By Nii B. Andrews
The Ivorian artist, Joana Choumali presents striking facial photographic portraits of individuals living in Abidjan (during 2014) who have vivid and graphic facial scarification.
This form of ancient facial art identified them as having Burkinabe heritage and therefore they were not immune to xenophobic attacks – sometimes with fatal consequences.
The irony of course being that the marks that perhaps indicated their proud successful participation in initiation rites now set them apart as victims of bigotry and discrimination….within ECOWAS.
The title of the series “Hââbré” also represents an interesting play on words as the word simultaneously means scarification, writing and sign.
Even more striking is the fact that Choumali presents two sets of images, one taken from behind and the other frontally.
Of course, the former image does not reveal any difference, with respect to the subject, that will provoke the negative reactions brought on by the facial signs or writings.
Choumali’s photographs are currently part of the MACAAL exhibition, “AFRICA IS NO ISLAND”.
The thrust of this exhibition is simple.
Its aim is to invite the viewer to question assumptions on geography, history and representation.
And it does so by presenting the work of young and aspiring artists who have alternative perspectives and methods.
In many instances, the artists focus on cultures that are disappearing.Their work also questions given historical assumptions or dogmas.