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These 10 photos prove art is alive and well in Africa

Fabrice Monteiro

In one photo, a shirtless man casts an oversized shadow on the wall behind him, a wooden cross dangling from his neck.

In another, a towering woman in a fierce headdress tosses a doll into a smoldering pile of brush, her billowing skirt composed entirely of trash. 

Pretty avant garde stuff, right? These sound like the sort of images you might expect to find in a modern art gallery in Paris, London, or New York City.  

Well move over, MOMA . Those photos—and plenty more like them—are on display in Lagos, Nigeria, home to one of Africa's premiere art festivals.

Now in its sixth year,  LagosPhoto Festival brings together photographers from all over Africa and around the world to showcase the best photography being made by—and about—Africans. This year's festival features 35 photographers from 18 countries, and runs through November 27. 

It really shouldn't come as a surprise that a city like Lagos hosts a top-notch art event. After all, Lagos is the  biggest city  in Africa and so-called " style capital " of Nigeria. (And let's not forget its bustling film scene, aka  Nollywood .)

Much like the continent that inspired it, the art at LagosPhoto is incredibly diverse. You could probably fill a book trying to break it all down. But they say a picture's worth a thousand words, so I'll spare you the 10,000-word essay and share 10 eye-opening images from this year's festival instead. Wherever possible I've included a quote from the artist's project synopsis to give a sense of the inspiration or intent behind the work.

(All images and quotes are shared with permission from LagosPhoto.) 

1/ This Hollywood remix

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Thelma & Louise. From the project "(re-)Mixing Hollywood." BAntoine Tempé, Senegal.

Artist's insight: "Great movies of the past, as well as most recent ones, feature iconic scenes that have tremendously influenced pop cultures of very different societies. African cities weren’t left out." (The movie referenced in this shot: 1990s American crime classic Thelma & Louise .)

Click here to visit Antoine's website, or  here  to see more of "(re-)Mixing Hollywood."

2/ This street-culture snapshot

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Intelectuals Pantsula. From "Pantsula." By Chris Saunders, South Africa.

Artist's insight: "This series sets out to document the living legacy of this vibrant and fascinating street culture [aka Pantsula ] that has shaped the identity of generations of young people in South Africa."

Visit Chris’ website to see more of his work.

3/ This dark portrait of survival

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Untitled. From "Le Survivant." By Patrick Selemani, South Africa.

Artist's insight: "Le Survivant is a photographic performance and expression of the self as a survivor of war in the Democratic Republic Of Congo. My work is a response as well as a reflection of the chaotic situation of war in my homeland."

Check out more of Patrick’s work here.

4/ This insanely surreal trash-ghost

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Untld #1. From "The Prophecy." By Fabrice Montiero, Senegal. 

Artist's insight: "This series of surreal photographs raises a warning for the Senegalese people in a powerfully threatening way. The costumes of the ghostly figures portrayed, which were partially made from garbage, reflect the atmosphere and state in which each location was found."

Click here to see more of Fabrice’s work.

, this series of surreal photographs raises a warning for the Senegalese
people in a
powerfully threatening way. The costumes of the ghostly figures portrayed, which
were partially
made from garbage, reflect the atmosphere and stat
e in which each location was
found
, this series of surreal photographs raises a warning for the Senegalese
people in a
powerfully threatening way. The costumes of the ghostly figures portrayed, which
were partially
made from garbage, reflect the atmosphere and stat
e in which each location was
found

5/ This strategically placed T-shirt

lagos_photo_body_5.jpg

Her Favorite. From "Yellow T-Shirt." By Owise Abuzaid, Egypt. 

Artist's insight: "A hunt for interesting compositions in the streets of Cairo using an element as easy to handle and as eye-catching as the yellow shirt."

See more of Owise’s work here.

6/ This infrared fashion shoot

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Untitled. From "Infrared Fashion." By Mehdi Sefrioui, France.

Visit Mehdi’s website to see more of his work.

7/ This subversive sports-culture critique

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Untitled 2. From "Sartist Sports Project - Part 1." By Andile Buka, South Africa.

Artist's insight: "The aim with the project is to challenge previously conceived ideas of South African black culture that have social and cultural impacts using clothes that were seen only being worn by only white people."

See more of Andile’s work here.

8/ This study in skin tone

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Ese (top) & Morin (bottom). From "Nigerian Identity." By Ima Mfon, Nigeria.

Artist's insight: "Nigerian Identity' is a series of photographic portraits in which all people are presented in a uniform manner: photographed on a white seamless background, looking directly into the lens, and enhanced so that their skin tones are virtually identical [...] I want to contest the superficial travel or tourist photography approach to peoples who may be unfamiliar to the photographs’ viewers."

See more of Ima’s work here.

9/ This gritty street portrait

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Almaz, 24. From "My Lagos." By Robin Hammond, New Zealand. 

Artist's insight: "Robin Hammond's series of portraits of Lagosians shot for National Geographic Magazine embraces the diversity of Africa's most populous city."

Visit Robin’s website to see more of his work.

10/ This regal preteen

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Untitled VI. From “Zulu Kids (Inyakanaka).” By Namsa Leuba, Switzerland.

Visit Namsa’s website to see more of her work.