Monday, 28 January 2008

MySpace | African Fashion | Designer of the Year 2007

Oumou has been an inspiration for thousands and her works are bold and ambitious. Please note a lot of the images you see in this slideshow were taken by the photographer Thomas Dorn.

MySpace | African Fashion

DESIGNER OF THE YEAR 2007 | Oumou Sy from Senegal

MySpace | African Fashion is celebrating the amazing fashion designs by Oumou Sy from Dakar, Senegal.

Oumou Sy's work combines Western chic and contemporary African avant-garde and she is known as Senegal's Queen of Couture and it's easy to see why.

Her contribution to African fashion has been and continues to be immense. She is the founder of the annual Dakar Carnival and the International Fashion Week.

Her work is ambitious and bold and she truely deserves the title of Designer of the Year 2007.

Kristian von Hornsleth Buys Ugandans for Livestock

Danish Artist buys Africans

This morning I received an email from an artist from Uganda called, Eria Sane Nsubuga, who seemed fascinated by an artistic project, which took place last summer, 2007, in a small rural village in Uganda, by a Danish artist, Kristian von Hornsleth.

Here is the press release and website details:

How many Africans would change their name in return for 242 pig and 65 goats? The answer is 307. At least if they live in a small village in one of the worlds poorest countries.

This summer, the Danish artist Kristian von Hornsleth visited a poor village in Uganda and gave the local population a fantastic offer they could not refuse: He wanted all of them to take his name! In return, the 307 villagers would receive a large number of pigs and goats.

This has lead to a controversial artwork titled "We want to help you, but we want to own you."

This is the experience of artist Kristian von Hornsleth based on his visits to the village of Buteyongera in the Mukono district in Uganda. Kristian von Hornsleth has made visits to the village a couple of times to build up good relations and gain trust. Together with a team of photographers and film crew, he travelled to Uganda in June and convinced the local population to change their names to Hornsleth. As payment, the Africans received a large amount of creatures for making their choice. So far 100 of the villagers have taken the new name with the remaining 207 currently being processed. A further 365 are on waiting lists.

Following a lot of bureaucratic trouble and headshaking from the local authorities, the official name changing was fulfilled and the project was transformed into art. From October on it is possible to see 100 photographic super portraits in 1x1 meter as well as 20 pieces of 2x2 meter large portrait paintings of Africans holding their new ID cards in front of them. On the ID card you can clearly read their new beautiful surname: HORN$LETH.

The artworks will be shown in Copenhagen from 17th November and at the established gallery DDM in Shanghai in March 2007. Furthermore, a colour illustrated book with text of international philosophers and art experts is planned to be published in October – at the same time as a documentary, produced by the Danish TV-channel DR2.

The good artist

Kristian von Hornsleth is convinced that he has done a good deed for Africa.

"Basically I believe in free trade. You sell something to me, and I buy something from you. In this case the Africans are fond of the animals that I offer them – and I am happy to be able to give them a beautiful name and to make some art. The result is that both parts are happy. Nothing else matters", says Kristian von Hornsleth.

Apart from the villagers' initial problems with pronouncing the name Hornsleth, the Danish artist experienced only positive response from the local population. Of course they were a little surprised of the Danes' fine offer for them, but they ended up accepting it. Kristian von Hornsleth is now known in the village as "Birunji", which means "the good one".

The new "Hornsleths" want to be famous

The many new "Hornsleths" are now looking forward to their portraits being shown all over the world. Some of them hope to get famous and maybe someday come to Europe. Kristian von Hornsleth himself is enjoying the interest generated in his photographic artwork.

The next step is for the whole village itself to change its name to "Hornsleth". The artist is also working on creating a tree sculpture production and a smaller agricultural production in the area, which will produce African meat and vegetables to the West.

The name of the products will of course be Hornsleth.

For more information concerning the art project please contact:

Wolf-Günter Thiel

Hornsleth Studio Berlin

Telephone: +49 30 781 38 29

Mobil: +49 175 20 77 0 57

For interviews please contact:

Svante Lindeburg


Telephone: +45 33 959697

Notes to Editors:

§ Each person will have a national ID card issued to show their new 'Hornsleth' name.

§ In five years 5,000 people will have received an animal from this project if it runs to plan.

