Rainbow Nations

Words by Anthony Teasdale

18 June 2020

Lina Iris Viktor 2018 Courtesy the Artist and Marianne Ibrahim Gallery Chicago

Africa is changing. Not just in itself, but how the rest of the planet perceives it. Nothing demonstrates that more than the photographers documenting these changes. Whether they’re shooting fashion, reportage or portraits, the likes of Lina Iris Viktor, Hassan Hajjaj, Zanele Muholi and Kader Attia are creating new visual identities that represent each their part of the continent.

A selection of these images has been collated into a new book: Africa State Of Mind. Compiled by ex-ICA director, Ekow Eshun, it paints a picture of a continent and people on the brink of something extraordinary. 'There’s so much rich, compelling imagery coming from an emerging generation of photographers across Africa right now,' he says. 'I wanted to gather some of that work in a book. And in the process show how African photographers are telling their own story of the continent in images quite different from Western clichés of Africa as a place of famine and war.'

There’s so much to enjoy here. Images of sun-faded modernist buildings rub alongside highly personal portraits and fashion pictures that make your average haute couture photo look like something from a direct mail catalogue. It’s also divided into themes like zones of freedom, myth and memory – rather than by country.
'I wanted to tell a story of mood and tone,' says Eshun. 'And to explore the themes that are animating the work of artists and photographers across the continent: from capturing life among Africa’s sprawling cities to exploring questions of gender, sexuality and identity. I don’t think there’s a single, definitive version of Africa. There are multiple perspectives, some of which are gathered in this book.'

As a British-Ghanaian, Eshun has a particular perspective that encompasses both the country he grew up in and that of his parents. Happily, it’s also the place he thinks we should discover more about. 'The most exciting place to visit at the moment is Ghana,' says Eshun. 'I’m biased because it’s where my family comes from, but it’s also where the likes of Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Stormzy and P. Diddy visit. It’s very hot right now.' Whether you visit in the flesh or explore it via these pictures, know this: Africa is rising. And we all need to get on board.

Lead image: © Hassan Hajjaj. Courtesy of the Artist
Image above: © Lina Iris Viktor, 2018. Courtesy the Artist and Marianne Ibrahim Gallery, Chicago

To purchase this book or for info on other works by the artists featured, please contact your lifestyle manager.

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