BBC journalist Laeïla Adjovi wins Dakar Biennale art prize

The BBC’s Laeïla Adjovi has won a top prize for contemporary African art with her series of photos on the theme of breaking free.

She won the Leopold-Sédar-Senghor Grand Prix at the 13th Dakar Biennale of contemporary African art.

Her work is intended to be a response to the way Africa is portrayed in the media.

Image copyright LAEÏLA ADJOVI Woman looking in the mirror
The artwork is a series of photos telling the story of a fictional character named Malaïka Dotou Sankofa. She was given an androgynous look with a “drab skimpy suit”. This was “to show that not everyone must fit in the costume of western modernity,” says Laeïla.

Image copyright LAEÏLA ADJOVI Desk
The series of photos was taken in an old court house.

Image copyright LAEÏLA ADJOVI Woman with wings
“I wanted to give life to a creature that would express the idea that we are still struggling to bring about real change in our relations with the rest of the world,” says Laeïla.

Image copyright LAEÏLA ADJOVI woman on desk
The feathers were inspired by the patchwork clothes worn by the Baye Fall Muslim religious community in Senegal.

woman on seat
The character’s name, Malaïka Dotou Sankofa, comes from “Malaaka” which means angel in Senegal’s Wolof laguage and “Malaïka” which has the same meaning in Swahili. “Dotou” means “stay strong, determined” in the Fon language of Benin, where Laeïla is from. Sankofa means “return and get it” in Ghana’s symbol language, Adinkra. It touches on the importance of learning from the past.

Image copyright LAEÏLA ADJOVI Woman with wings
“Malaïka tells us that when we Africans rise – and yes, we are – it needs to be on our own terms.”


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