Joanna Choumable Captures Burkina Faso’s Scarring Practice

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Joanna Choumable is a photographer based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, who works primarily with conceptual portraiture as a form of documentation. She uses photography to explore her own identity and those of other African myriad cultures around her.

Her first ever UK show, held at 50 Goldborne, in partnership with LAGOSPHOTO, is on until April 2nd, and presents a powerful and poetic look into members of the Burkina Faso tribe who bear the Haabré; scars from incisions in their skin. The practice is disappearing due to the pressure of religious and state authorities and here Choumable captures now rare examples of this. Set in a strikingly contemporary background, the studio lit portraits hang on the plain white walls of 50 Goldborne where the viewer is confronted immediately by the scars of her subjects. These people, we are told, used to be the norm but are becoming excluded in their own social surroundings. Dressed in contemporary clothes they highlight the divide between the past and the present in contemporary Africa.

Yet it is not uncomfortable to look at the portraits, nor awkward or troubling as one might expect with such intimate views of something so unknown to the majority of London’s passer-by’s. Instead it is revelatory, its clear that these photographs illustrate the complexities of African identity today, where age-old traditions are set directly against a rapidly growing contemporary African culture.

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