Yvon Ngassam: Bandjoun

For quite some time now Bandjoun, the most important Bamileke chiefdom in West Cameroon, has been known on the international art scene as the place where Cameroonian artist Barthélémy Toguo established his art centre Bandjoun Station.

In 2017 Yvon Ngassam, spent a two-month residency at Bandjoun Station. There, he developed his Bandjoun series, a body of work presenting various aspects of life in the chiefdom, from local administration, religion, education and economy through to architecture, landscape, and how life is affected by the urbanisation brought about by modernisation.

Presented here is a selection from this series. Some of this photographs were exhibited at OGU MAG gallery in Tokyo in August 2017 and OTHNI, Yaounde in November 2017.

One of the most promising photographers from Cameroon, Yvon Ngassam will take part in the Dakar Biennial 2018 curated by Simon Njami.

Read Yvon Ngassam’s biography and view more of his work here.

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All images © Yvon Ngassam.

Yvon Ngassam: Quiet

Quiet (2015) is a photographic series immersing the viewer in the space that immediately follows a sexual encounter between a man and a woman. In these images Yvon Ngassam reveals moments of silence and concerns for an unknown tomorrow, as well as the presence of the other, complicity and tenderness.

Exhibited in different forms, Quiet also includes writings by Cameroonian linguist Gilbert Babena that are not descriptive but are rather feelings expressed by a couple after an intimate act, as drawn from his own love life and fantasies.

Sonic elements created by music producer Rass Nganmo also add to the series, taking the audience to moments of relaxation, plenitude, tension and doubt.

See Yvon Ngassam biography.

Click on any image to view the photo gallery

Quiet (2015) est une série photographique qui nous plonge dans l’univers faisant immédiatement suite à un acte sexuel entre un homme et une femme. Dans ces images, Yvon Ngassam s’attache tant à révéler les moments de silence et l’inquiétude d’un après inconnu, que la présence de l’autre, la complicité, la tendresse.

Exposée sous différentes formes, Quiet intègre aussi des écrits du linguiste camerounais Gilbert Babena qui ne sont pas descriptifs mais expriment les ressentis d’un couple après l’acte intime, en se basant à la fois sur ses vécus amoureux et fantasmagoriques.

Des éléments sonores créés par le producteur de musique Rass Nganmo viennent compléter la série, renvoyant l’auditeur à des moments de relâchement, de plénitude, de tension et de doute.

Voir la biographie d’Yvon Ngassam.

Blaise Djilo: Feou Kake

Feou Kake (or Feo Kage) is a Tupuri (North Cameroon/South West Chad) harvest celebration held for a week at the end of the rainy season and marking the New Year.

The ceremony involves the sacrifice of a rooster by the Wan Dore – Tupuri people’s supreme or spiritual leader – to give thanks for the abundance and quality of the harvest. It is also accompanied by dances performed by men holding long sticks, energized in the euphoria of Bilbil (local beer). Once inaugurated by the spiritual leader at the bottom of Mount Illi in Fianga (Chad), the festivities continue in the rural and urban local Cameroonian communities.

This selection is the latest in a series of images taken by Blaise Djilo between 2012 and February 2017. Through individual portraits, group pictures of dancers and musicians, and dynamic low-angle shots, the photographs capture both the ceremonial tone and playfulness of the event. They also show male figures embodying a masculinity while, in some instances, assuming a female persona.

Djilo’s documentation of Feou Kake is both a testimony to the survival of traditions in contemporary Cameroon and Chad, and a recording of the adoption of new visual codes through some of the outfits and accessories, as well as the performed gender interchangeability.

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Return to Blaise Djilo‘s page.

Blaise Djilo: Against the Current

Blaise Djilo‘s series Against the Current (À Contre-Courant), 2015, presents the legacy of the late Aladji Garou, one of N’Gaoundere (North Cameroon) dignitaries who, in the late 1980s, built a religious and educational facility to help foster the integration of the local Muslim youth within civil society.

