Lately we’ve experiencing a surge of creative practitioners who are radically changing the way we in the west see Africa and its peoples. From the striking photography of Kristen Lee Moolman and the genius styling of Ibrahim Kamara, to Sampha’s film Process by Kahlil Joseph and Grace Wales Bonner’s fashion shows, with many other examples besides. Tired clichés about the continent are becoming more obviously just that – tired, and woefully misrepresentative. Last year New York gallery Red Hook Labs and Nataal, a global media brand celebrating contemporary African fashion, music, arts and society – put on an amazing exhibition called New African Photography, which featured the work of six contemporary photographers from Africa and its diaspora.
Now they’re back with a second show which similarly brings together the work of artists whose work engages with present-day Africa – nine in total, including pioneering hair artist Cyndia Harvey, Ethiopian graphic designer and photographer Girma Berta, Nigerian photographers Kadara Enyeasi and William Ukoh, British-Jamaican-Nigerian photographer Nadine Ijewere, Kenyan photographer Mimi Cherono Ng’ok, South African artist Nobukho Nqaba, Nigerian artist and performer Wura-Natasha Ogunji, and Namibian photographer Kyle Weeks.
“New African Photography II is our second annual co-curated show with Jimmy Moffat at Red Hook Labs,” says Nataal’s creative director and founder, Sara Hemming. “This year it’s a bigger line-up including photography, film and performance from nine artists – based both in Africa and the broader diaspora.” With documentary, fashion and portrait photography, video and performance, the exhibition is not limited to one medium. And yet all the works on display share one thing in common: “their natural desire to address issues around representation of the African body and to create modern stories about Africa.”
New African Photography II coincides with another exhibition; also at Red Hook Labs and also celebrating African photography or rather the work of one specific African photographer, Malick Sidibé. Many will be familiar with the Malian imagemaker’s compelling portrayals of the lives and culture, particularly youth culture, in his native Bamako. Malick Sidibé: The Eye of Modern Mali, brings together 37 works by the artist, who sadly passed away last year, demonstrating the enduring appeal of his work.
Nataal: New African Photography II runs until May 14, 2017 at Red Hook Labs, New York.