In a group photo exhibition at New Art Exchange, curator Ekow Eshun identifies artists who confront Africa as a continent, an idea and an image.

 

“There is the boosterism of an ‘Africa rising’ narrative that celebrates the development of an emergent middle class and the growth of a tech sector driven by a young aspirational population, while glossing over the inequalities of income and opportunity that still hinders social progress in many countries,” explains curator Ekow Eshun, talking of the commonly expoused views of Africa in the western world.

On the other hand, he emphasizes, there is “the reductive stereotype of Africa as a land of would-be migrants and corrupt rulers—a vision given ugly validation by President Trump’s description of its nations as ‘shithole countries’.”

At Nottingham’s New Art Exchange Eshun, who was born in London to Ghanaian parents, is taking on this binary view of Africa and Africans—that Du Bois captured as “double consciousness”—selecting photographic works by sixteen artists from eleven African nations, who address myths and stereotypes, past and present, positive and negative about their collective “Africanness”. Eshun has chosen to focus on various aspects of this so-called Africanness, and how physical landscapes across the continent have been shaped psychologically and politically.

One example is the work of Emmanuelle Andrianjafy, who was born in Madagascar but later moved to Senegal, which has become one of the subjects in her wistful works, landscapes and portraits that emanate a sense of dislocation. Lebohang Kganye, meanwhile, addresses the idea of looking simultaneously forward and back on a personal level in her 2013 project, in which she recreates photographs of her late mother, pulled from family photo albums.

 

Africa State of Mind

Until 16 September at New Art Exchange, Nottingham

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