Located in the Mosque is a French-Arabic primary school which initial remit was to offer formal education to early-married young girls and women. This school receives more than 500 male and female pupils every year and also provides evening lessons for women wishing to take their Certificate of Primary Education. Alongside national curriculum, those pupils are also taught Arabic and the Coran.

Djilo’s images document the school and pupils, the decorative motives, and the Mosque’s architectural elements often presented through sharp photographic angles.

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Return to Blaise Djilo‘s page.

Patrick Wokmeni: Nocturnal meanderings

These pictures by Patrick Wokmeni span six years of photography (2006-2012) through snapshots taken in Cameroon, DRC and Belgium. ‘Nocturnal meanderings’ reflect Wokmeni’s fascination for nightlife and its uninhibited world. This selection takes the viewer from scenes of parties in New-Bell (Douala), to drunk-like haziness, leading to a bedroom in Brussels Red Light District.

Find out more on Patrick Wokmeni.

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Ces images de Patrick Wokmeni couvrent six ans de photographie (2006-2012) à travers des clichés saisis au Cameroun, en RDC et en Belgique. ‘Errances Nocturnes’ reflète sa fascination pour le monde de la nuit et les désinhibitions qu’il entraîne. Cette sélection transporte le spectateur des fêtes de New-Bell (Douala), au flou de nuits arrosées, finissant dans une chambre du Quartier Rouge de Bruxelles.

En savoir plus sur Patrick Wokmeni.

Wilfried Nakeu

Wilfried Nakeu was born in 1990 in Yaounde. He studied computer science before venturing into visual arts. His encounter with Cameroonian artist Alioum Moussa introduced him to multidisciplinary practices ranging from new media and video art, through to slam, music and photography.

This selection is part of a series developed during Nakeu’s visit to Benin as part of the 4th edition of Quinzaine de la photographie, photography encounters held in Benin in Oct-Nov 2017. While the work focuses on environment, water, fluvial activities including fishing, and women salt farmers, it also highlights makeshift achitecture and structures. Houses, roofs, partition walls, a jetty, boats and fishing devices blend in materials as diverse as grass, corrugated iron, wood, sticks and nets.

In addition to his sharp perspectives, Nakeu’s compositions are also imbued with a rich vibrancy. Paradoxically, here it is often the case that the rich colourful textures emanate from a blanket of waste. Which speaks to the living conditions of local inhabitants and traders whose daily life is a testimony to their resilience in adverse conditions.

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All images © Wilfried Nakeu.

Modes’Emploi

Modes’Emploi (2013) is a collaborative project developed by artists Alioum Moussa (Cameroon), Mariko Kadi (Niger) and Pedro Pablo Viñuales (Spain). The project first started as a crossed perspective between Alioum Moussa’s reflection on second-hand clothes and fashion, following from his residency at the Pistoletto Foundation in 2010, and Pedro Pablo Viñuales photographic manipulations, to which Mariko Kadi’s added her stylistic touch.

The series comprises of 12 dyptichs, each with one assemblage of repurposed fabric and other materials, alongside photographic portraits or compositions of models wearing an outfit made out of the material used in the assemblage. The portfolio presented here consists of the photographs. The different dates on each piece corresponds to a specific chronological narrative that accompanies the series.

The title of this work refers to the ideas of fashion (mode) and instructions (mode d’emploi), as a way to inspire new ethical approaches and guidelines in fashion.

Modes’Emploi was exhibited in Niamey, Niger, in 2013, then as part of Dak’Art 2016 Off programme and Ziguinchor, Senegal.

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Biographies

Aloum Moussa, born in 1977 in Maroua, lives and works in Yaounde.
Alioum Moussa’s artistic practice spans various media including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, video, installation and performance. Through this multidisciplinary practice, Moussa seeks to transform and create declinations of refused or found objects to which he gives a new lease of life. This process has become a constent preoccupation and has led him to reflect on the environment and on issues related to the industrialisation of contemporary society. His work is tainted with irory, self-derision, humour, poetry and tales of everyday life.
Since 2006, he has been consistently using photography. His recent research focuses on history of cotton, its production and transformation and the working conditions of women and children in the textile industry.
Alioum Moussa’s work has been exhibited internationally. He is one of the artists of Performatik Biennial 2017 in Brussels, Belgium.

