Her work has been featured by industry giants like i-D, Vice, and New York Magazine. Of the artists featured here, her work is perhaps the most recognisable. One merely needs an introduction before they feel wholly familiar with her artistic vocabulary. Her work plays out like a construction project more than a photographic endeavour - the human subjects in her photos are just one aspect of the image and message she is trying to convey. Enigmatic costumes and set pieces are all built into her works and come together seamlessly in ways that are still unexpected. Add to that her liberal use of colour and you see the sum of the parts is anything but understated.
South Sudan's Atong Atem is a Melbourne-based artist, whose works of striking brilliance are worthy of praise the world over. By her own admission, she is an agent of decolonisation within her self and for others. Atong is primarily a photographer, but capturing the image is only the first part of the journey she takes us on when she creates the beautiful works that are as distinct as they are powerful. Her pictures are powerful not only because of the images they convey, but the story behind the artist who created them. Atong, who was born to Kenyan parents in South Sudan, spent part of her childhood in a refugee camp. From there she moved with her family to Australia, where she lives today.
Her work focuses a great deal on colonialism and its effect on indigenous peoples, who are now immigrants across the world. In her previous work, entitled Third Culture Kids (the term describes children raised in a culture other than their parents), Atong focused on the growing communities of immigrant youth who have come of age in cultures, not of their own. The isolation, confusion and overall struggle experienced by these “outsiders” are fertile ground for artistic exploration. While the origins of the diaspora are numbered and varied, strong parallels can be drawn between the experiences of Third Culture Kids when they call a new country, on a new continent, home.
Nigeria: Lakin Ogunbanwo
Nigerian-born and -based photographer, Lakin Ogunbanwo, uses striking compositions and bold colours in his portrait photography. Ogunbanwo had been a hobby photographer for many years before he graduated to ranks of the acclaimed professional. He admits to "innocently shooting my sisters and their friends" as a young boy. After studying law he realised that was not his path and decided to turn his hobby into a true calling.
The overt sensuality of his work makes for a very intimate viewing experience, as his models are posed and captured in ways that make the most out of the human form. His use of light and shadow further serves to accentuate certain contours of the figures in his work, to the effect that some features are highlighted while others are left in mystery - the whole thing is quite involved and clearly the result of consistent work and dedication.
For all his groundbreaking work, Ogunbanwo has been duly recognised locally and abroad. As a solo artist, he has made friends across the continent and has headlined solo exhibitions in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The most famous of which, being Are We Good Enough: A portrait series featuring men in traditional headwear, that explores ideas of tradition, power, and masculinity. His work has also been featured in a number of group exhibitions, from New York to Brazil. Beauty, craft and boundless imagination. Africa continues to prove itself to the world as a shining light, worthy of praise, with so much to offer. In the next part in this series, we explore even more of what makes Africa the final frontier of artistic excellence.
* Article sourced from CSA. The Wire http://csa.global/thewire/
* Produced by Nadine Oosthuizen. Written by Tshiamo Seape