Truth and fiction, and the dissonance between imagined futures and contemporary existence are powerfully interpreted through the photographs of Sammy Baloji, a contemporary artist from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ade Adekola who lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria. Through their work each artist examines the impacts of economic imperialism and globalisation, and the devastating and consequential effects on natural resources, the environment and black communities.
Baloji’s Kolwezi series juxtapose bleak scenes from a Chinese-owned mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on the one hand, with colorful images that miners use to decorate their makeshift tented shacks. These interior decorations include Chinese-produced posters, purchased from the local supply store, with idyllic pastiche landscapes or idealized cities. Some miners display postcards and other images from the Belgian-colonial era, which invites a comparison between the exploitative roles of China today and European powers in earlier decades. In Baloji’s juxtapositions of these materials, the tense boundary between the paired images expresses global disparities in, and exploitation of, resources—as well as a chasm between the ideal and the real.
Ade Adekola trained as an architect in London before returning to live and work in Lagos. His art practice is driven by his interest in cultural preservation and cultural transformation. Through his deep knowledge of the African experience in a contemporary world he reimagines and represents alternate futures. Adekola’s Ethnoscapes; Icons as Transplants series comprises eighty environmental portraits that explore the paradoxical traits of social networks, globalisation and issues of identity. In these images the artist superimposes contemporary streetscapes shot in Lagos over backdrops of highly recognisable images of major American, Asian and European cities. In doing so he creates hybrid streetscapes and portraits that are filled with an unnerving visual tension between simultaneously existing worlds.