Ekow Eshun’s Africa State of Mind

The writer and curator’s new book showcases African photographers shaking up the continent. By Baya Simons

Omar Victor Diop casts himself as Jean-Baptiste Belley, the first black deputy of the French government
Omar Victor Diop casts himself as Jean-Baptiste Belley, the first black deputy of the French government | Image: Jean-Baptiste Belley, 2014, © Omar Victor Diop, courtesy Galerie Magnin-A, Paris

For his Diaspora photo series, Senegalese fine-art and fashion photographer Omar Victor Diop recreated various portraits of famous figures from the African diaspora, casting himself as the subject in each photograph: in one he portrays Frederick Douglass, the man who escaped slavery to become the first African American to be nominated for vice president; in another, an enslaved man who went on to be royal tutor to the Prince of Vienna; and, pictured here, Jean-Baptiste Belley, the first black deputy of the French government. In each photo, there is a reference to soccer – ball, boots, red card – drawing a line between the lives of the historical figures and contemporary African football royalty. Both, he says, are at once excluded and hero-worshipped. The pictures sit alongside a mélange of portraiture, landscape and urban photography by other emerging photographers from the continent in curator and writer Ekow Eshun’s new book, Africa State of Mind, which explores Africa as a psychological space as much as a physical place.

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Africa State of Mind by Ekow Eshun is published by Thames & Hudson on 26 March (£39.95)

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