Great Expectations of Jenevieve Aken
Lagos – based photographer, Jenevieve Aken recently had her work ‘Great Expectations’ featured in the 7th edition of the Lagos Photo Festival. Aken is largely preoccupied with the manner in which individuals are shaped by events and vice versa. Thus in ‘Great Expectations’, she attempts to draw attention to the pressure that women in Africa are under to get married. She makes use of the narrative from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations to emphasise her idea. In an interview with Omenka magazine, Aken provides more insight.
Was this your first time in Nigeria and exhibiting at Lagos Photo?
I am Nigerian and live and work in Lagos. It was my third time participating as an exhibiting photographer at Lagos Photo Festival.
How do you think participating in Lagos Photo will impact your career?
Participating at Lagos Photo Festival has impacted my career hugely since 2014, showcasing my works in and out of Nigeria.
The theme of the exhibition is Rituals and Performance: Inherent Risk, which of your photographs do you think best fits the theme and why?
l only shoot bodies of work each body addressing a certain issue, each frame or image corresponds to the next one to complete a story. I can’t choose which one best fits the theme as all the images did for this year’s Lagos Photo Festival.
What message did you hope to pass with the work displayed at Lagos Photo?
l hoped my works passed a strong message to my audience in a positive way. ‘Great Expectations’ addresses the society’s expectations of single women today, especially in Africa, as a huge emphasis is placed on marriage as an institution. This leads to pressure and stress on many women, some of whom are successful, yet feel unfulfilled until married. So happiness, love, friendship are all after thoughts; marriage first.
Lagos has served as inspiration for many artists given the chaos, lights, buses, markets and overall commercial activity. Do you have any plans to develop a new body of work in Lagos?
Yes, I have plans to develop a new body of work in Lagos, but I can’t talk about it now.
Is the series a reflection of personal experiences?
No, however it is a reflection of personal experiences of women in general, as well as friends and relatives.
The photographs depict the subject preparing for a wedding, is there more to the series and how did it fit into the theme of the exhibition?
No, because the series is only addressing the preparation, expectations, reality and failure of marriages in the contemporary African society.
‘Great Expectations’ was one of the highlights of Lagos Photo, what inspired you to develop this work?
I was inspired by Charles Dickens’ iconic novel Great Expectations. I recreated the narrative, immersed myself to perform the eccentric character of Miss Havisham, addressing the issues of marriage in the wider contemporary African society.
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