Helen Jennings and Sara Hemming, co-founders of Nataal, the global media brand celebrating contemporary African art, pick out their top projects of 2019
Every year, BJP-online asks a selection of industry leaders to recommend the photobooks, exhibitions, and projects that stood out to them most. Throughout December and January, we will be sharing their nominations for the Best of 2019.
Nataal was founded in 2015 as a platform to communicate and celebrate contemporary African art. It was launched by Sara Hemming, former art director at AnOther magazine, Helen Jennings, former editor at Arise magazine, and Senegalese actor and director Sy Alassane.
In May 2018, Nataal launched their first print edition, a large format bi-annual showcase of artists who are shaping African creativity. Focusing on fashion shoots, long form features and visual essays, Nataal collaborates with emerging artists around the world.
Below, co-founders Helen Jennings and Sara Hemming pick out their top five photographers and projects from 2019.
Everything that Moroccan Belgian photographer Mous Lamrabat has done this year has been golden – from shooting a cover for Nataal issue two, to his first solo exhibition, Mousganistan at CC Sint-Niklaas in East Flanders, and his endlessly moreish Instagram feed. The artist has a cheeky eye for splicing together tropes from his heritage with symbols of western luxury brands and pop culture. The results are masterfully warm, subtly thought-provoking and guaranteed to make you smile.
The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion
Celebrating a young wave of black photographers, Antwaun Sargent’s book chose 15 names whose work is defining fresh perspectives on representation, beauty and the body. The New York City-based author has selected some of Nataal’s favourite collaborators such as Nadine Ijewere, Ruth Ossai, Arielle Bobb-Willis, Namsa Leuba, Daniel Obasi, Stephen Tayo, Tyler Mitchell and Micaiah Carter. This book is very now and very necessary in the point it is making. In short, the influence that comes with ownership of art and fashion images is everything. These photographers are leading the new gaze, and it’s dazzling in its multiplicity.
Labs New Artists III
Red Hook Labs’ annual emerging photography open call, Labs New Artists, goes from strength to strength. This year’s iteration featured 25 names from around the globe who benefited from a group show at the non-profit space in Brooklyn as well as mentorship from industry experts. Stand-outs were Jan Hoek’s Sistaaz of the Castle — a collaboration with a community of transgender sex workers in Cape Town — and Rhea Dillon’s portraits of young Londoners. Nataal has also hosted three exhibitions at Labs and are among the judges for this show, so we applaud Labs’ founder Jimmy Moffat for his visionary support of young talent.
e wá wo mi
This brilliant Nigerian artist has presented his latest body of work twice this year, first at his Cape Town gallery, WHATIFTHEWORLD, and then at Niki Cryan Gallery in Lagos, Nigeria. Entitled e wá wo mi (come look at me), it focuses on Nigerian brides and marriage ceremonies. In his signature rich and colourful style, women in luxuriously veiled wedding attire pose in regal solitude. Through their strong yet mysterious presence, these figures silently ask the viewer to consider the expected performance of love and weight of wifedom they must take on as they utter “I do”.
Get Up Stand Up Now
Curated by Zak Ové, the seismic summer show a Somerset House featured 100 artists whose work reflects 50 years of black creativity in Britain. While far from exclusively a photography exhibition, it included important Windrush-era image-makers Armet Francis and Vanley Burke alongside new talents such as Ronan Mckenzie and Campbell Addy and major artists like Hassan Hajjaj. Together their work created a cross generational conversation around radical integration, identity and multiculturalism.