Get a rare glimpse of work by four West African photographers, in an exhibition looking at post-colonial culture and identity, at London’s David Hill Gallery.
Tête-à-Têtes is a group show bringing together the work of some of the most influential and important West African photographers, including Sanlé Sory (b.1943), Rachidi Bissiriou (b. 1950), Malick Sidibé (1935-2016) and Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou (v.1965).
Opening on Friday 18th September, the exhibition celebrates the emergence of a new identity in post-colonial West Africa, with photographs documenting people’s lives from the late 1950’s onwards.
To run alongside the physical exhibition, a short film has been produced by exhibition curators David Hill and Carrie Scott. The film will introduce the work of four important photographers. Giving an overview of the region in the throes of change after gaining independence, the curators discuss the work of the photographers within this context. If this sounds interesting, you can sign up for a personal exhibition tour with the curators.
West African photography evolved rapidly following Ghana’s independence in 1957. Photographic practice grew out of the optimism of the period, capturing the zeitgeist of cultural fusion. Photography was largely a bureaucratic tool until this point and held with some suspicion. Now, it could be used to proudly establish new identities and achievements. Portraits marked socioeconomic status and prestige within the community. Photographs in the exhibition capture people in their finery, desiring to be seen in a new light.
Photographer Sanlé Sory, started his career in Bobo-Dioulasso, now Burkina Faso, in 1960; the year the country gained independence. Sory caught the exuberance of West African youth immersed in new styles of music and dancing in the first decades of independence. Many of Sory’s photographs depict the enmeshment of tradition and modernity that was taking place at this time.
Ketu photographer Rachidi Bissiriou’s work has never been seen outside of the village in central Benin, where he opened his ‘Studio Pleasure’. Working with a Yashica twin-lens medium format camera, he produced an extraordinary series of portraits of the local villagers. The lighting and composition are remarkably contemporary in feel, with the subjects depicted in their everyday clothing, some traditional and some informal; photographed as the artist has found them.
Malick Sidibé, an established Malian photographer, documented the people of the city of Bamako as Mali made the transition from colony to independence. Sidibé’s photographs show vibrant youth culture at dance clubs, parties and sporting events; people enjoying their freedom and intoxicated with the new Western styles in music and fashion.
Included in this exhibition are four of Sidibé’s unique Chemises. These are small prints of photographs from events and social functions, each glued to cardboard sleeves. Chemises were used as a reference system for people to order prints from him, but as many of the original negatives have not survived, it leaves these artefacts as a rare glimpse of a night in Bamako at the time. They provide unique insight into the culture and society of the period.
Check out more exhibitions and installations taking place this autumn.
When: 18th September – 27th November 2020
Where: David Hill Gallery, 345 Ladbroke Grove, London W10 6HA
£: Free. Viewing is by appointment only
More info: www.davidhillgallery.net