Magazine article New African

Out of Africa: Here and Now

Magazine article New African

Out of Africa: Here and Now

Article excerpt

"The View From Here", a unique exhibition presenting seven photographers from Africa and its diaspora, is being showcased at London's Tiwani Contemporary gallery this month. Juliet Highet previews what is on offer.

Photography is a hot medium in Africa, democratic, portable and capable of infinite creative and technical manipulation and experiment. Some are exploring the medium in startling, unique ways, covering often controversial subjects of public concern today, questioning official narratives, and often proposing alternatives to photography's perceived status as purely documentary.

Others are using it as a cathartic tool, delving into memory, tensions between past and present, emotions such as loss and displacement, and personal reactions to collective history in visual form. All are pushing the boundaries of the medium, reacting to the extraordinary changes around them, such as the tsunami of urbanisation and religious fundamentalism.

Lagos-born Andrew Esiebo taught himself photography, and is now an award-winner, with a career attracting international recognition. His career started by chronicling the breakneck speed of urbanisation in his country, as well as its rich contemporary culture and heritage. Latterly he's been exploring fresh creative territory, integrating multi-media practice, and investigating with his lenses themes that include gender politics, HIV/Aids, migration, Lagos nightlife and popular culture, such as football and Nollywood. Eyesfrom South to West explores the experiences of people who migrated from Nigeria to Europe. An ongoing project, which includes audio interviews, it reveals tensions between the dreams of starting a new life and the realities experienced in an alien world.

He also focuses on "popular" themes such as Lagos nightlife photo series on the Afrika Shrine and the lives of bouncers spring to mind. God is Alive explores the recent phenomenal rise of Pentecostal and evangelical churches in Nigeria, with their vast gatherings known as 'crusades'. Many or Esiebo's photo series have a positive note--snowing people overcoming adversity.

In Living Positive he celebrates Thoko Ngubeni, an HIV-positive South African lesbian, who was rejected by family and friends but has turned her life around. Esiebo follows her into townships where she has founded women's support groups, organised public meetings to educate people on HIV/Aids issues and combat the stigma associated with them, and promoted the provision of testing and medication, to make a better life for herself and others.

Abraham Onoriode Oghobase, also Lagos-born, captures a sense of freedom from a "Lagosian state of mind", the sense as he puts it, of being "overwhelmed", "suffocated" by a large city. He says of Ecstatic. "How does one exhale in a demanding and constrictive city where millions of people struggle not just for physical space but also a mental anchor point? In performing and photographing Ecstatic, I make my way to the top of vehicles around my neighbourhood in Lagos only to take a rapturous leap ... This unique space forming as my body curves through the air allows me to agonise, scream, exhale and at the same time empathise with other Lagosians like me in the daily struggle to exist."

In this way, Oghobase combines art and performance, his body interacting with its surroundings, as he photographs it.

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