A new Africa-based collective brings artists together during lockdown

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The Photographic Collective aims to present and connect artists living and working in Africa, creating a community that gives further visibility to up-and coming-photographers

Duringthe Covid-19 lockdown, photography historian Dr Julie Bonzon founded the Photographic Collective (PC). The PCis a not-for-profit initiative working to challenge representations of Africa through a network of photographers and lens-based artists based in the continent. Primarily working with artists not currently represented by galleries and agencies, the PC plans to open doors to artists to spaces and opportunities that would usually be closed.

From the series Cuttings 1820-2020, 2020 © Pippa Hetherington.

The PC gives a platform to these artists, but also provides a community. Photographers working across the continent can virtually meet, compare works, and develop support networks. This community aims to become a source of knowledge and information for the next generation of African artists, helping them navigate possible challenges within the industry, such as a lack of representation. One of the members of the collective, Cairo-based Ibrahim Ahmed says that “the main limitation and difficulty during these trying times is the lack of exposure because of the closing down of art spaces. The PC has become a great platform to garner exposure.”

The online nature of the collective allows it to exist in multiple dimensions with a singular and collective online presence. The Instagram page and website both feature artists within the collective, as well as conversations between artists and special presentations.

Some of the other artists involved in the collective are Nigeria-based Etinosa Yvonne, South African Pippa Hetherington, and Ethiopia-based Maheder Haileselassie. The three produce distinct work, which ranges from explorations of gender, memory, trauma, geography and history. “Getting a spotlight in international scenes is not easy,” Haileselassie explains. “The Photographic Collective acts as a bridge on top of horizontal connections between Africa-based artists.”

From the series Between yesterday and tomorrow, 2018, © Maheder Haileselassie

So far, the PC has presented work at the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London, as well as 14 of the artists featuring in the ‘Home Museum’ online exhibition at the LagosPhoto festival. Many artistic institutions have had to develop strategies to survive in the era of Covid-19, but for the Photography Collective, the pandemic led them to their mission, and each other.

Isaac Huxtable

Isaac Huxtable joined the British Journal of Photography in October 2020, where he is currently the Editorial Assistant. Prior to this, he studied a BA in History of Art at the Courtauld Instititue of Art, London.