§ 'Hornsleths' art project is set to premiere at the Hornsleth & Friends Contemporary Art Gallery in Copenhagen from the 17th of November and will be displayed in Shanghai at the DDM Warehouse gallery from March 2007 and later on in 2007 at more places in Europe.

§ You can follow the project on, which is often being updated with pictures and text concerning the project.

For images of the project or for further information, please contact Susie Dullard on 020 7067 0692 or Sophie Smith on 020 7067 0415.

The New Afropolitans by Taiye Tuakli-Wosornu


Painting: "The Contestant Wears Red" by Norman O'Flynn | South Africa

I've just read this wonderful article and wanted to share...

Bye-Bye Barbar by Taiye Tuakli-Wosornu

It's moments to midnight on Thursday night at Medicine Bar in London. Zak, boy-genius DJ, is spinning a Fela Kuti remix. The little downstairs dancefloor swells with smiling, sweating men and women fusing hip-hop dance moves with a funky sort of djembe. The women show off enormous afros, tiny t-shirts, gaps in teeth; the men those incredible torsos unique to and common on African coastlines. The whole scene speaks of the Cultural Hybrid: kente cloth worn over low-waisted jeans; 'African Lady' over Ludacris bass lines; London meets Lagos meets Durban meets Dakar. Even the DJ is an ethnic fusion: Nigerian and Romanian; fair, fearless leader; bobbing his head as the crowd reacts to a sample of 'Sweet Mother'.

Were you to ask any of these beautiful, brown-skinned people that basic question – 'where are you from?' – you'd get no single answer from a single smiling dancer. This one lives in London but was raised in Toronto and born in Accra; that one works in Lagos but grew up in Houston, Texas. 'Home' for this lot is many things: where their parents are from; where they go for vacation; where they went to school; where they see old friends; where they live (or live this year). Like so many African young people working and living in cities around the globe, they belong to no single geography, but feel at home in many.

They (read: we) are Afropolitans – the newest generation of African emigrants, coming soon or collected already at a law firm/chem lab/jazz lounge near you. You'll know us by our funny blend of London fashion, New York jargon, African ethics, and academic successes. Some of us are ethnic mixes, e.g. Ghanaian and Canadian, Nigerian and Swiss; others merely cultural mutts: American accent, European affect, African ethos. Most of us are multilingual: in addition to English and a Romantic or two, we understand some indigenous tongue and speak a few urban vernaculars. There is at least one place on The African Continent to which we tie our sense of self: be it a nation-state (Ethiopia), a city (Ibadan), or an auntie's kitchen. Then there's the G8 city or two (or three) that we know like the backs of our hands, and the various institutions that know us for our famed focus. We are Afropolitans: not citizens, but Africans of the world.

It isn't hard to trace our genealogy. Starting in the 60's, the young, gifted and broke left Africa in pursuit of higher education and happiness abroad. A study conducted in 1999 estimated that between 1960 and 1975 around 27,000 highly skilled Africans left the Continent for the West. Between 1975 and 1984, the number shot to 40,000 and then doubled again by 1987, representing about 30% of Africa's highly skilled manpower. Unsurprisingly, the most popular destinations for these emigrants included Canada, Britain, and the United States; but Cold War politics produced unlikely scholarship opportunities in Eastern Bloc countries like Poland, as well.

Some three decades later this scattered tribe of pharmacists, physicists, physicians (and the odd polygamist) has set up camp around the globe. The caricatures are familiar. The Nigerian physics professor with faux-Coogi sweater; the Kenyan marathonist with long legs and rolled r's; the heavyset Gambian braiding hair in a house that smells of burnt Kanekalon. Even those unacquainted with synthetic extensions can conjure an image of the African immigrant with only the slightest of pop culture promptings: Eddie Murphy's 'Hello, Barbar.' But somewhere between the 1988 release of Coming to America and the 2001 crowning of a Nigerian Miss World, the general image of young Africans in the West transmorphed from goofy to gorgeous. Leaving off the painful question of cultural condescenscion in that beloved film, one wonders what happened in the years between Prince Akeem and Queen Agbani?

