25 artists shortlisted for Contemporary African Photography Prize

Founded in 2012 by Swiss artist Benjamin Füglister, the Contemporary African Photography Prize aims “to raise the profile of African photography and encourage a rethinking of the image of Africa”.

Open to photographers from anywhere in the world whose work engages with the African continent or its diaspora, it picks out five winners every year and shows their work at major photography festivals around the world. This year 800 photographers entered, of whom 25 have made it to the shortlist.

From the series Nsenene Republic, 2014–2018 © Michele Sibiloni, born in 1981 in Parma, Italy. “Grasshoppers, ‘nsenene’ in the local language, are both a delicacy and a source of income in Uganda. They migrate en masse twice a year, right after the rainy seasons, flooding the sky in huge flocks before daybreak. Every night, a large part of the population stays up till twilight to hunt and sell them.”

The selected photographers include Westerners now based in Africa such as Michele Sibiloni (now based in Uganda) and Gilles Nicolet (now based in Tanzania), as well as African-born photographers such as Amilton Neves Cuna, Esther Mbabazi, and Phumzile Khanyile. The shortlisted stories engage with a wide range of issues, including female access to swimming lessons in Zanzibar, the economic downturn in Luanda, and female genital mutilation.

The five winners will be announced at Photo Basel International Art Fair in June 2018. They were picked out by an international jury which included: Azu Nwagbogu, director, Lagos Photo Festival, Nigeria; Lekgetho James Makola, director, market photo workshop, South Africa; Jeanne Mercier, curator and editor, Afrique in Visu, France; Yumi Goto, curator and director, Reminders Photography Stronghold, Japan; Shahidul Alam, photographer and director, Chobi Mela, Bangladesh; Peter DiCampo, photographer and co-founder, Everyday Africa, USA; and BJP‘s editor Simon Bainbridge.


