JOANA CHOUMALI: HAABREE
50Golborne in collaboration with LagosPhoto will on February 26 present Hââbré, a solo exhibition of photographs by Joana Choumali. Hââbré is Choumali’s first exhibition in the UK and employs the use of studio portraiture with the same background and lighting to map the last generation of people wearing scarifications in the city of Abidjan. She photographs the faces and the unexpectedly expressive upper backs of each sitter.
Hââbré translated from the Kô language from Burkina Faso refers to ‘writing’ and ‘scarification’. The practice of scarification is disappearing fast in West Africa due to the pressure of religious and state authorities, urban practices and the introduction of Western clothing in tribes. This last generation of people bearing the imprint of the past on their faces, went from being the norm and having a high social value to being somewhat “excluded”.
In the series, Joana Choumali questions the link between the past and present in contemporary Africa and the self-image depending on a given environment. Referencing ethnographic portraiture, the artist further plays with the gaze of the viewer, who somewhat uncomfortably is asked to examine her sitters in the same scientific way; beyond the scars that are the common point between the faces of the models, their unique personalities and possible life experiences, which surge out of the frame to meet us frontally, and make it an intriguing and poignant encounter.
Joana Choumali, born in 1974, is a fine art photographer based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. She studied Graphic Arts in Casablanca (Morocco) and worked as an art director in an advertising agency before embarking on her photography career.
She works primarily on conceptual portraiture, mixed media and documentary, using her photography to explore her own identity. Much of her work focuses on Africa, and what she is learning as an African about the myriad cultures around her. Through her work, she explores her assumptions while nourishing her conceptions of the world.
Choumali’s work has been exhibited at significant venues including Grid Cape Town Biennial, POPCAP’14 (Vienna), LensCulture (Barcelona), Barrobjectif (Charentes, France) and Image Afrique (Basel).
The exhibition runs till April 2, 2016.
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