Mariko Kadi is a self-taught Nigerien artist and fashion designer. Her ecological approach to fashion is reflected in her use of natural fabrics such as cotton and linen, silk, African sarong and rags.
Kadi uses the fashion brand K’Mariko Art. She organises a yearly fashion show in Niamey. She has also taken part in fashion events both in Africa and in the US.

Pedro Pablo Viñuales, born in 1966 in Urda, Spain, lives and works in Dakar, Senegal.
Pedro Pablo Viñuales holds a PhD in Hispanic Literature but has also had a long-standing interest in painting and photography. Leading both an academic and creative life, Viñuales worked as Professor of Hispano-American Literature at the École Normale Supérieure and University of Yaounde 1, but also photographed and exhibited portraits of young Cameronian artists and collaborated with Baobab dance company.
In Angola, he engaged with artists from os internacionalistas. There he held painting and photography exhibitions and participated in the first Luanda Triennial.
Viñuales has lived in Costa Rica, Niamey and is now based in Dakar where he works with the Spanish international cooperation. His encounter with Alioum Moussa in Niamey led to the creation of Modes’Emploi.  

Dominique Catton

Dominique Catton is an international photographer and multimedia artist based in Yaounde. Her work includes freelance assignments as content creator and visual communications strategist with NGOs and UN agencies worldwide. She also teaches photography and video. She has exhibited in Europe, the United States and Cameroon, including at Salon 2016, Photofusion, London; RAVY 2016, Yaounde; Open 2015, Peckham Platform, London. Her images have also been published in Rolling Stone magazine, Inside Art Magazine and La Repubblica.

Thirteen Stolen Smiles is a story raising awareness of child marriage. Photographed in Eastern Cameroon in 2016, it looks at the experience of four young girls (Elisabeth, Mirabelle, Mariam and Delphine) married or promised for marriage at the age of 13.

In addition to its focus on an issue of social concern, the series blends portraiture with details of features or pieces of fabric, as if to create a proximity between the photographed young girls and the viewer. It also presents multiple interpretations of home from indoor spaces to desolate ruins left in the village, almost as a metaphor for a life’s journey poised between loss, of innocence, of one’s freedom, and the resilience of those teen mothers now carers of even younger lives.

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All images copyright © Dominique Catton.

Samo Seymo

Samo Seymo’s work is predominantly concerned with the gaze and self-representation. Contemplating the Other Side (2014) is an experimental series born out of a photographic accident that led him to explore a variety of digital possibilities including the aesthetics of archive photography. Here, Samo captures deformations created by water reflections. His figures embrace undetermined sculptural forms, sometimes resembling painted shapes.

In this work he found inspiration in painting rather than photography. He notably cites André Combas, free figuration, and Impressionism of which his water portraits convey similar effects.

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Le travail de Samo Seymo s’intéresse principalement au regard et à l’auto-représentation. La série Contempler de l’Autre Côté (2014) est un travail expérimental né d’un accident photographique le menant à explorer une variété de possibilités numériques, dont l’esthétique de la photographie d’archive. Ici, Samo saisit les déformations créées par les reflets sur l’eau. Ses figures adoptent des formes sculpturales indéterminées s’apparentant parfois à des formes peintes.

Dans ce travail c’est davantage la peinture qui l’a inspiré que la photographie. Il cite notamment les œuvres d’André Combas, la figuration libre et l’impressionnisme dont ses portraits sur l’eau donnent des effets similaires.

Steve Mvondo

Steve Mvondo

Born in 1988 in Yaounde, Steve Mvondo is a self-taught photographer based in Douala whose interest in lens-based practices emerged in 2012. His work explores various photographic genres but he is mostly passionate about capturing images that narrate a story and bring the viewer to a place of questioning or contemplation.

