Born in 1974 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Joana Choumali studied graphic design in Casablanca, Morocco. She then worked as artistic director with an advertising agency before beginning her professional photography career. Conceptual photography and mixed media are her current modes of expression.
Her work focuses upon Africa and most often reflects a documentary aspect. Her series Traduction, Adorn and Ça va aller also bear witness to a specific culture, moment, or geography. The connection between past and present is also a fundamental element in her work. The artist follows a step-by-step process, in function of her research and the pursuit of subjects best suited to serve her intention, such as in the series Résilients and Hââbré.
Beginning in 2016, Joana Choumali has integrated textiles into her photographic work. Following the attack at Grand Bassam, the artist captured a series of images in this peaceful seaside resort, one she associated with happy childhood memories and family gatherings. The tragic and brutal event generated a deep sadness, most often translated by the people into words using the formula “we’ll be fine”.
Looking at these images, shot on iPhone, an idea came to the artist to embroider them. With this slow and meditative gesture, the artist intends to offer tribute to the victims and to seek healing for the wounds inflicted.
Joana Choumali received the prestigious Prix Pictet for this series in October 2019. Since 2000, Joana Choumali has participated in many individual and collective exhibitions on the African continent, in France and the United Kingdom. Her Adorn series demonstrates the reinterpretation of European standards of beauty by contemporary black African women. Adorn was presented at the Ivory Coast Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2017. Joana continues her photographic research into the world around her, integrating fabric in her new productions. The result is a series of delicate pieces, steeped in reverie, where the real and the imaginary meet in a work that is deeply introspective. Her series Translation and Albahian bear witness to this dream world.