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Exploring femininity in the contemporary African society

By Chris Onuoha & Anino Aganbi

The age long profession of Art has consistently evolved despite the influx of technologically advanced gadgets that tends to conflict with its professional purpose.
Lagos Photo Foundation in its 6th edition of the annual photo festival, organized an exhibition featuring both local and international artists to strengthen this art of lens with purpose, entitled ‘Designing Future’.

Lipstick
Joana Choumali

Designing future is intended to explore contemporary dialogues surrounding designs in Africa. Photographers across the continent and beyond display deft but also awareness of the cultural and socio political landscape that influence daily life, and in turn communicate that awareness through the images they create.

Art curator, Christina Middel stated that “Making a plan is designing your future, crossing your fingers or praying. By questioning our concept of creative design and day to day design and blurring the line between the two, the exhibition presents photography that forces the viewer to reconsider and reconcile what design is, has become and will be in the future.

Joana Choumali, an Ivorian photo artist in her interpretation employed digital photo imagery to depict her inept conviction of how design has affected humanity.

In her works titled ‘Awoulaba/Taille Fine’, she explores the complex notion of feminity, beauty and body image in contemporary African society. She observed through her documentary that recent phenomenon in mannequin production has pushed design further by idealizing African shapes with seductive contours, which placed feminity with sudden world obsession of enhanced anatomy features. Although, seen as a creative innovation, yet, she still feels gender equality is prejudiced.

Choumali stated, “People may say I am a feminist that I am focusing on women. That’s not right because I am focusing on identity more than gender. I have a tendency to speak about subject that affects me directly and it shows in my work.”

“On the contrary, I am just going through the process of accepting myself in every aspect of my life. Through this process, I realize that my feminity can be in my way. What I am trying to do is especially to explore, accept and embrace it. I like to make parallel comparison between different cultures, accepting each aspect of my identity and trying not to apologize with one side of my personality to another. Women are going through many influences from the western and it affects their identity”, she said.

Expressing cultural conflict with his unique black and white shots, Ima Mfon said, “For me, I wanted to focus more on the diversity and uniqueness of individual to promote Nigerian identity and unity.”

Other exhibitors, Owise Abuzaid  Gloria Oyarzabal (Spain) Vicente Paredes (Spain) Patrick Selemani (Congo) William Uko(Nigeria) Mehdi Sefrioui (Morocco) Nobukho Nqaba (South Africa) and many others depicts in their work the socio-cultural diversity of Africa and how design has and will affect progression and developments in the continent.


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