Working with the Zulu communities in Kwala Zulu Natal and Soweto in South Africa, Namsa Leuba creates staged photographs that blend the characters, landscapes and traditions of diverse African cultures. As an extension of her series Ya Kala Ben, which explored the religious aspects of ceremonial statuettes in Guinea, Leuba here looks to the connections and synchronicities between the traditions of her ancestral country of Guinea and South Africa. Leuba sourced models from schools, streets, and local villages, and dressed the subjects in traditional cloths lent by family members. She then incorporated different props and materials from markets to add to the model, in addition to various body paints. While the series references statuettes, with the children posing atop wooden logs, Leuba creates an invented tradition. In fact, statuettes are not part of the traditional structures of Zulu culture, but one that is rooted in West African animist beliefs. As an invented history that appropriates the symbols of a myriad of different cultures, including Zulu, West African, and Western (European) traditions, Leuba questions notions of “authenticity” by layering her own personal lineage alongside other cultural groups. The series further alludes to anti-apartheid movement gestures and actions, such as the burning of a passport, which embeds the complex political history of South African society within her own explorations of cultural traditions.
Selected pictures from the series