Ishola Akpo


Côte d'Ivoire

Ishola Akpo is a Beninese photographer and multimedia artist. Mixed images blending reality and fiction form at the heart of his work. In 2008, his contribution to the Transcultural Forum of Contemporary Art in Port-au-Prince marked the start of his career as a photographer. Since then, he has received several prizes, including that of the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the ‘Freelens du Webdoc’ at the Toulouse Photography Festival.

His work was exhibited at the eleventh Aleppo International Photography Festival in Syria, the Photo Off festival in Paris, as part of the ‘Festival des nouveaux cinémas documentaires’, Périféériques #1 and #2, the ‘Rencontres de la photographie’ festival in Arles, and Festival Afreaka in Brazil. In 2013, he was given a place on the ‘Visa pour la création’ residency scheme with the Institute Français in Paris. Through this, he developed his project Pas de flash s’il vous plaît !, a series presented in the form of a personal performance and exhibition at the Institut français in Cotonou in 2014. In 2016, his series L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux was presented as part of the Lagos Photo Festival in Nigeria.


Les mariés de notre époque

2015 Photographic Residencies

It was is in 2014 that I began taking an interest in the subject of dowries. I was struck by the transformations of this practice, its reappropriation by young Africans and the social change resulting from this. I started by exploring the memory of my grandmother’s marriage dowry through objects found in the house: a wooden trunk made by her future husband, loincloths, pearls, gin bottles, a mirror and more. These images also reveal the anxiety of a woman who, with age, wanted to leave a trace of her life in family memories. These rusty, worn objects grew old with this woman; they bear the marks of time just like she bears them on her beautiful craggy face with its wrinkles and grey hair.

The series Les mariés de notre époque, produced for the Photographic Residencies, expands this exploration. A forward-looking reflection on the dowry as both an ancestral and everyday practice, this work focuses on transformation of this custom in today’s world: its reappropriation by young Africans and social changes, especially changes in the status of women. Ishola Akpo has put together photographic scenes using dowry items collected in the field and creations commissioned from local craftsmen among the Yoruba peoples of Benin and Nigeria. These contrived images — at the boundary between tokens and artifice — are a way for the artist to denounce appearances and invite viewers to consider a fresh perspective on modern-day Africa.

Series produced between 2015-2016.