Bodypainting has been one of the earliest and most common forms of cultural and artistic expressions, regardless of whether it is done for religious, social or simply aesthetic reasons.
In Africa especially, bodypainting has historically had a significant place in many societies, often to signify one’s social status or belonging to a religious group. In Ethiopia’s Omo Valley, the Surma and Mursi tribes share a keen interest to bodypainting and extravagant decorations borrowed from nature. The technique and skill of body decoration is learned at a very early age, with mothers painting the babies who will later start to paint themselves. As a cultural manifestation, the art of painting and decorating oneself is of almost religious importance, despite its ephemeral and seemingly anecdotal character.
“Pigments” is a body of work by photographer Yannis Davy Guibinga and Makeup Artist Amal Afoussi exploring the cultural significance of bodypainting as a physical manifestation of Africans creativity and innovation. By borrowing the Surma and Mursi’s free-flowing and ephemeral aspects of their artistic process, this series attempts to pay homage to these tribes while connecting it with very modern elements. A dialogue between traditional and contemporary is therefore created, with creativity at the center of the conversation. Through a new interpretation of the art of bodypainting, this series of images pays homage to some of the pioneers and forefathers of African creativity and artistic talent.
Photography: Yannis Davy Guibinga
Make-Up: Amal Afoussi
Models: Atlas Hapy, Yvenie Clementine, Maïmouna
More about Yannis Davy Guibinga
A photographer and visual artist originally from Libreville, Gabon based in Montréal, Canada exploring the diversity of cultures and identities on the African continent and its diaspora.
The negative stereotypes ascribed to the African continent before, during and after colonial times are still considered factual by many today, and the idea that the continent remains primitive and underdeveloped has always informed the way people think about and interact with Africa. In order to contribute to a change in the narrative about the continent, Yannis Davy Guibinga has found in photography a strength and a tool allowing him to not only celebrate but also to document and represent the many cultures and identities on the African continent and its diaspora.
His portrait photography is a documentation of a new generation of Africans, unapologetically embracing their many identities and cultures in the face of globalization and Western cultural imperialism. His work also focuses on highlighting the diversity of African identities, as well as how these identities are created through the intersection of different factors such as gender, culture and socioeconomic status. By letting each image tell a different story and illustrate a unique experience, point of view and perspective, Yannis Davy Guibinga with colours, shapes and shadows creates a world of powerful, beautiful and dignified Africans regardless of gender performance, class or sexual orientation.