From the series Casablanca Not the Movie, 2014–2018 © Yassine Alaoui Ismaili, born in 1984 in Khouribga, Morocco. “Casablanca Not the Movie is a long-term project that I started in 2014. It is both a love letter to the city I call home and an effort to nuance the visual record for those whose exposure to Morocco’s famous city is limited to guide book snapshots, film depictions or Orientalist fantasies. The title of the project references the classic 1942 movie Casablanca, which was not filmed in the city, but rather in a Hollywood studio.”
Image © Yassine Alaoui Ismaili
From the series Nsenene Republic, 2014–2018 © Michele Sibiloni, born in 1981 in Parma, Italy. “Grasshoppers, ‘nsenene’ in the local language, are both a delicacy and a source of income in Uganda. They migrate en masse twice a year, right after the rainy seasons, flooding the sky in huge flocks before daybreak. Every night, a large part of the population stays up till twilight to hunt and sell them.”
Image © Michele Sibiloni
From the series Godmothers of War / Madrinhas de Guerra, 2015–2017 © Amilton Neves Cuna, born in 1988 in Maputo Mozambique. “Madrinhas de Guerra [or Godmothers of War] tells the story of the Mozambican women who took part in the National Women’s Movement from 1961 to 1974. These women were sponsored by the Portuguese government to provide moral support to the soldiers fighting on the frontline during the Mozambican War of Independence. In 1974, when the war of independence ended, the National Women’s Movement officially ended. However, the Madrinhas de Guerra were ostracised within Mozambican society for their role in supporting the colonial forces.”
Image © Amilton Neves Cuna
From the series Destination Europe, 2015–2016 © Jason Florio, born in 1965 in Kingston, UK. “During 2015 and 2016 I was assigned to document the work of MOAS, an NGO rescue ship set up to save migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Europe. Soon we were rescuing not only Somalis, Sudanese and Nigerians fleeing conflicts, but many Gambians escaping a dictatorship and poverty, which I was all too familiar with from my time there. My work quickly began to take on an added personal role, when I met 18-year-old Sana Colley, the son of a friend of mine back in The Gambia.”
Image © Jason Florio
From the series Marikana – The Aftermath, 2013 – on-going © Paul Botes, born in 1972 in Johannesburg, South Africa. “The Marikana massacre on 16 August 2012 was the most lethal use of force by South African police since the 1960 Sharpeville massacre, and served as a brutal reawakening for post-apartheid SA. Thirty-four striking mine workers were killed; autopsies show many were shot in the back, the head, or at close range. Understanding the massacre’s effects on the dead men’s families and communities became urgent because they were ignored in mainstream narratives.”
Image © Paul Botes
From the series Plastic Crowns, 2016 © Phumzile Khanyile, born 1991 in Soweto, South Africa. “Plastic Crowns stems from the idea of taking a ‘prestigious’ ornament such as a royal or beauty pageant crown and turning it into an object that anyone can purchase and thus enthrone themselves. I explore beyond the tragic boundaries of what my grandmother would consider a ‘good woman’, probing stereotypical ideas of gender, sexual preference and related stigmas and their relevance in contemporary society. I am interested in how having multiple partners (balloons) can be an expression of choice as opposed to it being an indicator of low morality, based on societal conventions.”
Image © Phumzile Khanyile
Kijini Primary School students learn to float, swim and perform. From the series Finding Freedom in the Water, 2016 © Anna Boyiazis, born in 1967 in Los Angeles, USA. “Daily life in the Zanzibar Archipelago centres around the sea, yet the majority of girls who inhabit the islands never acquire even the most fundamental swimming skills. Conservative Islamic culture and the absence of modest swimwear have compelled community leaders to discourage girls from swimming. Until now. For the past few years, the Panje Project has made it possible for local women and girls to get into the water, not only teaching them swimming skills but also aquatic safety and drowning prevention techniques.”
Swim instructor Siti, 24, helps a girl float. Image © Anna Boyiazis
From the series Butterflies are a Sign of a Good Thing, 2017 © Ulla Diverter, born in 1984 in Henstedt-Ulzburg, Germany. “Since 2013 I have been working on a long-term art project concerning women working as prostitutes. My main motivation for engaging with this subject has been to reveal unexpected views on this topic, thereby tackling the stigma that is attached to it. ‘Butterflies Are a Sign of a Good Thing’ is an observational research project about women living in Accra, the capital of Ghana, and its surrounding neighborhoods. The series focuses on their survival methods within a place that offers few economic opportunities.”
Image © Ulla Diverter
From the series 21st Century Bedouin, 2018 © Venetia Menzies, born in 1992 in Edinburgh, Scotland. “21st Century Bedouin is a documentary project that explores how nomadic life in Algeria has been radically transformed over the past century, through events such as French colonisation, civil war and mass urban migration. The project examines this change through the lens of an individual family, whose story is told by its youngest member. Beginning in 1890s with his grandmother’s story, we find each generation experiences a common theme: migration. The story was co-written by myself and the 21st Century Bedouin himself.”
Image © Venetia Menzies
Morocco, from the series So far away yet so close, 2009–2017 © Baptiste de Ville D’array, born in 1982 in Paris, France. “This project brings together seven years of exploration on a real territory, during a boom in urban development in Morocco – a place that is resolutely contemporary and yet photographed in a timeless manner.
I originally approached Morocco during regular short visits, and the country became a character in its own right.”
Morocco © Baptiste de Ville D’Avray
From the series Hemelliggaam or The Attempt to be Here Now, 2016–2018 © Tommaso Fiscaletti & Nic Grobler, Born in 1981 in Cattolica, Italy, and in 1979 in Pretoria, South Africa. “This series is a visual exploration of the existential aspects of the human-environment-astronomy relationship. Inspired by South African Science Fiction writings, the project explores the interplay between scientific astronomical activity and everyday awareness of space through a contemporary lens. The project makes particular reference to Jan Rabie, one of the most existential and emblematic writers.”
Image © Tomaso Fiscaletti & Nic Gobler
Ijeoma in her room, from the series Left Behind, 2017 © Nneka Iwunna Ezemezue, born in 1985 in Lagos, Nigeria. “For many women, becoming a widow does not just mean losing a husband, it means losing everything else as well. In many developing countries, a woman who is widowed becomes a non-person. Left Behind examines the plight of widows in Nigeria, especially Igbos, for whom become means a widow means suffering social discrimination, stigma and even violence.”
Chinyere, 45 © Nneka Iwunna Ezemezue
