Joana Choumali © Abbas Makke

It’s true that there’s always a sense of
positivity in my work. I also like the idea of
pushing the boundaries of the medium,
of combining it with other techniques,
even if all my projects are based on photography.“

Joana Choumali

Certain artists like to explore the boundaries of their art, by experimenting with new processes or by imposing certain technical constraints. The two series presented this year from Joana Choumali reflect this: they are true experiences, illuminating a culture and a geography, producing an innovative, moving result, a journey to the heart of childhood, half way between Le Petit Prince and a dreamlike fairytale.

In the first, Ça va aller (It’ll be fine), the Ivoirian artist, whose work has been honoured at many exhibitions (notably Paris Photo and the musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac), used only a smartphone to document the dark, melancholy mood that descended on her home town after the terrorist attack on the Bassam beach resort in 2016.

Why? Above all, for practical reasons: this technique allowed her to photograph grieving people more discreetly and respectfully, which felt less invasive than a traditional camera. In a country where psychological trauma and mental illness are poorly recognised and even more poorly treated, difficult conversationsare quickly cut off with a « ça va aller » – « it’ll be fine ». The resulting pastel-coloured prints are also images of hope. A way of warding off the violence of the world.

In the second series, Alba’hian («the first light of day» in the Anyin language), has transformed her morning training for a hike into sessions of artistic creation. Every day, when she got up to go walking, she took photos of her environment as it was slowly revealed between 5 and 7 in the morning. Onto these images she layers a combination of collage, embroidery, quilting and photomontage, creating murals reflecting the foggy language of dreams that we continue to inhabit for a few hours after waking.

These creations are marked with wonder, desires, joys and pain, between reality and imagination.

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