Namsa Leuba and the Ethnomodern
Namsa Leuba is a Swiss-Guinean photographer who splits her time between Europe and Africa. Her work, "examines the representation of African identity through the Western imagination," and is featured in the newly opened exhibition Africa Is Not An Island at the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden, Marrakech. Her work has also been exhibited in Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design in Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain (check out the Atlanta show's review), Nataal: New African Photography at Red Hook Labs, Brooklyn, as well as her first large scale solo show, Ethnomodern at Art Twenty One, Lagos. Her work has been published in the pages of I-D, Numéro, Interview, Vice, New York Magazine, and the British Journal of Photography, among others.
Ya Kala Ben (2011)
Leuba describes her intention with this series, as both a study of artifacts related to Guinean cosmology and a recontextualization of those objects within a Western visual aesthetic. By "animating" these objects with live models, she creates a disjuncture between the objects and their symbolic or ritual purpose. In this way, the images are very much unfamiliar to Guinean tradition. One of the most powerful results of this series is its ability to underscore the exploitative and voyeuristic quality of the Western gaze. The image, while embedded with ethnographic visual clues, does not however provide the viewer with the ownership that comes with understanding. A Western viewer can recognize a Western aesthetic in these images and yet the deeper meaning embedded in the objects and the acts of masquerading pictured, are not easily decoded. This series lends itself nicely to an understanding of that which is lost when navigating two vastly different cultural backgrounds and geographic locations, central to the Diasporic experience.
V.U.C.A. Magazine was created by Leuba in collaboration with graphic designer, Hugo Hoppmann, for an ECAL graduate project. The title is derived from a military term that's used to describe a situation that is “Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous”. Hoppmann even created a typeface called "V.U.C.A. Grotesque" for the project. The magazine focuses on architecture, design and interiors based around the theme of ETHNO vs. MODERN.