Four Women Pushing Ivorian Art Forward through Photography
These young and emerging female photographers from Côte d'Ivoire are shaking up Abidjan's art scene.
There's been a tremendous amount of awe-inspiring art coming from the African continent lately.
Photography is no exception. It is one of the most powerful tools used in changing the way in which the West perceives Africa and its diaspora and perhaps the reason why contemporary photography is thriving.
The female gaze is paramount to the way in which the aforementioned visual stories are told and the female photographers here are using their camera lenses to give us glimpses of lands, peoples, histories, and futures unknown. Their individual experiences and perspectives are widening the scope of what is believed to be Côte d'Ivoire. Within the country's capital, Abidjan, there's a creative scene that seems to have sprawled up out of nowhere yet is so rich in its offerings.
Ivorian Marie Jeanne Akobe, better known as Akobs, is the food, product, and interior photographer whose postgraduate study of marketing affirmed the importance of imagery as a means of selling. Where day-to-day life inspires her street photography, her visits to markets inspire her knack for flat lay food and product photography. A jack of many trades or rather a hustler, she even creates enticing visuals that make onlookers want to visit restaurants and buy homes for sale. Her approach is one centered around stylizing things typically consumed in her West African home but that aren't easy to put on display like galettes. It's a response to a problem prevalent all around the continent. Furthermore, her penchant for colors in the distinct niche she's carved for herself is making people stop and take notice.
Ivorian-Senegalese Aïcha Fall is an iPhone photographer and autodidact whose work bridges a gap between her identity, her culture, and her traditions. She's enamoured with such themes as the Black woman and the beauty of the communities she calls home. There lies great strength and originality in the whimsical scenes she puts on display. A creative bursting with ideas—more often than not, she uses things she scrappily finds around her to create magic. She excels at using very little to document that which surrounds her. Her work is also the result of spending copious amounts of time carefully observing. Beyond her website, social media provides her the perfect platform to tell her stories and brands like Vogue Italy are taking notice.
Noella Elloh is the visual artist and digital strategist behind "Weaving Generations", a fall 2019 photo series that poetically tackles the issue of environmental ruin in Côte d'Ivoire.
In 2016, after obtaining her master's in environmental communication at the University of Quebec at Montreal, she returned to Abidjan and set out to tell unwritten stories.
With her camera, she explores identity, heritage, and climate change so as to educate viewers about such things as how urbanization affects the livelihoods of modern-day fishermen. She creates what she calls visual poetry playing with light and color.
When Saphir Niakadie was younger, she bought a camera as a means of replicating what she saw—with age came a voice more focused on concepts and storytelling rooted in exploring the human experience. Today, her fervor for human emotions nurtures how she effectively makes the viewers of her work experience what she captures. Saphir's work connects her homeland and the diaspora—it's black bodies in motion and poignant portraiture aimed at creating a new African narrative. She has taken this new narrative with her in partnerships with Keds, DSW, and homegrown magazine, Milc, and has been featured in Nylon, Vogue, and on Blavity.