Photographs of Africa often promote one narrative, and a simple one at that. Mickalene Thomas’s collection of work in the just closed Daniele Tamagani & Africolors show at Danziger Projects isn’t having any of that. Thomas, who is best known for rhinestone studded elaborate paintings, works in a different medium here but to a similar teeming visual affect. Her work stands out from the rest of the more photojournalistic or fashion based images in the Africolors show in both scope and scale.

Two women, or perhaps the same woman, photographed twice, sit and are photographed in the same space. The first sit with her feet planted firmly on the floor, ankles together. Her head is covered, her dress simple, her wedding ring visible. She sits with anticipation, looking up eagerly just past the viewer, as if looking over our heads for someone to enter this waiting room.

The second woman, in the same space, is placid. Her hair is loose, the loud print of her dress demands attention, her four inch heels are on display. Her shoulders are back, her posture is confident. She isn’t waiting: she’s inviting.

The series, Two Wives: Nollywood, takes its cues from the low budget dramas that have put Nigeria’s film industry on the map and demonstrates the possibility for multiple narratives even within the same space.

 

Glenna Gordon

Glenna Gordon is a photographer and writer who splits her time between Brooklyn and West Africa. Her work has appeared in Time, The New York Times, Newsweek, and elsewhere. She also blogs about photographic representations of Africa, her own work, music videos from Africa, and more. And, yes, she took that picture.

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