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Leading African photographers across the continent

Written Ana Rosado, CNN

Contemporary photography in Africa appears to be thriving, supported by the emergence of new art initiatives, prizes, and platforms representing the best image makers on the continent.

In recent years, new exhibition spaces have also opened, such as the Saint-Louis Museum of Photography in Senegal and the Al Maaden Museum of African Contemporary Art (MAAAAL) in Morocco, which saw its international launch in 2018. about 40 African photographers.

In the commercial sector, events such as Bamako Encounters Photography Bienniale in Mali (which is now being prepared for the 12th edition) have been joined, for example by Art x Lagos, launched in 2016. International platforms such as 1- 54 The Contemporary African Art Fair – which this year hosts fairs in London and New York, apart from the February event in Marrakesh – helped find a wider overseas audience for photographers.

CNN Style has asked the four most important figures in the African art scene to choose their favorite photographers. Photographers explain in their own words what their work is exploring.

Tokini Peterside, founder and director of Art x Lagos

Tokini Peterside as founder and director of the international art fair Art x Lagos has helped strengthen the voice of African artists on the world market. She chose two Nigerian photographers, Kadara Enyeasi and Lakin Ogunbanwo.

"Madonna III" by Kadara Enyeas. Credit: Kadara Enyeasi

Kadara Enyeasi, Nigeria: "I started taking pictures in high school. My older sister (in the family of four siblings – two older sisters and the younger brother) has just started her career as a model. She is now a fashion designer. Nikon camera that I still have.

"Initially (my photo) there was a deep desire to understand my role in society, engaging in performative self-portraits as a self-study and orientation, resulting in a" human encounter ", a set of work created over three years. light and shadow across the human body.

"Forms (a) figures. Ladder on the wall, ladder on the wall. Forgotten shoe on the beach, plastic bag moving in the wind. Poetics of these objects are talking to me."

Nigerian photographer Lakin Ogunbanwo combines fashion photography with portraiture.

Nigerian photographer Lakin Ogunbanwo combines fashion photography with portraiture. Credit: Lakin Ogunbanwo

Lakin Ogunbanwo, Nigeria: "I've always been interested in paintings, from a young age, but I actively began to understand them by creating portraits of my sisters."

“My inspiration comes from everything, every day, and the innate need to capture the beauty I see.

Touria El Glaoui, Founder and Director of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

Touria El Glaoui is a creative force behind 1-54, the international art fair that helps introduce leading African artists to the world market. She alerted photographer Phumzile Khanyile.

"Plastic Crown" (2016) Phumzile Khanyile. Credit: Phumzile Khanyile

Phumzile Khanyile, South Africa: "As a boy I knew I was doing it for visitors, whether it was through singing or dancing. My visual training started when I couldn't read, and I relied on pictures to know what the story was about. We had a library at Home, in which I would drown, especially because I was always a loner.

"I always wanted to be a painter, so with my photo I try to paint as much as the camera allows."

"As the world moves towards Afrofuturism, I try to stick to the past as much as possible. I believe there are a lot of untouched stories left behind. I am actually inspired by boring parts () of life, I like watching people, their mannerisms, the way they They talk, the way they wait or smoke. These things help me build characters and stories in my head.

"I also create images purely from emotions. They must feel good. Honesty is higher than technical for me."

Hassan Hajjaj, Morocco: "(What brings me to photography) are interesting people who inspire and influence me. Color, travel, culture, textiles, music and life (draw my eyes)."

Helena Jennings, editor and co-founder of Nataal

Founded in 2015, Nataal is a digital and print publication focusing on contemporary African fashion, art and culture. Co-founder and editor Helena Jennings has decided to highlight the visual artist Prince Gyasi.

An image of Prince Gyasi, who describes himself as a visual artist, rather than a strict photographer.

An image of Prince Gyasi, who describes himself as a visual artist, rather than a strict photographer. Credit: Prince Gyasi

Prince Gyasi, Ghana: "When I was four, my mother would often go shopping in a shop at Makola Market, one of the largest shopping malls in Accra. She would have thrown me in the photographer's small studio. I'd always dress well, usually in denim jacket and trousers. because I knew he'd be taking pictures with me with the camera, I'd watch him on the market just to see him take pictures of people and whenever he didn't show up to work I cried.

“I had a desire to become an abstract painter, but I found love for art with my iPhone.

"The city of Accra inspires me to continue to shape. The people that make up the Ghanaian flag inspire me to create more."

"As a co-founder (non-profit educational organization) Boxed Kids, I will still tell the stories of Jamestown and Ghana children in general. People need to know about culture and our story."

"I believe the norm is not for everyone. I'm different. I'd rather people call me a visual artist. I don't want to be recognized as a photographer, but as an artist. Most of my pictures look like images from a distance because they are works of art, not photos, I want to leave a heritage in the art world.

Maheder Haileselassie Tades, a member of the everyday Africa team

Everyday Africa is an art group whose goal is to change the perception of Africa. His Instagram account presents images of everyday life presented by photographers from across the continent. One of the members of the team, Maheder Haileselassie Tades, drew attention to photographers Nanu Kofi Acquah and Brian Otien.

The scene was captured by photographer Nana Kofi Acquah.

The scene was captured by photographer Nana Kofi Acquah. Credit: Nana Kofi Acquah

Nana Kofi Acquah, Ghana: "I discovered photography when I was working in advertising. I have a painting background, so I was quite shocked at how I naturally acted for photography. With the craft championship, there was a desire to use it more than just making nice pictures. In my life, my photos is about telling important stories that help challenges and hopefully change the perception of Africa.

"The camera perpetuates everything you refer to, and that is the knowledge that motivates me. If I can show my camera to people, problems, and stories that I consider worthy, the world has no choice but to pay attention." this attention comes the opportunity to challenge or change people's minds. "

The picture of Kenyan photographer Brian Otien portrays a young ballet dancer in the Nairobi slum in Kiber.

The picture of Kenyan photographer Brian Otien portrays a young ballet dancer in the Nairobi slum in Kiber. Credit: Brian Otieno

Brian Otieno, Kenya: "I started photographing five years ago, I photographed the surroundings of Kiber to share different stories, rather than the usual visual story of hopelessness and misery.

"I am attracted to the everyday lives of the people around me. Their stories also represent my experience as someone who was also born and raised in the neighborhood of slums. I photograph my people as someone who understands their achievements and challenges."

Photographers' words were adjusted for length and clarity.

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