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Lagos Photo 2015: the Africa beyond iconographic stereotypes

In the Nigerian island of Lagos, 35 photographers capture the hidden face of the African continent and its peoples until 27 November.

Not just lush natural landscapes, amazing biodiversity, images of extreme poverty, suffering children or exotic animals: reducing such a big and diverse continent as Africa to stereotypical imagery is precisely what the LagosPhoto Festival is working against.

Created in 2010 and now in its sixth edition, the LagosPhoto Festival will take place in the Lagos until 27 November and it will explore African atmospheres through the pictures of 35 international photographers (coming from France, New Zealand, Congo, India, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco and other countries), whose goal is to show the hidden face of Africa, challenging the common clichés of the official discourses on post-colonialism.

 

Urging the public to look critically at what she defines “the worst marketing campaign ever”, head curator Cristina De Middel significantly called this year’s exhibition “Designing Futures”, considering the word “design” in its double meaning: formal-aesthetic structure or project for future life.

 

Since the image is the means through which the identity of a people is represented, the LagosPhoto Festival precisely aims to reflect on these contrasting and often misleading pictures that Africa has inspired over the centuries, through a number of exhibitions (both indoors and outdoors), lectures and workshops as well as exhibitions for amateurs.

 

And if on one hand, according to De Middel, photo reportages don’t have anything more to convey, rather, they sometimes foster misunderstandings and myths, on the other, there are other forms of expression  that can tell Africa’s history of today and tomorrow. These include photomontage and conceptual art, used by Patrick Villoq to show how Congo will be in 2050, or by Fabrice Monteiro who cooperated with Senegalese designer Jah Gal to create “The Prophecy” series, where the designers wonder about Africa’s destiny, creating mythical or spectral sculptures out of scraps.

 

The African iconographic categories are inspired by Western pop culture, including cinema, advertising and fashion that deeply influenced local cultures, as in Victor Omar Diop’s and Antoine Tempé’s pictures, who, in the series “(Re-)mixing Hollywood”, revisit Hollywood cinema, obtaining enjoyable estrangement effects.

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