We interview Zohra Opoku on her series Textures, soon to be exhibited at Lagos Photo Festival 2015.
In 2010 Lagos Photo Festival launched as the first and only international photography festival in Nigeria, Africa’s booming economic centre. Over the course of a month the festival creates a platform for exhibition and discussion of the African design.
The sixth edition of Lagos Photo Festival Designing Futures, welcomes 22 international artists exploring identity, ecology and culture. As the opening of the festival quickly approaches on 24 October we interview each of the photographers to gain some understanding of their inspirations behind their works.
The Ghanian, Accra based artist, Zohra Opoku shares her inspirations and beliefs with us as she describes her work processes, which sounds almost therapeutic. As an artist working with installation, video and photography, she often draws inspiration from the natural world: the sassa (the word for “outside soul” from the Ashanti tribe) and the earth. Respecting our physical sphere as she explores the body and its relationship to texture and dress, she examines fashion’s political and psychological role in relation to African history and identity. Her faceless portraits in the series Textures continue her endless search for understanding and growth as an individual and as an artist.
What can we expect from your work at this year’s LagosPhoto?
I am telling narratives on energies within my series called TEXTURES, which I developed over the last three years. It is constantly growing. It shows a connection between the content of my other works: SIDESPECIFIC and the BILLBOARDPROJECT.
I also started to research on self-portraiture and will show parts of the results during LagosPhoto.
What themes did you explore?
Basically morphology by using individual dress-codes and natural backdrops in portraits and self-portraiture draped in nature.
What are some of your greatest inspirations?
PSYCHIC ENERGY. I find it quite easy to read energies and create spiritual connections with places and situations, as long they are positive for me.
NATURE. I am raised to respect and appreciate my natural environment. It is the source to bring peace into my life, but also into my work.
GHANA. I can’t explain what I feel in Ghana, which I can’t find anywhere else. Maybe because a part of me was always there if not physically.
What were some of your inspirations for the work you will be exhibiting in Lagos?
The entity or force of a spirit: In the African world the Western differentiation between consciousness and unconsciousness does not exist. Africans invented different names for the soul, which can be located outside a body. It is called “sassa” by the Ashantis.
In my disguise practices I capture on what we can’t see with our physical eye — the dynamic spirit sassa.
What was your creation process like and how long was preparation?
The process is constant and will never end.
What do you do when you hit a creative roadblock?
I think my challenge is rather trying not to loose my way within a body of work. I have too many ambitions within my projects, creative roadblocks could be helpful to refocus I guess. Why not embrace it, when we hit it?
How does it feel to be presenting your work during Lagos Photo?
It is one of those really rewarding moments of being an artist.
How can having a collective of African creativity be important?
It is essential to exchange experiences and learn from each other to grow (up) together.
What do you feel is the role of art and photography in African development?
For me photography and art are primarily telling a perspective, but they give perspectives (possibilities) for others at the same time.
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