Q&A: Exploring African Mythic Worlds with Photographer Ayana V. Jackson

Ayesha Habib, Nuvo Magzine, September 19, 2019

"Narratives of colonial Africa have, historically, only been told from the colonizer’s perspective: a one-sidedness that has perpetuated the perception of the continent as one characterized by savagery and victimhood. The potency of these ideas has bled well into the contemporary. From archival images of staged and exoticized African life taken by colonial Europeans to modern images of “poverty porn”, the nuanced reality of Africa has been flattened by the influential power of tailored images. African identities have been racialized and stereotyped, while those in the diaspora, too, are unconsciously boxed into these normalized perceptions.

American photographer and filmmaker Ayana V. Jackson counters these narratives through photographs that re-create colonial scenes, mostly using her own body as the subject. She fights fire with fire: through these performance photographs, Jackson unweaves the threads of 19th and 20th century understandings of the African continent, while also contemplating the layered identities of the African diaspora worldwide. Her work is as aesthetically striking as it is arresting; she poses in grand operatic costumes in some pieces, regally nude in others—contrasting and contradicting the historical photographs that often degrade African subjects."

 

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