Inspired by her sojourn in the western region of Africa, specifically the Republic of Benin, Swiss Guinean art director and photographer, Namsa Lueba has created a visual narrative which draws directly from the country's animist tradition that is Voodoo, better known as Vodum in local palance.
On forming her latest body of work, Lueba immersed herself by meeting traditional priests and taking part in ceremonial rites and rituals of the region, then going on to cast models dressed in emblematic albeit whimsical togs, locally. All of these helped Luemba bring the symbolic series together.
The photo series sees indigenous characters lean into fierce yet non-complex stances as Luemba set them amongst divine elements.
“The basic tenet of voodoo stipulates the continuity of all things both visible and invisible in the universe, a belief in the interconnectedness of the living, spirit and natural world. My images attempt to portray the concept of voodoo that cannot be depicted visually. The camera isolates cultural practices and transforms them into visual forms. Instead, I construct my images with the awareness of the cultural gaze, of the fragmented information that one receives when tradition is alienated from its source,” she says. “Using graphic elements inspired by paintings, I revisit the symbols of ancestral belief from a contemporary perspective. Through the adaptation of myths or fetishes attributable to ‘the other’, it is also the West’s view on these symbols that has been put to the test.” Leuba explained.
The artist goes on to credit her dual heritage (maternally Guinean, partenally Swiss) for her interest in traditional African rituals, rites and divinities.
Growing up, I was exposed to the animist belief system of my mother’s family in Guinea, which was in stark contrast to my upbringing in Switzerland. These practices served as a vital point of connection to my ancestral roots. At the same time, the practices were exotic, stemming from an ideology that sits apart from Western belief systems.”
Luemba's exploration of African selfhood is not peculiar to just her "Weke" series as she's constantly using her diverse photographic practice to examine the representation of African identity through her western imagination comme her other projects such as YaKalaBen (2011) and Inyakanyaka (2016).