Location: 317 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5T 1G4, Canada
The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) presents work by contemporary African artists, Kelani Abass, Mallory Lowe Mpoka, and Abraham Oghobase.
United by their shared interest in the photographic histories of West and Central Africa—specifically studio portraiture – these artists are reimagining traditions with introspective, experimental, and critical approaches. Featuring family photographs, archival material, and mixed media objects, the exhibition is curated by Dr. Julie Crooks, Curator, Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora, and organized by the AGO.
“The works here on view reflect the enduring influence of the many African studio photographers who came before and look towards the future, demonstrating varying degrees of nostalgia and critique and reflecting their makers' unique perspectives and approaches,” says Dr. Julie Crooks, Curator, Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora.
In a series of three-dimensional objects Scrap of Evidence (2018 – 2021), Kelani Abass combines vintage photographs from private archives, paintings, and materials including metallic letters and symbols sourced from his father’s old printing press. In doing so, the Nigerian artist creates a dialogue between the past and present, analog and digital; reflecting his interest in memory, archives, and the passage of time. He notes: “Scrap of Evidence contributes to a historical recalling, in which I stand as mediator. I think I am responsible for protecting the materials left by my father.”
Finding in studio portraiture a means to explore family history and connection. Cameroonian-Belgian artist Mallory Lowe Mpoka presents The Self-Portrait Project, a diptych in which the artist incorporates her family photographs as a tribute to her Bamileke heritage. The staged black and white portraits are heavily inspired by the visual aesthetics set forth by pioneer photographers such as Samuel Fosso, Seydou Keita, and Jacques Toussele. The exhibition will also include her series What Lives Within Us (2023) which combines photography, collage, embroidery, and hand-dyed threads using red earth pigments to examine notions of home, kinship ties, and belonging. In his series Colonial Self-Portrait (2018),
Nigerian-born, Toronto-based artist Abraham Oghobase inscribes his image on a series of late 19th- and early 20th-century portraits of British administrators in colonial Nigeria. Through digital manipulation and costume, he re-envisions history by severing the photographs from their original context, thereby subverting the colonial gaze. Artist and artefact are fused in the process of interrogating memory and reimagining history through iconic self-portraits.
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Re-Mixing African Photography: Kelani Abass, Mallory Lowe Mpoka and Abraham Oghobase | Art Gallery of Ontario