One answer is: adolescence. The Africans that left Africa between 1960 and 1975 had children, and most overseas. Some of us were bred on African shores then shipped to the West for higher education; others born in much colder climates and sent home for cultural re-indoctrination. Either way, we spent the 80's chasing after accolades, eating fufu at family parties, and listening to adults argue politics. By the turn of the century (the recent one), we were matching our parents in number of degrees, and/or achieving things our 'people' in the grand sense only dreamed of. This new demographic – dispersed across Brixton, Bethesda, Boston, Berlin – has come of age in the 21st century, redefining what it means to be African. Where our parents sought safety in traditional professions like doctoring, lawyering, banking, engineering, we are branching into fields like media, politics, music, venture capital, design. Nor are we shy about expressing our African influences (such as they are) in our work. Artists such as Keziah Jones, Trace founder and editor Claude Gruzintsky, architect David Adjaye, novelist Chimamanda Achidie – all exemplify what Gruzintsky calls the '21st century African.'

What distinguishes this lot and its like (in the West and at home) is a willingness to complicate Africa – namely, to engage with, critique, and celebrate the parts of Africa that mean most to them. Perhaps what most typifies the Afropolitan consciousness is the refusal to oversimplify; the effort to understand what is ailing in Africa alongside the desire to honor what is wonderful, unique. Rather than essentialising the geographical entity, we seek to comprehend the cultural complexity; to honor the intellectual and spiritual legacy; and to sustain our parents' cultures.

For us, being African must mean something. The media's portrayals (war, hunger) won't do. Neither will the New World trope of bumbling, blue-black doctor. Most of us grew up aware of 'being from' a blighted place, of having last names from to countries which are linked to lack, corruption. Few of us escaped those nasty 'booty-scratcher' epithets, and fewer still that sense of shame when visting paternal villages. Whether we were ashamed of ourselves for not knowing more about our parents' culture, or ashamed of that culture for not being more 'advanced' can be unclear. What is manifest is the extent to which the modern adolescent African is tasked to forge a sense of self from wildly disparate sources. You'd never know it looking at those dapper lawyers in global firms, but most were once supremely self-conscious of being so 'in between'. Brown-skinned without a bedrock sense of 'blackness,' on the one hand; and often teased by African family members for 'acting white' on the other – the baby-Afropolitan can get what I call 'lost in transnation'.

Ultimately, the Afropolitan must form an identity along at least three dimensions: national, racial, cultural – with subtle tensions in between. While our parents can claim one country as home, we must define our relationship to the places we live; how British or American we are (or act) is in part a matter of affect. Often unconsciously, and over time, we choose which bits of a national identity (from passport to pronunciation) we internalize as central to our personalities. So, too, the way we see our race – whether black or biracial or none of the above – is a question of politics, rather than pigment; not all of us claim to be black. Often this relates to the way we were raised, whether proximate to other brown people (e.g. black Americans) or removed. Finally, how we conceive of race will accord with where we locate ourselves in the history that produced 'blackness' and the political processes that continue to shape it.

Then there is that deep abyss of Culture, ill-defined at best. One must decide what comprises 'African culture' beyond pepper soup and filial piety. The project can be utterly baffling – whether one lives in an African country or not. But the process is enriching, in that it expands one's basic perspective on nation and selfhood. If nothing else, the Afropolitan knows that nothing is neatly black or white; that to 'be' anything is a matter of being sure of who you are uniquely. To 'be' Nigerian is to belong to a passionate nation; to be Yoruba, to be heir to a spiritual depth; to be American, to ascribe to a cultural breadth; to be British, to pass customs quickly. That is, this is what it means for me – and that is the Afropolitan privilege. The acceptance of complexity common to most African cultures is not lost on her prodigals. Without that intrinsically multi-dimensional thinking, we could not make sense of ourselves.

And if it all sounds a little self-congratulatory, a little 'aren't-we-the-coolest-damn-people-on-earth?' – I say: yes it is, necessarily. It is high time the African stood up. There is nothing perfect in this formulation; for all our Adjayes and Achidies, there is a brain drain back home. Most Afropolitans could serve Africa better in Africa than at Medicine Bar on Thursdays. To be fair, a fair number of African professionals are returning; and there is consciousness among the ones who remain, an acute awareness among this brood of too-cool-for-schools that there's work to be done. There are those among us who wonder to the point of weeping: where next, Africa? When will the scattered tribes return? When will the talent repatriate? What lifestyles await young professionals at home? How to invest in Africa's future? The prospects can seem grim at times. The answers aren't forthcoming. But if there was ever a group who could figure it out, it is this one, unafraid of the questions.

