Eeffervescence, transmission, questioning, these are the key words of photographers and visual artists who forcefully capitalize on the role of the African self-identity, fertile ground for creation, instilling an obvious sensitivity to color throughout their practice. Gathered together under the impetus of the artistic line of the Parisian gallery Afikaris located on the pavement of the Marais district, Asiko (Nigeria), Saïdou Dicko (Burkina Faso), Nana Yaw Oduro (Ghana) and Marc Posso (Gabon) , emerging, daring and original talents, offer a captivating and intriguing journey at the crossroads of French-speaking and English-speaking Africa.
Beyond the agreed wandering in the stronghold of internationally renowned fairs in London or New York, the high point is set: it is the reflection on who we are that takes precedence. The power of the cultural heritage, the presence of the ancestors and the image of the ancients are profiled there, inspired by Malian portrait painters such as the precursors Malick Sidibé, Seydou Keita, Mama Casset and Meissa Gaye. Impregnated with this filiation, this young school nevertheless rewrites a new aesthetic.
At the rate of 1-54 London, the Nigerian Asiko
The series titled ase, shot by Nigerian star photographer Asiko. The bodies with perfect and sculptural lines sublimate the heart of the frame, revive the Yoruba culture and its feminine perspective: a beautiful tribute magnifying the black woman. His hybrid images, of a rare aesthetic, echo fashion photography, Asiko’s first weapons. They are haloed with Yoruba history and heritage. From then on, he signs a subtle, singular alliance between a cultural mix and his trajectory. Free, powerful, the postures of the female silhouettes which stand out in chiaroscuro with sparkling light evoke the style of the painter Caravaggio: moreover, they recall African statuary, in particular the embodied sculptures of the South African Kendell Geers and the glory of of queens reigning as respected matriarchs on the continent.
Embodying an in-between, Asiko was born in 1979, Nigeria. He lives between London and Lagos. In the light of a new writing of 8e art, his acuity is woven around a story where the dreamlike mixes with a part of reality, echoing the questions linked to his quest for identity, heritage. The young photographer draws and anchors his art in the traditions of his native country. “For him, photography should open a conversation about how he sees himself in the world and how he interprets his African heritage,” says Michaëla Hadji-Minaglou, manager at the Afikaris gallery.
Featured in Nigeria, UK, International
Acclaimed by the international art scene, a photographer surfing on a commercially popular side, his work has been presented in solo exhibitions in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. In addition, his work has been exhibited at Art Paris and at the Rencontres d’Arles. Already, in 2020, the young Parisian gallery defending the African scene presented at 1-54 London the emblematic series of Burkinabe photographer Nyaba Léon Ouedraogo, Popular theatres, political theatersinspired by the famous popular theater erected in the name of the voice of the people by the late Thomas Sankara in the 1970s: “The hanging that we presented on the occasion of the 1-54 fair in London took up part of the exhibition Popular theatres, political theaters, enriched with works by Cameroonian artists Salifou Lindou and Moustapha Baidi Oumarou. Under the title Time and Spaceour stand intended to question the notions of time and space and offered another way of seeing the world, encouraging visitors to look beyond what they ordinarily take for granted”, continues Michaëla Hadji-Minaglou.
From Ouagadougou to Accra, from Saidou Dicko to Nana Yaw Oduro
Sensitive, sensory, the wandering continues with Saidou Dicko, constantly surprising the eye of the viewer at each individual and collective exhibition. An accomplished observer, bottle-fed in the photo studios of his childhood, his painted photographs capture the poetry, the fury of living in the dark and light-filled alleys of Burkina Faso, the land where he is from and where he was born in 1979. His palette happy, playful colors, celebrates childhood in all its forms.
A modern-day storyteller, this former Fulani shepherd came to art by drawing shadows from his early childhood: bathing his imagination in a diffuse softness, he depicts the members of his family and his friends. Here, the works of the series prince of shadows and the genius of the title refers to the recurring characters of its fruitful narration. Alternately princes, statues, the children who happily populate his world reconnect with Fulani culture, maternal embroidery, the art of recovery: his drawings and works on fabric arise from the need to reuse existing material. Witnesses, The Princess of joy bricks T Oujda, Sculpture Berger which capture human figures in harmony with their environment, architectural forms that extend the space beyond the first perception of the image.
