This summer with Haute Africa, Noorderlicht Photogallery sheds light on the sunny side of the African continent. From 5 July through 31 August, seven photographers show a different Africa: a continent that still defies the imagination, and a place where creativity can bring prosperity. This flourishing African creativity finds no better expression than in fashion.
Haute Africa shows work by photographers who are not so much interested in African fashion in itself, but rather carry out an anthropological research into contemporary African clothing culture. Various African countries such as the Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia have a well-functioning economy; South Africa is even an important global player. First and foremost, these countries have the exploitation of Africa’s rich natural resources to thank for their progress, yet the creative, sustainable economies are also gradually starting to grow.
The fashion industry is an important exponent of this creative industry. Many African designers, entrepreneurs and photographers inspire the world with new designs that convey and renew African identity. This evolution hasn’t escaped the attention of artists and photographers. Through clothing culture they gauge the convictions, thoughts and feelings of its wearers, or the history of a particular place. They take a look at topics such as Westernization, post-colonialism, race, gender equality, religious beliefs or political power relations. From this angle, Haute Africa shows how clothing culture conveys and renews African identity without averting its eyes from an otherwise often bitter reality.
1. Willy Covary walks down a Bacongo street. Willy is a “sapeur”—a member of a Congolese social movement, La Sape, which is based around fashion. Sapeurs have a particular way of walking, with long, fast, self-confident steps. Willy, known as the “attacant du pointe” is one of the most famous sapeurs in Brazzaville, the capital. © Héctor Mediavilla
2. B. Mouzieto in Bacongo. The sapeur Bienvenu Mouzieto poses in front of his house in the Bacongo neighbourhood of Brazzaville, Congo. © Noorderlicht Photography
3. Untitled. The sapeur Severin, also known as the Japanese ambassador, shows a portrait of his father, who was also a sapeur. As one can see in the background, most Congolese are quite religious. Sapeurs tend towards the Catholic or Christian evangelist churches. © Héctor Mediavilla
4. Ghost and Bull, Dodo Masquerade, Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, 2009 © Phyllis Galembo. Courtesy Alex Daniëls, Reflex
5. Lady in Pink with Zebra Scarf © Jim Naughten
6. Afrometals #4, from the series, “Afrometals” 2012 © Danielle Tamagni
7. Cindy and Nkuli, from the series, “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder” © Nontsikelelo Veleko. Courtesy Goodman Gallery