Essays

RE-PICTURING AFRICA
IN A TREE-ACT STATEMENT

In Keren Lasme & Asna Aidara's photo project, the march of the world brings to African societies a revived sense of hybridity.




© Karen Lasme & Asna Aidara, The Globalization Effect Project — “Blockhauss”


05.2021

The Globalization Effect Project. Keren Lasme (Photographs) & Asna Aidara (Model), with clothing designs by Kader Diaby, Lewis Mardochée, and Asna Aidara. 2021.
The idea of Africa described in The Globalization Effect Project is not the one of common sense, the one that feeds from the waters of ready-made ideas—far from it! On the contrary, artist and researcher Keren Lasme (France, Ivory Coast) and designer and model Asna Aidara (Ivory Coast) approach with rare graciousness a novel idea of Africa. Silenced, yet nevertheless vibrant. You know, that Africa whose resilient resourcefulness remains unseen. The one that claims the somehow hybrid character of its contemporary societies. This multidisciplinary project is designed as a statement for editorial purposes at the crossroads of fashion, photography, and research.

In their collaboration, Aidara and Lasme depart from an anthropological perspective. The challenge — or should I say, the innovation — in such circumstances lies in eluding the trap of clichés associated with connecting Africa and Anthropology. The anthropological reflection at the heart of these works serves as an intellectual standpoint, not a mere label. It authenticates the subject's truth, if I may say, by informing all the stages of the process, from the concept to the shooting. Then it unfolds as an artistic work in which the picture and the setting interact. And finally, it includes the views of other designers who share similar aesthetic values. This is the matrix supporting The Globalization Effect Project. These photographs aim to unify the anthropological gaze with the artistic one.

This first iteration revolves around three themes: China's growing presence in Africa; The changing status of women; and the rise of local economies in the face of globalization; each approaching from a specific angle how the movements of the world are affecting Africa. They are, in a way, details of a personified vision of African society if the latter were to be visualized. Something with a utopian quality. As the artists put it, “the subject of this photographic series becomes an avatar, a projection of our observations.” The avatar, a concept dear to Lasme & Aidara, is reinforced through the presence of a single model throughout the entire series.


China-Africa is an imagination of the object


To accurately record China's influence in Africa, one must move away from the abstractions commonly used in the geopolitical discourse. One simply has to observe daily life. The fact is, on the scale of a photographic shot, artifacts remain the actual measurements of these effects. I barely understand the meaning behind expressions such as 'largest source of foreign direct investment' or 'accelerating the import and export of goods. But, the other day at the hairdresser's, I was moved when my three-year-old daughter looked at her reflection in a round make-up mirror, stuck a comb in her braids, then ran to me shouting "Pink! Pink!". Or when, at the end of the shooting, as we were taking down the veg-striped sheet that served as our backdrop, a young man urged, "Oh, la Chinoise" (Hey, Chinese Girl!). He then disappearing two streets apart on a Nanfang motorcycle. On the backdrop of industry lays a system of objects. Usages, practices, and imaginaries (call it culture, duh!) then bind themselves to that system of things. Such is the very point of the anthropological basis. 


Beyond “African woman” 


Banish the frozen visions of the so-called 'African woman' you still withhold. In The Globalization Effect Project, they embrace the multiplicity of their identities. They dress in fine mesh, dyed linen, and materials of organic origin. They re-invent their headdress to transcend their stylistic function towards a mystical one (mask of cowrie shells and golden chain). Aidara and Lasme depict an unusual 'African woman,' by some means loaded with additional values. 'African woman' acquainting with projections of 'African woman' all at once, all in the same frame, all as part the same mirage. I would later notice that Lasme and Aidara share this philosophy with fashion designer Kader Diaby and his Olooh Concept. In this view, we are continuously assigned a questioning: where is our generation headed? What is its nowness? What is our becoming?


Ode to the informal economy


The third (sub)series, Blockhauss, is a tribute to the neighbourhood of the same name, situated on the southern coast of Abidjan. Surrounded by the concrete of the metropolis, this part of the city has resisted the 'normal' urban life for ages. I feel like it has remained contained in a temporality of its own. On the banks of the lagoon, The Globalization Effect Project captures the soul and the gesture of the attiéké makers. An Ivorian side dish prepared from fermented cassava pulp, grated or granulated, Attiéké is indeed a specialty of the Ebrié ethnic group also dwellers of Blockhauss. It is said that, that they hold the meal's renowned historical recipe. In this context, under the natural light greyed by the calm horizon of the lagoon, and in a display of large convex sieves shaped like parabolas, the luminous Attiéké catches the sun. The model appears in the foreground, highlighted by a subtle play of rhyme and color, alongside a tribute to the Ivorian stylist Lewis Mardochée. She sports a white bomber named after the meal 'Bomber Attiéké.' She rises from a floating pair of green pants with the spicy name of 'Pimento.' And on the shaded and busy look of the model, a red bob is called 'Tomato,' you guessed it.

Initiated in 2021, this project poses that there is hardly any fashion without a purpose. Each artistic proposal, in the broadest sense, is an insight into reality. Lasme and Aidara thus communicate to a generation of peers open to the entanglement of cultures they hint to. The Globalization Effect Project addresses the new generations that compose the African youth, international, diasporic, and hybrid.


(1) Graphic Design (2) Curating (3) Essays (4) Poems (5) Flottements