He shakes up the codes, plays, triturates matter and waste, the matrix of his compositions transformed into a tangible dialogue between matter and humanity: “In these studios, we had the choice between several backgrounds, landscapes drawn in nature with wild animals. We had posters with skyscrapers in New York, there were a number of possibilities, so that’s also what I try to share through my photos,” recalls Saïdou Dicko.
A self-taught artist, he was rewarded during his first exhibition in the Off program of the Dakar Biennale in 2006 and during numerous international events: biennales, fairs, exhibitions. Since 2003, he has participated in prestigious fairs: Paris Photo (Paris), Photo Basel (Basel), 1-54 London (London), 1-54 New York (New York). In parallel with Photo London, the work of Saïdou Dicko is currently the subject of a monographic exhibition – The Prince of Shadows until June 7 at the Parisian gallery Afikaris.
Heading for the English-speaking side of the continent through the series Some Things Mysterious Boys Do signed by Nana Yaw Oduro, born in Ghana in 1994. It carefully documents the daily life of male characters, anxious to reflect the reality of wacky situations with an acute graphic sense, highlighting the language and movement of bodies, animated of a vital force: here, Somebody tells me why everything happens and Pounding Heart recall the postures portrayed by her counterpart Liz Johnson Arthur in Bamako, who have been interested in people and their daily lives for nearly 30 years. He transcribes his feelings and materializes his vision of life. Nana Yaw Oduro explores themes that echo her dreams, her hopes, with the symbolism of masculinity, childhood, emotions, or even self-acceptance. Self-taught, his images of the society around him are autobiographical and depict characters embodying the plurality of his experience. Having a solo exhibition to her credit in 2020 in Paris, Nana Yaw Oduro was also exhibited in 2021 at the 1-54 London fair in London.
Like Malian portrait painters…
As for Marc Posso, a self-taught photographer born in Gabon in 1996, he considers his art as a weapon in order to instil a positive image of the diversity of cultures on the continent. Living in Paris, Marc Posso asserts his roots and stages portraits imbued with a deep cultural mix. He wishes to deconstruct the prevailing prejudices and stereotypes associated with African culture.
black and white portraits, The Promised Youth, A kiss, really… are reminiscent of the vein of the spearheads, Malick Sidibé, Seydou Keita, Mama Casset and Meissa Gaye. Strongly influenced by the world of fashion like his counterpart Asiko, he also produces editorials for magazines, campaigns for international brands such as Christian Louboutin Beauty, Galeries Lafayette and Marché Noir. Marc Posso’s work was first exhibited in the UK at the Photo London 2022 fair. It was presented in 2021 at the AKAA (Also Known As Africa) fair in Paris.
Hyacinthe Ouattara at the Dakar Biennial
Finally, this abundant discovery stops at the Dakar Biennale with the work of Hyacinthe Ouattara, plastic artist and photographer from Burkina Faso who is currently presenting sculptures fashioned with blows of fabric that flourish in the space of the Old Courthouse in Dakar. , with the work Composite 1. “He invents with “Human cartographies”, the teeming mesh of individualities in rhizome, which have become a single flesh. With its wall assemblies and installations, it is the game of scale that reveals the singular elements; material, body or story”, points out Domitille Bertrand, Curator of the exhibition. Born in 1981 in Burkina Faso, Hyacinthe Ouattara is a self-taught artist. He lives and works in France. His installations worked by suspension question balance and imbalance: a reflection on memory centered on textiles, through an organic aspect of which he questions the ambivalence between representation and intimacy, identity in the broad sense. Thus, his sculptures in twisted and knotted textiles take up this obsession with the organic and work on the notion of connection. His works have been exhibited in Paris, Berlin, Dakar, Ouagadougou.
From then on, his frozen or moving images coincide with the photographic and artistic development of contemporary Africa. These numerous artists make color vibrate in space. The diversity of subjects and the variety of artistic proposals are so many open doors to their works which unite the continent: world museum and eternal land of mixing, creativity, inventiveness in all African linguistic and cultural areas.