Mvondo was a laureate of the Wiki Loves Monuments 2013 competition in Cameroon. In 2015, he founded Steve Mvondo Photography and is artistic director at Akiba Studio, an audiovisual content production company based in Douala. He is also interested in writing and staging in the field of performing arts.

Crown of Beauty (2016) is a celebration of African beauty and culture through portraiture and the art of head wrap. The sitters’ poses were inspired by Queen Nefertiti. This series is a tribute to African women.

Photo: Steve Mvondo, head wraps by Domy Hod.

 

Steve Mvondo

Né en 1988 à Yaoundé, Steve Mvondo est un photographe autodidacte basé à Douala qui découvre sa passion pour les pratiques visuelles en 2012. Il explore différents genres photographiques mais nourrit un intérêt particulier pour les images qui narrent une histoire et amènent le spectateur à un lieu de questionnement ou de contemplation.

Mvondo a été un des lauréats du concours Wiki Loves Monuments 2013 au Cameroun. En 2015, il fonde Steve Mvondo Photography et est directeur artistique chez Akiba Studio, une société de production de contenus audiovisuels basée à Douala. Il s’intéresse également à l’écriture et la mise en scène dans le domaine des arts du spectacle.

Crown of Beauty (2016) célèbre la culture et la beauté africaines à travers le portrait et l’art du foulard. Les poses sont inspirées de la Reine Néfertiti. Cette série est un tribut à la femme africaine.

Max Mbakop

Max Mbakop’s series is a work-in-progress documenting the emergence of roller-skating and BMX as part of the Douala’s urban cultures. His images show the social bonding of two different groups as well as their interactions. They also attempt to capture the figures performed by the riders and skaters up until the night.

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Cette série de Max Mbakop est un travail en cours documentant l’émergence du roller et du BMX faisant partie des cultures urbaines à Douala. Ses images montrent le lien social de deux groupes distincts ainsi que leurs interactions, de même qu’elles s’attachent à saisir les figures effectuées par les cyclistes et les patineurs, auxquelles ils s’entraînent jusqu’à la nuit tombée.

Rodrig Mbock

Rodrig Mbock: Bendskinners (2015)

The term “benskin” from the English words “to bend (one’s) skin” means to bend the body. It also designates a traditional dance from West Cameroon. A dance once at the pinnacle of pop music by a famed band named Kouchouam Mbada that made it the basis of its repertoire over the last two decades. Indeed this dance involves stooping while performing a legwork and moving from left to right according to the rhythm.

The expression as we know it today appeared in the early 1990s in support of the political opposition’s operation Dead Cities that consisted in shutting down the country’s economy. This tense sociopolitical situation compelled motorists, taxi drivers (yellow cabs) to withdraw from the roads for fear of reprisals.

In those days, in major cities, especially Douala (centre of this social scuffle), the most convenient means of transport became the motorbike; small black (A50) motorcycles that require of the riders and their clients to assume a bent position once on the bike. And so was born a new socio-aesthetic posture.

Now well anchored within Cameroon’s reality, the benskin (moto taxi) as it is known, provides a source of income to young and long-term unemployed people. The increased economical crisis in the late 1990s drew more people to resort to this means of transport to make a living. It is worth specifying that initially, and according to the legislation drafted by the administrative authorities, this economic activity was meant to only serve cut off zones that are hardly accessible to four-wheeled vehicles (semi-urban zones). However faced with a growing demand in urban zones, and sustained by the moto taxi-riders’ boldness, the phenomenon spread out to forbidden zones, resulting in a conflict between the most intrepid of them and both the local government and the police.

In keeping with his aesthetic research, generally fed with strong social themes, Rodrig Mbock attempts to explore the fantastic and fanciful universe of these unlikely “heros” who defy bad weather and face up to risks of all sorts to feed their families. Between satire and celebration, Mbock uses his lens to tell lived stories while bringing in the magic of photography retouch, an out-of-the-ordinary touch tainted with melancholy. The result of this immersion in “troubled waters” is an impetuous series of digital photographs accompanied with an installation hinting at an insightful gaze attuned to technical innovation.

