Friday 14 October 2011


At Lagos Photo Festival, world photographers celebrate Africa
By Tajudeen Sowole
 Significantly, the content and presentation of the second edition of Lagos Photo Festival, held at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, last Saturday, show that the yearly event has what it takes to book a place on the calendar of global photography events.
  A large turnout of guests within and outside Africa, gathered at the opening to view works of over 40 photographers selected across the world to participate in the festival.
  Themed What’s Next Africa? -The Hidden Stories, most of the images spotlight the continent’s uncommon stories of places, events and people that hardly attract global attention.  

Dutch photographer Chantal Heijnen’s work on Somaliland
   Organised by African Artists’ Foundation (AAF) in collaboration with the European National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) with supports from Etisalat and Eko Hotel and Suites, works of 18 African and 23 European and American photographers were on display. Among such uncommon stories is that of the Somaliland told via the works of Dutch photographer Chantal Heijnen. About seven images titled Ghost Republic Somaliland – including two newspaper cutouts from a publication Jamhuuriya, which the photographer worked for in Somaliland – tell contrasting story, compared to the war-torn Somalia, the immediate neighbour of this yet to be recognised nation. Heijnen noted that “it’s an independent land, relatively quiet, of people who are slowly building their nation without help from anywhere.” Though it became a democratic independent nation in 1991, the United Nation is yet to recognise this young country.

  In American photographer, Joseph Penney’s images of indoor and outdoor taken in Lagos, a peep into the moderate life of women is recorded, in contrast to reputation of a city of restlessness and wild ambitions. And why are women the central focus of this photographer? “Maybe because they are under-represented,” Penney explained.

  However, Jodi Bieber’s works reflect concentrated or fleshy ladies in briefs as against the common slim and mass media–­ compliant catwalk figures. 
European, American and African photographers at Lagos Photo Festival 2011

 And adding a touch of class to this gathering, were works of multiple World Press Photo award winner, Kadir Van Lohuizen. These works, though in black and white, radiated a global aura in highlighting Africa’s role in another side of world diamond trade.
 From what Italian photographer Giulia Marchi described as images of “my project, China in Republic of Benin,” this gathering also sounded an alert on the ongoing spread of Chinese  influence across the world.
  Classic images of road accidents from George Osodi’s 2009 exhibition, Driver’s Dexterity and George Okwong’s Fela on Broadway presented in video installation enrich the content of the Lagos foto feast.
  From the ruins of the Liberian war come the abandoned buildings nestling in the calmness of the community as captured in Dutch photographer Martin Naaboer’s A Dream Called Harper. He noted that the people seem not to have sympathy for destroyed buildings such as these “because they are not attached to the colonial architecture designs,” hence the abandonment.
THE director of AAF, Azu Nwagbogu had earlier stressed that the focus of the festival was to allow people outside the continent, who have a non-stereotype views, express such via photography.
 Curator, Marc Prust explained that selection of works was based on individual photographer’s choice and relevance to the theme of the festival.
Azu Nwagbogu, Ronald Chagoury; Kavita Chellaram; Aditya Chellaram and MD Eko Hotel

  The Chief Executive Officer of Etisalat, Steve Evans noted that technology has collapsed communication, bringing telephoning and photography very close. He stated that the involvement of the organisation as a major sponsor of the 2011 edition “has a link to our participation last year.” He said the three––year sponsorship deal for Lagos Photo Festival with AAF is a commitment and “we hope to see it grow.”
 After the grand opening at the same venue last year, the exhibitions were mounted at various centers such as Muri Okunola Park, Victoria Island; MKO Abiola Garden, Ojota; Prof. Ayodele Awojobi Park, Onike, Yaba.
 Similar pattern, AAF assured, would apply for the 2011 edition. At Muri Okunola Park, the exhibition is expected to be flavoured with a musical concert organised by Music Matters.
 On the presentation of the outdoor parts of the exhibition, the designer, Tosin Oshinowo assured that the structures being put in place would complement the content.
 Another highlight of the festival, according to Project Coordinator, Medina Dugger is a workshop/discussion, involving the participating photographers.

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