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Africa Now, Africa in the Future

Contemporary African art photography exhibited in North America tends toward provocative, socially conscious and outward-facing (us/we) perspectives, in contrast to quiet and often intensely personal (I/me) art photography. “In Their Own Form,” on view through July 8 at Columbia College Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Photography, highlights Pan-African approaches and sensibilities. Featuring 33 photographic and video works by 13 African and African-American artists, the show reflects “a range of Afro-Diasporic experiences,” most of which are informed by Africa’s troubled history. Curator Sheridan Tucker Anderson selected works that draw on “Afrofuturist” themes to show “the myriad ways blackness might hope to exist without the imposition of oppression, racism, and stereotypes ever present in Western cultures,”according to the exhibition literature.

As that literature also explains, Afrofuturism is a genre combining science fiction, fantasy, technology, Afrocentrism and non-Western mythologies “to reimagine and repurpose the fraught past, present and future of the transnational black experience.” The politically charged works, many of them rich in metaphor, allegory and symbolism, include portraiture, fashion, documentary and conceptual photography. The styles range from subdued to boldly colorful to surreal. Kudzanai Chiurai’s “We Live in Silence III,” for instance, exemplifies his elaborately-constructed allegorical works that challenge colonial histories and reimagine the contemporary narrative. Images from Fabriece Monteiro’s apocalyptic “Prophecy” series, meanwhile, are an indictment of the exploitation of African resources and resulting environmental degradation. Other works in the exhibition are by Alun Be, Jim Chuchu, Teju Cole, Ayana V. Jackson, Mohau Modisakeng, Zanele Muholi, Aïda Muluneh, Paulo Nazareth, Zohra Opoku, Alexis Peskine and Mary Sibande.

—David Walker

“In Their Own Form”
April 12 to July 8
Museum of Contemporary Photography
at Columbia College Chicago

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