London Exhibitions: Black Shade Projects


Black Shade Projects: Inaugural Youssouf Sogodogo photography exhibition in collaboration with Ozwald Boateng, London, 27 September – 18 October 2019

Youssouf Sogodogo, Bogouni (Huts), 1980s series. Limited edition black and white silver gelatin photograph. Courtesy the artist and Black Shade Projects
Youssouf Sogodogo, Bogouni (Huts), 1980s series.
Limited edition black and white silver gelatin photograph. Courtesy the artist and Black Shade Projects

Black Shade Projects announces their inaugural exhibition from Malian artist Youssouf Sogodogo, presented in collaboration with fashion designer Ozwald Boateng. Titled Crossroads, the exhibition runs from Friday 27 September to Friday 18 October 2019, coinciding with Frieze and 1-54 fairs in London; held in Boateng’s Savile Row space, it is curated by artist and Black British Female Artist Collective (BBFA) founder Enam Gbewonyo.

Black Shade Projects is a new arts platform and pop-up exhibition programme, focussed on profiling photography and photo-based work from across Africa and the diaspora. Founded by art advisor and African photography specialist Myriem Baadi in 2019, Black Shade Projects is dedicated to championing previously silenced and overlooked African artists, as well as supporting emerging talent.

Exhibiting for the first time in 10 years, Sogodogo presents a significant body of ongoing work titled Hairstyles of Mali (Les Tresses du Mali). Begun in Mali in the 1980s, the series explores the culture and storytelling of hair braiding. Preserving the craft through his photographs, Sogodogo highlights the importance of this shared culture, both within and beyond the African continent.

A response to the staged photographs characteristic of African photography’s ‘golden era’ (1950s-80s), Sogodogo’s work sought to more authentically represent his lived experience. Though many documented beauty practices, Sogodogo focussed in on elements such as hair, enlarging and repeating the images – until he felt they more honestly translated the life he saw in front of him. The process has also become a method of conservation for the artist, compelled by an observation that the growing predominance of wig shops across the continent are threatening this craft – thus eroding important elements of Malian and African heritage.

A traditional and domestic event, the process captured by Sogodogo offers an insight into an intimate moment for both subject and artist (whose daughter is a skilled braider) – often sourcing his models from his close group of friends and family. As a farmer and a son of a farmer himself, the macro photography also reflects an almost agricultural tracking within the geometric and graphic aesthetic of the braids, likened by the artist to passages, or pathways, intersecting to create crossroads.

British-Ghanaian designer Ozwald Boateng has had a transformational impact on menswear for almost three decades, with a design aesthetic rooted in Savile Row tradition but defined by international style, detail, and artistry. On show with Black Shade Projects is a curated selection from Boateng’s famed Africanism collection. Fusing woven heritages with contemporary design, the line seeks to similarly offer new visions for African culture, empowered by ancestral narratives. Described as ‘a casted net that reaches far beyond fashion’ the Africanism collection is here re-envisioned alongside Sogodogo’s photography, presenting a cross-disciplinary exploration of beauty, fashion and culture from across Africa, and beyond.

Myriem Baadi, Founder of Black Shade Projects comments:

‘In realising Black Shade Project’s inaugural exhibition, it was imperative that we not only highlight a lesser-discussed talent – that of the brilliant Youssouf Sogodogo – but also redefine ways in which we interact with shared cultures. The decision to host Crossroads in collaboration with Boateng was deliberate, not only to highlight out shared concern with authentic histories and new narratives for Africa, but also to demonstrate that art can be powerfully enjoyed and displayed beyond the art world’s traditional settings.’

Ozwald Boateng comments:

“I think it is very important for us to immerse ourselves in art. Black Shade Projects is breaking down barriers and putting the spotlight on an African artist who perhaps would not get this exposure. Historically art has often been used as a point of reference to reflect society and the different cultures that exist within it; Crossroads is a perfect example of this and I think it should be celebrated.”

Further Black Shade Projects exhibitions are planned for Marrakech (February 2020) and New York (May 2020).

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