We loved the Lagos Photo Festival and it was certainly a whole lot less stuffy than your traditional art fest.
This was a great image by C.Kabiru from his series C-STUNNERS, an imaginative piece of fantasy showing the artist wearing spectacular eye wear and a loopy hybrid of performance, photography, installation and fashion.
Another highlight was the Afronauts series by Cristina de Middel - an eccentric piece of story telling, and an impossible flight of fancy that only exists in pictures: after gaining independence in 1964, Zambia had a dream of starting a space program that would put the first African on the moon. But the initiative morphed into an exotic episode in African history when the U.N. declined their support and one of the astronauts, a 16-year-old girl, became pregnant. De Middel’s images re-imagine that story with a very different ending. You can see the whole series here – we loved it.
But the indisputable main attraction was Samuel Fosso’s new series The Emperor of Africa. Famous for his self-portraits and represented by galleries around the world, it’s all credit to Fosso that he chose to launch his latest series at the more small-scale Lagos Festival. Although born in Cameroon, he grew up in Nigeria during the Biafran war, and said during his speech at the launch of the Photo Festival that returning here was an emotional moment. Now 51 years old, he was just 5 when he lost his mother during the conflict and had to hide in the forest with his grandparents. He was the only child in his family to survive. He now lives and works in the Central African Republic.
In his new series, Fosso explores African and Chinese relations by taking on the role of the former Chinese Communist Chairman Chinese Mao Zedong in his images. As always with his work, he himself is subject, object and creator. Fosso was one of the pioneers of the photographic self-portrait - or autoportrait as he calls them - and was relentlessly curating his own image two decades ago and at the same time as Cindy Sherman’s work first came to fame. In our era of the Selfie, his work seems more pertinent than ever.