AFRONAUTS: File this under: “a future that never was”. Photographer Cristina De Middel uses the fact of a failed 1960’s Zambian proposal for a space program as a starting point for a photo series called “Afronauts”. Lovely concept. Beautiful tones in the images.
Video feature: “Delphine Diallo: Creative Control”
MIXED MEDIA: I discovered Delphine Diallo’s work a few years ago with Magic Photo Studio a series of painted on/around photos created after a trip to Senegal. She has a current project, an art book titled “The Gift” being funded via Kickstarter. Go there and support the work of this artist-to-watch.
FELA’S QUEENS: Kalakuta Queens, circa 2011. Photographer James Petrozello’s portraits of the dancers of “Fela!”, the Broadway show currently touring the US. WARNING: some images NSFW.
In order to present various dimensions of the work of African artists and artisans worldwide, The Global Africa Project is organized around several thematic ideas. These include: the phenomenon of intersecting cultures and cultural fusion; the branding and co-opting of cultural references; how art and design is promoted in the international market and the creative global scene; the use of local materials; and the impact of art-making on the economic and social condition of local communities.
Relatedly: Interview with Ivorian fashion designer Emeka Alams here.
WEBSITES: Another Africa: Unravelling a Hidden Continent. Founder Missla Libsekal’s beautiful site serves as a “contemporary vision of Africans, Africa and those related to the continent and its peoples in the areas of culture, art, fashion, architecture, design, music, photography and more ….”
Screenshot from home page of Another Africa web site.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Delphine Diallo: The Great Vision Franco-Senegalese graphic artist/photographer’s portfolio site. Still love “Magic Photo Studio” series after first seeing it in Clam magazine a while ago.
African music/style icon Oumou Sangare is back with a new album called “Seya” (Joy). The production values of this video remind me of the stuff I see on the screens of the TVs in the African stores here in NYC, but it highlights some wicked Malian fashion. It also shows bits and pieces of how the intensely rich fabrics that Sangare wears come about, following Sangare around as she purchases fabric, takes it to get dyed and distressed before being tailored. Most cool.
SEE ALSO: Speaking of fashion, here are highlights from The African Fashion Collective show at the recently completed Fashion Week here in New York City. The show included designs from Xuly Bet (who used another music/style icon, Grace Jones, as one of the models), Stoned Cherrie, Momo and Tiffany Amber.
African Fashion Collective Fall 2009 runway show at the New York Fashion Week
In February of 2006, Torgovnik traveled to East Africa to report on a story for Newsweek, coinciding with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the outbreak of HIV/AIDS. While in Rwanda, he heard an interview with Odette, a survivor who was raped during the Rwandan genocide and as a result of that rape, had a child and contracted HIV/AIDS. She described how her entire family had been killed and recounted the terrible abuse she experienced. Odette’s horrific story led Torgovnik to return to Rwanda to work on a personal project about women who, like her, were left pregnant as a result the militia’s heinous crimes. Over the next three years, he made repeated visits to photograph these women and their children, and record their heart-wrenching stories.
Guy Tillim is one of South Africa’s foremost contemporary photographers. Learning his trade as photojournalist nearly two decades ago, Tillim’s oeuvre has proven to be far more than that of orthodox reportage. His photographs have become increasingly recontextualised as art object within the space of the artbook and gallery.
[via Conscientious, a great contemporary art photography blog which incidentally is doing a series of posts on African photographers. Check it]
Screenshot from Jan-Joseph Stoke’s multimedia photo essay
DRC symbolises the promise of Africa as much as it does its desolation. Its soil is full of diamonds, gold, copper, tantalum and uranium. The waters of its river could one day power the continent. Yet because DRC is so rich in resources, its problems, when left to aggravate, tend to suck its neighbours into a current state of abuse and chaos. Fixing Congo is essential to fixing Africa.
