"Don't photograph what you see, photograph what you feel." --Emeka Okereke
The New African Photography is bad for you.
Let me explain.
If I say the word "documentary" to my African history students at the University of Virginia, most will want to run screaming from the room. As far as they're concerned, documentaries are things professors like. Like medicine, sobriety, and a good night's sleep, they're good for you, but not a whole lot of fun.
If the first episode of this new six-part documentary from Al Jazeera's Artscape and Resolute Films is anything to go by -- and I think it is -- The New African Photography is going to be bad for you. That is, it's going to be hugely entertaining and often very, very funny. Here's a preview:
Please don't tell anybody, but the series is also sharp as a tack. Its goal, as the filmmakers say, is to show how a new generation of African photographers are using their cameras to celebrate, question, and represent a continent on the rise. Historically, few regions of the world have been more misrepresented in photographs than Africa. These photographers, however, are taking control of Africa's image and creating a more nuanced picture.
The first episode -- the one I watched last night -- features the well-known Nigerian photographer Emeka Okereke and the Invisible Borders Trans-African Photography Project. The show follows Emeka and fellow Nigerian photographer Lilian Novo on the most recent journey, from Nigeria through Cameroon and Gabon. It's simply brilliant. (And bad for you.) You can watch the whole thing below. It's about 25 minutes long and definitely worth the time.
Subsequent episodes will be showing up on Artscape's website over the next few weeks. Here's what to expect:
2. The Red Dress (29 April 2013)
Barbara Minishi is a leading fashion photographer in Kenya. For her latest project, Barbara swapped skinny models for normal people, photographing a wide range of women all wearing the same red dress, as a symbol of unity and national identity in the aftermath of the 2007 post-election violence in which more than 1 000 Kenyans were killed. Barbara says: "Don't look at Africa and think one thing. How come this view of Africa is always the soldier or the starving child?"
3. George Osodi (6 May 2013)
Nigerian George Osodi is a former Fuji African Photographer of The Year Award winner who's also been shortlisted at the Sony World Photography Awards. He's renowned for his hauntingly beautiful pictures of the oil devastation in the Niger delta. "I think it's my responsibility as the man with the camera to find a way to represent this [situation], so that it becomes appealing to whoever sees it. At first sight you're like, `What a beauty,' but then behind it is a huge Armageddon." He hopes his latest project, in which he photographs Nigeria's traditional monarchs, can offer a more positive way forward.
4. Neo Ntsoma (13 May 2013)
South African Neo Ntsoma is the first woman recipient of the CNN African Journalist Award for photography. She revisits DJ Cleo and the stars of South Africa's new democratic dawn, to take new portraits and discover the effects of 20 years of freedom. Neo moved away from news because she didn't want to reinforce African stereotypes. "My dream was to be an advertising photographer and take pictures of beautiful things. Black people feeling good about themselves, dressed well. But it was a picture that the apartheid regime didn't want to show to the world. They wanted to paint black people as barbarians."
5. Congolese Dreams (20 May 2013)
Executive produced by Viva Riva director Djo Munga, Congolese Dreams follows photographer Baudouin Mouanda as he explores the idea of marriage in Congo. The Congolese photographer burst onto the global photographic scene with his colourful photographs of Brazzaville members of SAPE (The Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People). As Baudoin says, "Africa will surprise everyone. There are lots of images of war, so I want to show another image of Africa."
6. Mario Macilau (27 May 2013)
Emmy-winning documentary director Francois Verster follows former street child Mario Macilau, as he uses photography to investigate the growing gap between rich and poor in Mozambique. "There is no longer a middle class in our country," says Mario.