By Nii B. Andrews.

Last week it was announced at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London that Joana Choumali had won the prestigious global photography award, Prix Pictet.

There had been only one previous female winner; the 2005 awardee Valérie Benin.

This year’s shortlist included six women: Choumali, Margaret Courtney-Clarke, Rena Effendi, Janelle Lynch, Awoiska van der Molen and Alexia Webster.

Choumali is the first African and female……..

Her award winning presentation consisted of photos shot by her three weeks after the terrible terror attacks at Grand Bassam beach in March 2016. The photos were modified and embellished with embroidered ornate patterns.

Choumali explained that the elaborate embroidery process on the photos was an exercise in addressing how she and her fellow Ivorians confronted issues of trauma and mental health.

She recalls her sadness on visiting the city after the attacks: “However as I was walking around and scanning the mood of the city, I was sad to see it so different to what I was used to seeing. This place had always been a place of community, but now I noticed solitude, melancholy and empty spaces.” 

The photos were taken using her phone rather than a camera so people would act naturally.

“So many journalists were there taking photos, but I was there not as a reporter but as a citizen.”

The series entitled Ça va aller (IT WILL BE OK) also references the reopening of unresolved issues related to the civil strife that followed the hotly contested 2011 election.

Thus for Choumali her presentation was both deeply personal and political.

The exhibition of Choumali’s winning work and that of the other 12 artists shortlisted for the prize will remain on show at the V&A until Dec 8.

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