We interview Keyezua on her series “Stone Orgasms”, 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.
Keyezua’s daring, political and playful portrayal of sexuality has possesses a profound homage for African culture both contemporary and historically. As a graduate from the Royal Academy of Arts The Hague, she uses film, paintings, poems and sculptures to unfold contextual stories, in a universal capacity. At the upcoming Lagos Photo she will be exhibiting her work “Stone Orgasms”, an empowering series composed of strong fictional women who have survived female genital mutilation. To create “Stone Orgasms” Keyezua submerges herself in sorrow to be able to illustrate the image of a female survivor, she shares her process with us below.
What can we expect from your work at this year’s LagosPhoto?
Stone Orgasms, a collection of fictional women advocating against female genital mutilation, not as victims but as survivors.
What themes did you explore?
The female body, orgasms as a stone, abused and destroyed body parts after female genital mutilation. It is a combination of the genital mutilation procedure, the damage to the body and the reaction of it physically and emotionally.
What are some of your greatest inspirations? What were some of your inspirations for the work you will be exhibiting in Lagos?
Painful emotions are my greatest inspiration, especially if it makes me wonder how close hell must be from earth for people to suffer how they suffer today. For Stone Orgasms, I was full of painful emotions and I did not know how to react to FGM. 125 million of women and girls are damned to live with the physical and emotional scars, so I had to find 125 million expressions and put them in the small details of the images. I wanted to create a voice but I could not hear myself clearly. In anger I decided to create women that would speak about FGM without being stigmatized as victims, I asked myself: what is the face of a survivor? How does it feel when you touch it, who are these women after genital mutilation and slowly, day by day the images became clear.
What was your creation process like and how long was preparation?
I don’t believe in preparing my work, I am always waiting for the right feeling to come, sometimes it never arrives on time. As a woman that celebrates the freedom of sexuality and that respects the body as a holy temple, I was very sensitive and afraid to touch on something that might not be for me, Keyezua, to give it a voice. I continued for weeks and the more images I completed the more I gave myself the authority to continue.
What do you do when you hit a creative roadblock?
I immediately react with the use of a new material. Give my hands things to hold until I find the perfect strength to proceed or start all over again. Sometimes it happens all in my mind and until the images in my mind are not complete, nothing is exposed, is part of the road.
How does it feel to be presenting your work during LagosPhoto?
I no longer need to use the small window to enter this stage of my life, it is a great exposure and chance to learn and interact with artists from all over the world that are focusing on Africa with innovative images. I never visited Lagos before but I heard about the energy this city can produce, excited to charge my creative luggage with it and go back home with a new vision.
How can having a collective of African creativity be important?
It is important to be accepted at home first. I consider Nigeria the home of African art, from ancient sculptures to contemporary art, Nigerian artists have developed eloquent works of art.
I believe this collective will help each artist give a better shape of the road to go forward, on how to talk, depict Africa as a continent, today. African stories no longer need to be misunderstood because the images that artists are creating are an invitation to a never-ending, constructive debate. We all have our ways, traditions and images of what it is and what it needs to become but often we don’t have the opportunity to have artists of different nationalities reflecting on it, most of the times when such exhibitions happen, it takes place outside of Africa.
What do you feel is the role of art and photography in African development?
It challenges the mind and reshapes what is “US” as Africans or people that feel connected to the continent. It is not just art, it is a chance to have our society carefully analyzing how artists are reinventing Africa. It educates each of us in a different way, a tool that forces one to rethink our answers about certain African topics.
For More on Keyezua
For More on Lagos Photo Festival 2015