Landry Mbassi

Biography:

Rodrig Mbock was born in 1978. He lives and works in Yaounde. A self-taught photographer, he focuses on documentary and uses his practice as a means of communication that enables him to bear witness of his time.
He is one of founders of the photographers collective Kamera and has collaborated with international organisations such as UNESCO, UNICEF and World Press Photo.

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Rodrig Mbock: Bendskinners (2015)

Le terme « benskin » – inspiré du verbe anglais to bend skin signifie littéralement, courber le corps. Il désigne parrallèlement une danse traditionnelle de l’Ouest Cameroun. Une danse jadis portée au pinacle des musiques de variétés par un groupe de renom nommé Kouchouam Mbada qui en a fait la base de son répertoire tout au long des deux dernières décennies. Cette danse est en effet pratiquée en se voûtant et en effectuant un jeu de jambes au sol, tout en se déplaçant de temps en temps vers la gauche ou la droite, au gré du rythme.

L’expression telle qu’on la connaît de nos jours apparaît au tout début des années 90, à la faveur du mouvement de grève qui fait suite à l’opération « villes mortes » appelée par l’opposition et visant à paralyser l’économie du pays. La situation sociopolitique tendue oblige en effet les automobilistes, chauffeurs de taxis (véhicules jaunes), à se retirer de la circulation par peur de représailles. À cette époque, dans les villes majeures du pays, mais surtout à Douala (cœur de la rixe sociale), le moyen de locomotion le plus adéquat est la moto. Il s’agit de très petites motos (A 50), noires, qui obligent les motocyclistes et leurs clients à adopter cette position presque courbée une fois sur la moto. Une nouvelle attitude esthético-sociale voit ainsi le jour.

Désormais une réalité contextuelle bien ancrée dans les mœurs camerounaises, le benskin (moto taxi) comme on l’appelle communément, constitue aujourd’hui une solution de subsistance pour nombreux chômeurs, jeunes et moins jeunes. Face à la recrudescence de la crise économique vers fin 90, nombreux sont ceux qui se sont en effet trouvés obligés de s’engager dans ce moyen de transport pour gagner leur vie. Il est utile de préciser qu’initialement, et selon la législation voulue par les autorités administratives, cette activité économique est censée desservir uniquement des zones enclavées auxquelles les automobiles à quatre roues n’ont que très difficilement accès (zone semi urbaine). Mais face à la demande de plus en plus haute en zone urbaine, et appuyée par l’impertinence des moto-taximen eux-mêmes, le phénomène se retrouve étendu à des zones interdites, au coeur des villes. D’où le constant conflit qui oppose ces motocyclistes intrépides aux agents des municipalités et aux forces de l’ordre.

Fidèle à ses recherches esthétiques usuelles, qui en général se nourrissent de thèmes sociaux forts, Rodrig Mbock entend explorer ici l’univers somme toute fantas(ti)que et improbable de ces « héros » qui au quotidien bravent intempéries et risques de toutes sortes pour nourrir leur famille. Entre satire et célébration, le photographe prend le parti de raconter différentes histoires vécues au travers de son objectif tout en y apportant, par la magie de la retouche photo, une touche à la fois insolite et teintée de mélancolie. Le résultat de cette immersion en eaux troubles est une impétueuse série de photographies numériques qu’accompagne une installation, où se perçoit en filigrane, l’expression d’un regard profond et toujours au fait des innovations techniques.

Landry Mbassi

Biographie:

Rodrig Mbock est né en 1978. Il vit et travaille à Yaoundé. Photographe autodidacte, sa pratique est axée sur le documentaire et est pour lui un moyen de communication lui permettant de témoigner de son époque.

Il est l’un des fondateurs du collectif Kamera et a collaboré avec des organismes internationaux dont l’UNESCO, l’UNICEF et World Press Photo.