Last night was the opening in Brooklyn of exhibition New African Photography curated by Red Hook Labs in collaboration for the first time with Nataal, a global media platform founded by Alassane Sy, Sara Hemming and Helen Jennings with the aim of celebrating contemporary African fashion, music and arts.
There is no one message
For the Brooklyn exhibition, photographers aren’t chosen to tell one story or to fit pre-ordained themes. Rather the exhibition is about telling multiple stories through fashion, portraiture and documentary images as a means of dispelling clichés and myths spun by traditional reportage photography. Each artist has his or her own outlook, ranging from simple to fantastical, which provide snapshots of the huge diversity of Africa’s visual language today.
The photographers featured in the exhibition are Atong Atem,Delphine Diaw Diallo, Kristin-Lee Moolman, Lakin Ogunbanwo, Namsa Leuba and Owise Abuzaid. Portraits, fashion and documentary photographs depict universal narratives capable of inspiring, raising a debate and reflecting upon complex matters like the African diaspora.
Personally, I’m captivated by the work of Atong Atem, a young artist from South Sudanese by way of Melbourne. Her work explores postcolonial practices in the diaspora and the relationship between public and private spaces. She tackles the politics of race and gender and class head-on. Nataal is also showing her series Third Culture Kids, which is something of an homage to legendary African studio photographers such as Malick Sidibe, Seydou Keita and Phillip Kwame Apagya. For her, it’s about documenting that journey, freedom, and community.
What I appreciate about this exhibition is that it’s all about six artists and their own unique perspectives on contemporary Africa. Viewed together the message is that young artists such as these have a fresh outlook that is socially engaged, authentic and gaining traction fast. It’s also a breath of fresh air to the increasingly commercial and self-referencing international art world. A must see exhibition this May.
Red Hook Labs, 133-135 Imlay Street, Brooklyn, New York 11231