Evolution of cover image of of Grace Jones’ album “Island Life”
Like the image above, Grace Jones, the icon not the person, was a myth-making collaboration between Grace Jones the woman, and Jean-Paul Goude a French-born, New York-based illustrator, photographer, choreographer, costume designer, art director. Grace Jones (born Grace Mendoza in Jamaica) was a model and a budding disco singer, when she met Goude via Andy Warhol in the now legendary NYC downtown culture scene. In her live shows she was playing off her strong masculine features to present an androgynous, outrageous persona to the gay boys who were the mainstay of the disco scene of the time.
Together they built on the androgyny and played up the geometry/angularity of her masculine features (via hair and clothes) recalling the abstract forms on African masks that had so inspired European modern artists like Picasso. Jones and Goude also remixed all the cross-cultural influences (African-American, Puerto Rican, Jones’ own Jamaican background) coursing through the neighborhoods of New York. Add in Goude’s mentalspace and his personal obsession with the exotic/primitive/erotic aspects of African beauty filtered through his French sensiblities. Throw in the raw, sex and drug-fueled creativity/experimentation happening in New York at the time, sprinkle in the then new technology-driven music called New Wave. And unleash the whole mess in a cocktail of costume, props, fashion, performance, body movement, hair, video, music, attitude.
Grace Jones: Demolition Man, part of a performance art piece called “A One Man Show” from 1982
The results of this collaboration introduced a new post-modern archetype of the black woman in pop culture. It joined Josephine Baker, Lena Horne, the Supremes, icons who came before and Erykah Badu after. The image of Grace Jones was postmodern in how it fought sexual, racial, gender stereotypes and taboos by embracing and de-fanging them, postmodern in how it defiantly resisted any attempt at categorization since it was the dizzying combination of so many things.
I recently read the book “Jungle Fever” and came away impressed by Jean-Paul Goode’s groundbreaking art. But it was disturbing to read how he was so open in admitting his obsession with the exotic and erotic qualities of Black women and how much he let it drive his creative work. At best it was naive and presumptuous, at worst, racist. But really, artists are successful to the extent they make real what is going on inside their heads, making it both specific and universal, timely and timeless. In that respect Jean-Paul Goude was wildly successful, objectification of notwithstanding.
Jean-Paul Goude: Retrospective Those of us of a certain, cough, age must remember the surreal Chanel Egoiste ads.
Photojournalist Olivier Jobard documented the 6-month epic trek of a 23-year old Cameroonian named Kingsley, who’s “mission” was to make it to Europe to make a better life for himself and his family. Interesting perspective in that Jobard and Kingsley travelled together; Jobard providing the “eyes” to complement Kingsley’s narration. Check out the boat that they used to try to cross the Atlantic and you know how determined (desperate?) Kingsley and his fellow migrants were to reach their destination, or more importantly leave their current hopeless state.
MUSIC: Iwinyo Piny: Just A Band. Music and visuals by aforementioned Jim Chuchu who is also a member of JAB. Band member Dan posts on kenyananimation blog their thinking process in creating the video. He also discusses how JAB had a rough time pitching this video to Kenyan TV stations: one Program Manager responded that they couldn’t air it as it would alienate their viewers since it was 5 years ahead of its time. You know you are doing something right when you get a response like that. [kenyanimation blog link via paula callas].
screenshot of Ian van Coller’s photo essay, “Interior Relations”
PHOTOGRAPHY: Ian van Coller: Interior Relations (portraits of black South African domestic workers taken in the homes of their white employers).
FILM: Tropa de Elite (The Elite Squad). High concept: “City of God from the police perspective, but with more brutality and violence and less nuance”. Director Jose Padilha meant to shoot this story as a follow up to his acclaimed documentary “Bus 174″, but chose to fictionalize it based on interviews and a book by 2 ex-BOPE cops. Raises some serious moral questions about how to combat out of control urban crime in townships/favelas/slums that have been criminally ignored by governments. Showed (not so) recently at Tribeca film festival, not sure when it will get wide release.