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African-Brazilian women lifestyle captured through Yolacan’s lens

By Japhet Alakam

Determined to encourage cultural exchange of programmes between Nigerian and other countries, the Yaba, Lagos-based art house, Centre for Contemporary Arts, CCA, again returned to the exhibition arena, when it featured the works of a visiting Turkish fashion designer and photo artist Pinar Yolacan in a photography exhibition entitled “Maria Series 2007.”

The exhibition featured 12 stunning collection of large sized portrait photographs of African- Brazilian women with seemingly bizarre images of animal entrails as accessories and clothing emerging from stark black backgrounds. It is expected to round off on the  28th of  May.

Yolacan, who is based in the United States said, the photographs were the product of her 12-month sojourn in Itaparica, Bahia in Brazil, where according to her, she developed an intimate and sensitive relationship with many of the local women from that region.

One of the photographs displayed at the exhibition

Through Maria series, theme of the exhibition,  Yolacan discusses the issues of society, the human body, identity and death.

The artist who was coming to Nigeria for the first time explained that there is no real message attached to her exhibition, adding that, “it is just for people to come and view and make their comments.”

Dominating the space were photographs of women of different shields and substances. Though most of the photographs were labeled untitled,  with the name of the models like (Regiona, Rose, Diadora, Celine, Vera, ) all 2007 series.

Yolacan, a trained fashion designer made clothes with the animal parts, among them was a woman with a waist coat made with placenta of a cow. Also, there was a photograph of another old woman with a clothe designed with liver, some with testicles..

Most of the works are pictures of old women whose facial features, contoured arms and tarso were highlighted. And when asked on why she focused on women and the aged she said though she is not a feminist she devoted the work to women because “ The faces of older people tell stories because of the number of years they have spent on the earth and women are the people that bear most of the burden ,and having passed through the traumatic times and stress of life you can see the real face in them.”

Explaining why she used animal skin to make clothes, Yolacan said, “it is all about the passage of time; over the ages and generations, identities have been lost and perhaps it will be more interesting to experiment with animal parts.” The choice of Brazil, to her has to do with the African- Brazilian’ historic journey in the history of slavery and that she also found a common identity for her project in the Candomble native religion that make rituals that involved sacrificing animals.

According to the curator of CCA, Bisi Silva, “in the series, the artist subverts regality by dressing her sitters in elaborate hand sewn couture costumes with trimmings of unusual materials such as velvet, satin, tripe, placenta, kidney and sheep’s testicles.

With the works Yolacan engages with issues of beauty, the body, colonialism, and death as a way of broaching the impermanence of things.” Continuing she said that “the visit was not all about the exhibition, it coincided with the centre’s three day workshop on fashion and photography which was held on the 19th to 21st of April, 2010 at the library space where the artist took the participants on ways of realising their mission in fashion.” Pinar Yolacan also featured in the centre’s P.A,G.E.S, a discussion by artists and writers on 24th April.

Yolacan was born in Ankara, Turkey in 1981, she attended London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and Chelsea School of Art and Design, and got her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Cooper Union in New York City. She has participated in several international exhibitions like Dress Code, the 3rd ICP Triennal of Photography, International Centre for Photography , New York, 2009, Tracking Traces KIASMA, Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, 2009, In the light of Play CCA, Lagos at Durban Art Gallery, Durban, and 2nd Johannessburg Art Fair, South Africa 2009 among others.


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