14 Nov 17 West African womxn photographers changing the world’s visual language
In shaping perspectives, especially through a visual narrative, the person behind the camera lens is just as important as the one in front of it. The digital age has greatly improved the representation of people of colour all over the world, but it has not been a panacea for stereotypical imagery and gender inequality in the photographic world.
Ease of access to the internet and simple technology like phone cameras means that people can take charge of the way their bodies and narrative are presented and interpreted. Yet, the realm of African photography remains largely dominated by men (on the continent and the West), telling stories from their gazes.
So how do African womxn tell their stories through the lens? 10and5 recently put together a list of 20 South African womxn photographers on the up-and-up. As we learn from and appreciate the glorious work of Malick Sidibe and Seydou Keita, it’s important to appreciate the efforts of people such as Felicia Abban – Ghana’s earliest known womxn photographer instrumental in shaping the contemporary African narrative.
In that same spirit, we bring to you a comprehensive list of some of the West African womxn photographers whose work we’ve noticed from the larger community of visual storytellers, operating in various fields from documentary to lifestyle. (Header image by Amarachi Nwosu.)
Delphine Adama Fawundu
Delphine Fawundu is a multimedia artist who uses primarily in film and photography. Her projects are aimed at examining the impact of colonialism and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade on contemporary social structures like race and gender. Delphine, along with Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, are honouring the legacy of the late Nigerian-born US photographer Mmekutmfon ‘Mfon’ Essie, through Mfon: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora, an institution highlighting the work of over 100 women photographers from Africa and the diaspora.
Natalie Narh is a 21-year-old Ghanaian photographer, videographer and graphic artist leveraging her skills to compose visual narratives for young upcoming creatives like herself through Latch Production, a company she founded. One of the successful campaigns she runs is The Cool Kids Project, a photo design series aimed at highlighting the work of young Ghanaian artists by placing them on re-imagined iconic magazine covers. “I am currently working on a photography series with Nigel Atta-Mensah called INFRAOrdinary that focuses on highlighting mental health issues through photographing aspects of mental health that are generally overlooked,” says Natalie, who is currently completing her studies in International Media and Communication at the University of Nottingham.
Twenty-four-year-old Lubabetu Abubakar is a Port Harcourt-based fashion photographer, art director and lawyer. Her work, which has been featured in Vogue and Fader, seeks to relate stories to the intricate patterns and designs that characterise Nigerian fashion scenes, as well as the faces of the designers and models who bring them to life. Lubee, as she is sometimes referred to, will show new work at the Lagos Photo Festival, which kicks off this month.
Abuja-based Rahima Gambo’s work is a probe of the nuances in the post-colonial Nigerian narrative, unveiling the complexities of issues of identity, gender, politics and shared memory in her documentary work. Her most recent project examines the impact of colonialism and Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria, especially how the education of young people in the sub region has been truncated by the conflict.
Brooklyn-based Delphine Diallo is inspired by the “courage and modesty of her motherland, Senegal” in her photography. These guiding principles translate into the fluid narrative present in her riveting monochromatic work, where she employs an anthropological gaze in framing her subjects.
Writer, photographer and filmmaker, Amarachi Nwosu, has already built a stellar body of editorial work, with her images appearing in magazines like Huck and Complex, as well as being the first womxn of colour photographer to shoot a feature for Adidas Tokyo. The self-taught artist blends the subtlety of minimalist composition with bright pop art colours to illuminate the subjects in her work. Her latest body of work is a documentary titled Black In Tokyo, where she engages the black experience in Tokyo.
Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
Laylah Amatullah Barrayn is a documentary photographer of Senegalese origin based in New York. She’s also the co-founder and editor in chief of Mfon: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora. This exciting project, which she started with Delphine Adama Fawundu, seeks to give representation to the work of over 100 women photographers on the African content and in the diaspora. The inaugural edition is available for preorder.
Ivorian photographer Joana Choumali specialises in portraiture. Her candid shots aim at creating maps of expression on the faces she captures. Her latest body of work, titled Bitter Chocolate Stories, transports viewers to the threshold of the respective stories of 15 child labourers in cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire.
Yagazie Emezi is a Nigerian documentary photographer and visual artist with a distinct street style. She has spent a greater part of 2017 documenting Liberia by working on her ongoing project, Relearning Bodies, looking at scarring in trauma victims and how they come to adapt to their new bodies. Yagazie is also a contributor to the Everyday Africa Instagram project, as well a cartoonist. Through her page, Yaga Life Facts, she shares whimsical drawing addressing mental health, body positivity and representation.
“Photography, to me, is storytelling. With every image I choose to share, my intent is to evoke emotion, capture the raw essence and character of the subject, and build a strong connection with the viewer,” Nigerian freelance writer and photographer, and digital content strategist Ginikachi Eloka says in an email conversation. She prefers to shoot portraits but is also drawn to other styles like architecture and lifestyle.
Josephine Kuuire is one of Ghana’s foremost contemporary photographers weaving strong and complex narratives with her images. Her mostly documentary work and digital art sees her attempt to trace the nexus of the themes of identity, sexuality and place in her distorted, yet carefully crafted, concept driven work. Her debut solo exhibition, Second Chance, portrays personal triumph over adversity in digitally manipulated self-portraits.
Eloghosa Osunde transmits the sleek elegance of her prose into her riveting photography. The writer and photographer “explores intergenerational cycles and their effects on our individual identities” in her latest body of work titled, And Now We Have Entered Broken Earth, comprising mostly brown rippled scenes of distorted photographs. The alumna of the Farafina Creative Writing Workshop is also currently working on her debut novel, according to her website.
Jessica Sarkodie uses photography to poetically sketch her love affair with the picturesque nature of Ghana. Through the hashtag #GhanaDearest, she paints sonnets of light, eulogising the splendid colour and rich stories that cause her to fall in love with the country in each frame. “It’s simply been a tribute to my hometown and an attempt to dispel the single negative story that is told of African cities by western media.”
Latifah Iddriss is an Accra-based visual artist and architect, smudging the divide between art and architecture in her bold and imposing work. Her Instagram feed is a minimalist “visual journal” where she unites the compositions in her grid to mirror the intertwined nature of her subjects. Her documentary and street photography primarily examine her environment and prompt viewers to pay attention to the adverse effects of plastics on the environment. She is also the founder of Cult Meraki, an architect and design firm based in Accra.
Alexis Chiver-Ter Tsegba
Alexis Chiver-Ter Tsegba is a freelance artist and photographer currently studying Creative and Media Enterprises at the University of Warwick, in the UK. Her documentary work investigates the splendour of everyday life of the people around her through monochrome portraiture. She grew up in a small town in Nigeria and believes her experiences of that time are her biggest inspiration.
Samira Saidi is a Ghanaian-Austrian multidisciplinary artist currently exploring the medium of photography. Her work inspects and shifts the sociological structures of race, identity, and belonging. Her photo series exploring the effects of pollution on Accra’s coastline, titled Dispersed, was part of a group exhibition by Black British Female Artist (BBFA) for Chale Wote 2017.
Fati Abubakar’s work with her Bits of Borno project perfectly captures the essence and need for documentary photography from an authentic and nuanced perspective. The Nigerian photographer brings to light the stories of the people from Borno State in Nigeria, one of the areas most affected by the activities of Boko Haram through her periodic Instagram posts. The account has not only created awareness of the extent of the conflict but also humanised the victims of terrorism in the area.