FotoFest presents new talent and work from around the world, hosting artists, photographers, and thinkers biennially. This year, their major show would have been African Cosmologies: Photography, Time, and the Other; due to the Covid19 pandemic, it was postponed. The work of the 33 artists to be featured in the exhibition have now been brought together in a companion book of the same title, published by Schilt.
Founded in 1983, in Houston, Fotofest is the oldest photographic arts festival in the US. The festival was first held in 1986; and for 37 years, it has presented new work and talent from around the world. But this year, for the first time, it gives the stage to the work of artists from Africa and the African diaspora.
African Cosmologies spans decades of work on social and political conditions “that inform representation.” The artistes probe issues regarding how subjectivity is constructed by the camera.
“It’s like having a 60th birthday party,” said Mark Sealy, the show creator and Director of Autograph ABP. “I follow artists for a long time—I could be in dialogue with 20 or 30 people for years, sometimes decades. If you live long enough, you can eventually bring these different relationships together in the same room. Hopefully, they’ll all get on, and celebrate the relationships that they share.”
The exhibition includes work by artists such as Rotimi Fani-Kayode, the Nigerian-born photographer whose work is deeply inspired by West African Yoruba mythology and spirituality. Fani-Kayode presented the Black male body as an entry point into interrogating fantasy and sexual difference. There is the work of Wilfred Ukpong, a Nigerian artist who creates conversation around Niger-Delta issues. There’s the South African artist Zanele Muholi. Zanele’s self-portrait series Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Lioness pays homage to the 44 South African miners who were killed in 2012 by the police at a Marikana mine.
Each of the 33 artists in African Cosmologies interrogate social, cultural, and political issues, in fresh and particular ways. They carefully interrogate the past, as shown by the Angolan photographer Jean Depara’s work set in the late 1950s, and throw open doors into entering conversations about the present, as shown in Rahima Gambo’s.
“FotoFest has a long history of international engagement,” said FotoFest executive director Steven Evans. “We are especially excited to be working with photographers from Africa and its diaspora in 2020.”
Here is the list of featured photographers:
- Faisal Abdu’Allah (UK)
- Akinbode Akinbiyi (Nigeria/UK)
- Hélène A. Amouzou (Togo/Belgium)
- Sammy Baloji (Congo/Belgium)
- James Barnor (Ghana/UK)
- Bruno Boudjelal (France/Algeria)
- Edson Chagas (Angola)
- Ernest Cole (South Africa)
- Jamal Cyrus (USA)
- Jean Depara (Angola/Congo)
- Laura El-Tantawy (Egypt/UK)
- Samuel Fosso (Cameroon/France)
- Rahima Gambo (Nigeria)
- Eric Gyamfi (Ghana)
- Lyle Ashton Harris (USA)
- Samson Kambalu (Malawi/UK) Rotimi Fani-Kayode (Nigeria)
- leo with Shobun Baile (Brazil/US)
- Mónica de Miranda (Angola/Portugal)
- Santu Mofokeng (South Africa)
- Sethembile Msezane (South Africa)
- Zanele Muholi (South Africa)
- Aïda Muluneh (Ethiopia)
- Eustáquio Neves (Brazil)
- Nyaba L. Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso/France)
- Rosana Paulino (Brazil)
- Dawit L. Petros (Eritrea/USA/Canada)
- Zina Saro-Wiwa (Nigeria/USA)
- Aida Silvestri (Eritrea/UK)
- Lindokuhle Sobekwa (South Africa/USA)
- Wilfred Ukpong (France/Nigeria)
- Carrie Mae Weems (USA)