black resistance in the diaspora is a powerful theme in senegalese photographer omar victor diop’s first uk exhibition

July 10, 2018
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Self-taught Senegalese photographer Omar Victor Diop is bringing his layered and vibrant works to his first solo exhibition in the UK. Diop’s works focus on the multiplicity found in modern African society and his most recent works take a contemplative look at the history and legacy of black resistance throughout the diaspora. This exhibition will showcase works “Liberty” and “Project Diaspora” in the Autograph gallery in London.

Omar Victor Diop, Omar Ibn Saïd (1770–1864). From Project Diaspora (2014)

“Liberty” explores the history of black revolt in Africa and the diaspora by challenging the monolithic depictions of black resistance. Key resistance movements (well-known and otherwise) are reimagined with Diop as the protagonist. Diop uses his photography to find a unifying voice in these key events, such as the Alabama march on Washington in 1959, the Nigerian “Women’s War” of 1929, the Soweto Uprising and the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012.

“Rich in detail and symbolism, the elaborately staged tableaux commemorate slave revolts, independence movements, social justice campaigns and the events that sparked them” – Autograph

“Project Diaspora” seeks to reinterpret classical paintings of historical black figures by including references from modern football. By using historical black figures like Frederick Douglas – the most photographed person of his time – Diop seeks to draw parallels with modern African soccer players in Europe. “‘Football is an interesting global phenomenon that for me often reveals where society is in terms of race. When you look at the way that the African football royalty is perceived in Europe, there is an interesting blend of glory, hero-worship and exclusion” says Diop.

Omar Victor Diop, Thiaroye 1944. From Liberty (2016)

Diop seeks to investigate the dichotomy of worship experienced by African footballers in Europe and Frederick Douglas alike while comparing it to the racism still experienced by both. The pieces remind us that talent and hard work do not erase the deeper ramifications of racism. Diop uses his works to spark ideas and conversation about the reimagining of the black body in history and how that relates to the movements for its liberation and subsequent freedom.

Omar Victor Diop, Pedro Camejo 1790 – 1821. From Project Diaspora (2014)
Omar Victor Diop, Frederick Douglass (1818–1895). From Project Diaspora (2014)
Omar Victor Diop, The Women’s War 1929. From Liberty (2016)