We interview Delphine Gatinois on her series “Les Génies”, 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.
Delphine Gatinois’ series of 13 photographs titled “Les Génies” (The Geniuses in english) were inspired by her travels through West Africa, specifically to Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal. Here she uncovered the ritual symbols and attire, woven and assembled with plants and nature that embody ancient traditions. Fascinated by the sacred forests and rituals she was immediately inspired to illustrate this aspect of culture in a series of portraits. Unique portraits that capture and camouflage simultaneously, echoing a spiritual journey that is to be felt deeper than it is seen. She further details her inspirations, experiences and processes below.
What can we expect from your work at this year’s LagosPhoto?
This work is created in different natural environments in West Africa. It evokes the mystical force of the plant world. “Les Génies” tells a unique relationship between man and nature which operates appearances and disappearances.
What themes did you explore?
The main theme is the genius, a force which takes form through natural elements. Plants and green color hold a major place in this work.
What are some of your greatest inspirations? What were some of your inspirations for the work you will be exhibiting in Lagos?
My sources of inspiration come from major orality, meetings and heard of stories. Mysticism inspires me a lot since my travels in Africa. I’m interested in the beliefs and symbolism of dreams in Islam. Ethnology is reflected in my work by my interest in sacred ritual objects and costumes.
The source of my present work began in Mali. I immediately had the head in pictures when I was told about the existence of plants masks. I was immediately drawn in and I began the project two years later. Then later while in Burkina Faso and Senegal I also encountered suits made of plants during ritual festivities.
What was your creation process like and how long was preparation?
At the beginning of this series I designed my costumes directly at the scene of the shoot. Once the images were complete I destroyed the suit to return it to its place of origin. In my ritual only the image remained. Then I wanted to work with the degradation of certain plants. The costumes were prepared upstream. Some took up to one week.
What do you do when you hit a creative roadblock?
I write, repeating all possible leads and then I borrow one that scares me the most.
How does it feel to be presenting your work during Lagos Photo?
I’m glad that this work will be shown in Lagos. This is the second time it will appear in Africa but this time with good visibility. I always hope for more stories that could make me continue this work in a new chapter…
What do you feel is the role of art and photography in African development?
Art allows everyone to express above all to listen to their imagination. In this concept of imagination leads to desire and perspectives. That’s what is important to get things moving.
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