens brought into sharp focus, the rituals that surround the Homowo festival, celebrated by the Ga in Accra which is marked by the flamboyant parade of twins through the heart of the city.

Photo by Selina Avleshie

Despite artist leverage technology to carve out new audience in the competitive digital world, it's still important that they then move to take up physical space and compel minds to pay attention to their perspectives. With this exposition is was particularly poignant to notice just how much the scope of work women in photography and just how much this can catalyze the broaden of our collective visual narrative. It was also poetic that Nubuke Foundation, a 90% women-run institution hosted a show of such magnitude, celebrating the work on women artists, exclusively which does not happen often in Accra's rapidly expanding art scene. The show will remain open till the end of the April, but you can pick up a copy of Africa Lens here to explore the essays that accompany the images.

Photo by Selina Avleshie

Photo by Selina Avleshie

Photo by Selina Avleshie


Photo by Selina Avleshie

Photo by Selina Avleshie

Photo by Selina Avleshie

Interview
Photo: Benoit Peverelli

Interview: Oumou Sangaré Proves Why She's the Songbird of Wassoulou

We caught up with the Malian singer to talk about her new Acoustic album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

When Oumou Sangaré tells me freedom is at her core, I am not surprised. If you listen to her discography, you'll be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn't center or in some way touch on women's rights or child abuse. The Grammy award-winning Malian singer has spent a significant part of her career using her voice to fight for the rights of women across Africa and the world, a testimony to this is her naming her debut studio album Moussolou, meaning Woman. The album, a pure masterpiece that solidified Oumou's place amongst the greats and earned her the name 'Songbird of Wassoulou,' was a commercial success selling over 250,000 records in Africa and would in turn go on to inspire other singers across the world.

On her latest body of work Acoustic, a reworking of her critically acclaimed 2017 album Mogoya, Oumou Sangaré proves how and why she earned her accolades. The entirety of the 11-track album was recorded within two days in the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse in 'live' conditions—with no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones. Throughout the album, using her powerful and raw voice that has come to define feminism in Africa and shaped opinions across the continent, Oumou boldly addresses themes like loss, polygamy and female circumcision.

We caught up with the Malian singer at the studio she is staying while in quarantine to talk about her new album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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