From the series Six Degrees South, 2016–2017 © Gilles Nicolet. The Swahili Coast in Eastern Africa is a unique physical, historical and cultural entity. “For centuries now, traders have used the monsoon winds to sail their wooden dhows along its shores and coastal communities have harvested its bountiful seas for fish. But all of this is now changing. Overfishing by local and foreign ships, an increasing population, changes in weather patterns as well as the recent discovery of huge gas fields are threatening this fragile equilibrium. It could be that we are now witnessing the last of fishing and sailing traditions that had remained largely unchanged for a thousand years.”
Image © Gille Nicolet
From the series The Things We Carry, 2017 © Esther Mbabazi, born in 1995 in Mengo, Uganda. “This project documents the most important things that people carry with them when fleeing conflict and war. I documented South Sudanese refugees living in a Bidi Bidi refugee camp in the Yumbe district in northern Uganda.”
Image © Esther Mbabazi
From the series Familiar Strangers, 2016 © Bas Losekoot, born in 1979 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. “Lagos is expanding rapidly – currently more than 58 people enter the city every hour in search of a better future. By 2050 the predicted population of Lagos State will be 36 million people. In terms of size it truly is a megacity, although at micro level the social structure on the street is akin to that of a tribe or small village; it seems as though most people are familiar with one another. In Lagos the concept of the ‘stranger’ – a member of the group that remains distant – is reinvented. I like to consider these people ‘familiar strangers’; citizens who recognise each other yet do not interact when in close proximity.”
Image © Bas Losekoot
From the series Cidade em movimento, 2016 © Delio Jasse, born in 1980 in Luanda, Angola. “A few years ago, Luanda was on every ambitious investor’s lips. Angola is the second largest producer of oil in Africa, and when the international price of crude oil reached a peak in 2008, the oil boom transformed the nation into one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. But since oil prices crashed in 2014, the impact on one of Africa’s richest and most unequal countries has been devastating.”
Image © Delio Jasse
Rhino # IV, killed by poachers, lewa conservancy, northern Kenya. From the series With Butterflies, and Warriors – the story of community-based conservation in the northern rangelands of Kenya,  2014–ongoing © David Chancellor, born in 1961 in London, UK. “The poaching of wildlife is well documented and should not be underplayed. However, what remains largely unseen is the important part that local communities play in conserving and protecting the wildlife that they live alongside. This is the story of those communities in northern Kenya who have come together as a collective of community conservancies in order that they may safeguard the future of a wide range of species.”
Black rhino, forest area, lewa conservancy, northern Kenya © David Chancellor
L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux, 2014 © Akpo Isola, born in 1983 in Yopougon, Ivory Coast. “In this work the photographer explores the story of her grandmother through the remaining objects from the dowry of her marriage: wooden canteen produced by her future husband, cloths, beads, gin bottles, bowls, mirrors etc. These are goods that the groom’s family brings as a symbol to seal the alliance between two families, two clans, two ethnic groups, materialising their mutual consent.”
Image © Akpo Ishola
From the series Red Fever, 2017 © Adji Dieye, born in 1991 in Milano, Italy. “Red Fever is a photographic project that aims to explore the spread of socialism throughout Africa and the traces it left on the continent through images, photos and photomontages. Juxtaposing the real and the false, tampering with history itself, artist Adji Dieye looks at this period – until now largely unexplored – with fresh eyes, as if it were something coming from a parallel reality.”
Image © Adji Dieye
From the series Lost Love, 2014–2017© Eve Tagny, born in 1986 in Montreal, Canada. “Here is presented an excerpt of the photobook Lost Love. It tells the story of young love interrupted by a sudden suicide. Drawn from personal experience, yet tied to a wider context of inherited violence, the series ventures from South Africa to North America via Europe, to offer a meditation on bereavement and healing processes.”
Image © Eve Tagny
From the series Monankim, 2017 © Jenevieve Aken, born in 1989 in Ikom, Nigeria. “Monankim is a word from the language of the Bakor people, a group of minority tribes from Cross River State, Nigeria. It refers to the process through which a girl is circumcised and celebrated as entering into womanhood. The project was realised after extensive interviews with young women, some of whom were frightened at the prospect, others seemed excited.”
Image © Jenevieve Aken
From the series Zenkeri, 2013–2017 © Jonas Feige & Yana Wernicke, Born in 1988 in Frankfurt, Germany and in 1990 in Hochheim, Germany. “Zenkeri is a collaborative project about the repercussions of the life of German colonialist Georg August Zener. In 1889 the German botanist and gardener settled in Bipindi, in the then-German colony of ‘Kamerun’. His Villa is still home to his descendants, who struggle to reconcile their German and Cameroonian identities.
Image © Jonas Feige & Yana Wernicke
From the series Out of this Life, 2015–2017 © Patricia Esteve, born in 1972 in Barcelona, Spain. “When Anita’s father died by suicide she felt guilty and sad because she hadn’t helped him. Apart from grappling with the sorrow of their loss, her family was also faced with the stigma of the suicide. The project comprises a collection of testimonies from people who have tried to commit suicide or have lost a loved one to suicide and have faced the ensuing stigma as well as social and legal injustice. According to the Kenyan Law Nº226 of the penal code, anyone who attempts to commit suicide is guilty of a crime.”
Image © Patricia Esteve
From the series Are You Calling Me A Dog?, 2016–2017 © Nura Qureshi, born in 1977 in Bremen, Germany. “In 1963 Kenya achieved independence after a long struggle for liberation that involved men and women mostly from the Kikuyu ethnicity or nation. Nearly sixty years later, no real liberation occurred and the heroes of that time are now slowly disappearing. A great many of the colonial settlers stayed and integrated into the society, while the men and women who fabricated the Mau-Mau liberation fight have been forgotten by newer generations and the elite.”
Image © Nura Qureshi
From the series Shadows of Domestic Work, 2016–2018 © Ralph Eluehike, born in 1978 in Ndemili, Nigeria. “This ongoing series is a voyage that uses performance to highlight the various ways in which domestic workers are ill-treated by various individuals or homes. As the name implies, Shadows depicts the negative side of domestic work. Estimates suggests that there are at least 64.5 million domestic workers worldwide. Most of these domestic workers live in abject poverty and lead a life of reckless abandonment.”
Image © Ralph Eluehike
Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is a freelance journalist who contributes to publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, The FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, The Calvert Journal, Aperture, FOAM, IMA, Aesthetica and Apollo Magazine. Prior to going freelance, she wrote and edited at BJP for 15 years. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy