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Britain to Launch Its First Major African Photography Prize

From the series 'Malaika Dotou Sankofa'
From the series 'Malaika Dotou Sankofa' | © Laeila Adjovi, image courtesy of the artist, all rights reserved
Stunning photography has risen from artists on the African continent as well as diaspora, and Britain’s first major African photography prize is placing a spotlight on their work.

The inaugural AMW Photography Prize nominated 15 photographers; five of those nominations will be showcased at a group exhibition that will take place in London. One photographer will be named the winner of the AMW Photography Prize and receive £5,000 towards a body of work.

Lindsey Oliver, CEO at Africa MediaWorks Ltd, remarks on the importance of spotlighting African photography. “The Western art world has been perilously slow to realise and recognise the richness, diversity and variety of photographic artworks from across the African continent, from fashion photography to documentary to conceptual modes of practice. These artists are worthy of international visibility, and we hope this prize and exhibition will help to facilitate that.”

It was important for the AMW Photography Prize to be hosted in Britain while engaging with advisors and collaborators from the African continent, in order to continue the cultural dialogue between the art communities in Europe and Africa. Nataal, a global media brand celebrating contemporary African arts and society, partnered with Africa MediaWorks Ltd to launch the prize.

The Nataal co-founder and editorial director of Nataal magazine, Helen Jennings, is on the judging panel and supports the prize for its plans to increase the visibility and support of African artists. Jennings expresses a hope that the AMW Photography Prize will go on to be “a meaningful annual moment in the UK’s art calendar that puts new names on the map”.

From the series 'No Problem' © Sabelo Mlangeni, courtesy Stevenson

Adenrele Sonariwo, founder of ReLe Gallery and curator of the Nigerian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2017, says in a press release that photography is an important medium for African artists because people often associate the continent with photojournalism. “That has led to an often-negative portrayal of African culture. But photography has the ability to tell balanced and broad stories from any region, culture and nation.”

The nominated artists explore numerous themes across several genres that highlight the quality and diversity of African photography. Among the shortlisted artists is Rahima Gambo, a Nigerian photographer who explores memory and spirituality through long-term visual projects. Her series Education is Forbidden is a mixed-media series that delves into the trauma and the aftermath of the Boko Haram conflict by juxtaposing images of students with text, audio and illustrations.

Redemption, an arresting series of monochromatic self-portraits by Nigerian artist Adeola Olagunju, uses elements of traditional healing rituals to engage themes of death and trauma. Olagunju’s static images imply movement, which encourages the imagination to perceive this series as a performance.

The work of Senegalese Alun Be focusses on the human condition in public spaces, inspired by his time studying for a Masters in architecture. His series Edification is an exploration of the impact of technology on society. He describes the series as intending to “provide a visual narrative of faith in a digital future in which humanity teeters on the cusp of fully merging with technology”.

Africa MediaWorks Photography Prize will be exhibited at HKS Architects, Great Titchfield Street, W1W 8BF, from 4 October 2018 at 6.30pm until 11 October 2018.