Thu 28 Sep 2023 to Fri 1 Dec 2023
Artist: Angèle Etoundi Essamba
Doyle Wham is proud to present Africanesse: the UK’s first solo exhibition of renowned Cameroonian artist Angèle Etoundi Essamba.
The exhibition showcases Essamba’s groundbreaking series of vintage silver gelatin prints: black and white photographs of non-professional models, who range from family members to friends and acquaintances of the artist, to acquaintances she encountered on the streets of Amsterdam. Throughout her career, Essamba has foregrounded the female narrative, reflecting on the complex cultural identities of the modern African woman and inspiring subsequent generations of women photographers. Under the artist’s loving gaze, Black skin itself becomes the subject of the collection, questioning the traditional parameters of portraiture. Alongside the beauty of lustrous bare skin, Essamba's accessorises her subjects with swaths of fabric, traditional headwear, jewellery or body paint, challenging stereotypical presentations of Black women.
The exhibited artworks were hand-developed by the artist between 1985 and 2006, and are the last in her possession. These rare remaining works have received significant institutional interest in the last year, entering the prestigious collections of MoMA, The Boca Raton Museum of Art, and the Møller Collection in Norway, to name a few. In the artist’s own words:
I have always believed that black and white photography has a special, timeless power, lending itself intensely to imagination and containing an undeniable mystery. In 1985, I felt compelled to explore this mystery more deeply, leading me to create my first darkroom. It was a laborious process. I converted a storage unit myself, and for the next twenty years, I was engrossed in my darkroom practice. I spent weeks at a time on the development of each artwork, from preparing the baths, to choosing the right paper, then developing, stopping, fixing, rinsing, and drying each print in turn. Finally, the breathtaking moment when the image arose out of the bath was one of pure enjoyment and magic.
In 2006, my darkroom era came to an end and I transitioned to digital photography. Today, each lovingly developed vintage print from that period is special, and reflects the formation of an intimate relationship with my craft.
Angèle Etoundi Essamba was born in 1962 in Douala, Cameroon. She was educated in France and graduated from the School of Photography of Amsterdam where she lives and works today. In 2016, she was awarded the 'National Knight of the Order of Valor' by the President of the Republic of Cameroon, and in 2022, she had the honour of representing Cameroon at the 59th Venice Biennale.
Selected solo exhibitions include The Guggenheim (Bilbao), the African Union (Addis Ababa), the Musée National of Cameroon, Fototeca de Cuba, Museum Fünf Kontinente (Munich), the National Museum of Kenya (2011), LI-SPACE (Beijing), Museet for Fotokunst (Denmark), Contemporary Art Museum (Spain), Institut Français (Benin), Museum of Modern Art (NL), Tenerife Espacio de las Artes (Spain), BOZAR (Belgium) and Philadelphia Museum of Art (USA).