Photographer | Philip Kwame Apagya | Ghana, USA


I want to start off the year with a wonderfully imaginative photographer from Ghana, Philip Kwame Apagya. His photographs are a little bit of magic put onto to film with stage-set designs as a background the sitter can be wherever they want to be....the possibilities to this idea are endless. All credit to Philip, these photographs are great. Thanks...

Philip Kwame Apagya | African Photographer

Fascinating images from the realms of commercial studio portraiture –

In Africa, a photo studio is the place where dreams come true. For a few pence, ordinary mortals can strike a pose and achieve immortality, have things they haven't got and may never have, be people they are not and may never be, have access to the inaccessible. People start asking for personal portraits that go beyond the image usually present on identity papers, often the only 'popular portrait' available. This opens new roads and avenues to the art of photographic portrait, with possibility for the artist to catch special moments in people's existence: people ask for a picture for several reasons, but with the common desire to have a 'funny picture'. In this process, new forms of self-representation become part of a new social identity: this is the framework in which we might consider the work of Philip Kwame Apagya. Philip Kwame Apagya's formal portraits in front of commissioned painted backgrounds seem to be suspended between realism and a sort of naïvité, they are both unreal and hyperealistic: the dreams of African people are put on stage -against scenery which praises consumer society. The subject stands in front of a painted backdrop that portrays everything people dream of having: fake New England country houses showing off some porcelain, VCRs and TVs in bar closets, modern kitchens with well-stocked refrigerators with coke and cheetos...portraits with a quarter / half / full smile, because nobody in Africa is really deceived by make-believe...but for one glorious moment they can have it all. These portraits are highly amusing for us, 'western people', but are also unintentionally disturbing because of the insight they offer into a growing cultural vacuum. This is the dream, and it is empty and materialistic.---


Philip Kwame Apagya was born in Sekondi (Ghana) in 1958, after a period of apprenticeship in his father's photo studio (a former crime-scene photographer), he worked as a travelling photographer for a while in the Sassandra Region (Ivory Coast), following the colour revolution in the late 1980s. After having graduated in photojournalism at the Ghana Institute of Journalism in Accra, he opened then his own studio (studio PK's normal photo studio) in Shama (Ghana), in 1982.

Philip Kwame Apagya is known worldwide, because of his participation in many personal and collective exhibitions. Among others: 'snap me one!' studio photographers in Africa where special emphasis was put on the studio decorations. The items shown include 150 photographs, 10 original backdrops from Ghana as well as other materials. Visitors had the opportunity to be 'snapped' in front of a backdrop of their choice. The photos were taken by Philip Kwame Apagya.1998 Stadt Museum, Munich; City Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach; Iwalewa-House, University of Bayreuth; 1999 Smithsonian Institute, Washington 2000. Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam catalogue with the same title is available. 'snap me one!'studio photographers in africa

prestel-verlag, 1998 'Africa by Africa' / ' l'Afrique par elle-même' / 'Portrait Afrika' photographic view1999 Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; Barbican Art Gallery, London; South African National Gallery, Cape Town; 2000, Third Rencontres de la Photographie Africaine, Bamako, Mali; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; 'Inside Africa' 2000 Noorderlicht, 2000 Photography Festival, Fries Museum, Groningen; 'Collezione etro uomo spring/summer 2000', Galleria Luisa delle Piane, Milan---

African photography since photography was invented in Europe, it is customary to think of it as primarily a western activity, Africa photographed by Africans is something that likewise could escape attention as the photographs of Africa, which we see every day are almost without exception made by western photographers. Traditionally, African cultures refrained from photography for many carried the belief that to be photographed was to have one spirit taken away. African photos operated as codes in a society in which the image one projected was very important. The British policy of 'indirect rule' enabled Africans in the territories colonized by Great Britain to learn European techniques earlier than others, so that the Ghanaians were familiar with photography from the turn of the century. The arrival of the box camera in the 1920s speeded up the Democratization of photographic techniques. The camera blossomed in the hands of indigenous photographers as colonialism waned and the Ghanaians adopted photography for themselves - initially by touching up photos, then through photo-montage and finally in the form of painted scenery that played a part in Ghanaian social life. The painted background is a heritage from Europe, and represents an intermediate step between painted portraits and photographic portraits.