I’ve been waiting for an exhibition that would sucker-punch me upon entry this year. An exhibition that would stir a whirlwind of emotions at each turn and, yesterday, I found it. For reasons unknown I had been putting off visiting the Autograph ABP, where Omar Victor Diop’s exhibition is up, for a little while; I had underestimated the magnitude of Diop’s work and what it would mean to be in the presence of his photography rather than merely liking each post that I see as I aimlessly scroll through Instagram. I had happened to be passing by Autograph on Thursday evening and decided to finally step in.
First off, who is Omar Victor Diop?
Diop (b. 1980) is a Senegalese artist who found and developed an interest in photography during his formative years. His interest was a means of showcasing the diverse nature of his surroundings and other African societies. In his latest body of work at Autograph, Diop takes us back in time through African history, struggles, movements and heroes on the continent and in the Diaspora; it is an educative experience that I would encourage taking younger children and adults to, to help broaden their knowledge.
In this recent project, Diop showcases his immense editing skills as most of his pieces are self-portraits layered on to create the illusion of a group. He is also accompanied by a woman companion, Khadija Boye, in some portraits where she also represents a moment in time and/or a woman of great significance.
Here, in the Diaspora section, Diop’s work reminds me of the sublime Samuel Fosso as he poses as heroes and notable individuals of African history inspired in part by paintings and other photographs.
At the exhibition, you are giving a brief and still educative biography on who these figures were and what the historical event that took place meant for the continent. I won’t divulge too much information on each piece because 1) I don’t have the range for some and 2) They can be found at the exhibition.
In the picture above, Diop catapults us back to a critical time in the fight to end apartheid as students from higher education institutions banded together to protest against the introduction of the colonial language, Afrikaans, being the primary language of instruction.
To some, it is known as The Women’s War. To others – me included – it is the Aba Women’s Riots. I think it is significant to name the origin of these women as it adds an extra layer of context to the magnitude of such a revolt. These were Igbo women who fought against the colonial domination in their rural area due to unfair treatment and proposed plans to increase taxes for women market traders. These women used traditional practices to silence the men and British authorities that thought the Matriarchal system was against the standard way of life; the women would chant and dance through the night, break into European stores and Banks (Barclays Bank) and would break into prisons and release prisoners. They were, essentially, feminist anti-establishment activists.
Not wanting to spill every single thing that will be waiting for you when you visit The Autograph – and you will – I shall end it here with this exquisite portrait of the Black Panther Party community funded project in 1969 that served over 20,000 young children free breakfast.
My photography skills, or lack thereof, do not do justice in capturing the beauty and cleanness in Diop’s work. It is literally an exhibition you have to experience in person to appreciate Diop’s skill. Thankfully, the Autograph will be showing this exhibition till the 3rd of November 2018 and it is free entry so there are little to no excuses. The gallery is wheelchair accessible and open Tuesdays to Saturday 11am – 6pm except for Thursdays where they are open till 9pm. I implore every single one of you to dedicate 30 minutes or more to see this delightfully educational exhibition. Bring a friend, partner, sibling or parent. Bring a pen and paper. Bring yourself.