The Spectrum of African identities

An ongoing portraiture project by Gabonese photographer celebrates the diversity of the African continent.

Toronto-based Gabonese photographer Yannis Davy Guibinga focuses on the multiplicity of African identities and their intersections with race, gender and culture. He uses portraiture to study the complexities and diversities of African and black identities. In an ongoing project titled Spectrum, he celebrates the diversity of the black experience.

“As an ongoing project, the goal is to try to display the different facets of the black identity, from gender performance and skin tone to sexual orientation,” he explains.

The 21-year-old spoke to Design Indaba about working in the diaspora, learning from heritage and using art as social activism.

What themes do you explore through portraiture and art?

As an African artist away from Home, I use my work to highlight, celebrate and study what is arguably the most important part of what constitutes me as a human being and an artist. I use my work to learn more about my heritage as well as the diversity and multiplicity there is within the African continent.

What are you inspired by?

I am constantly inspired by African cultures and traditions and it is what has been driving my work the most lately.

What are some of the challenges you face as an artist?

The biggest challenge would probably have to be the costs associated with being a photographer. A good camera can cost up to a couple thousands of dollars which can be a difficult thing to afford especially for students like myself who have so many other things to worry about.

What do you hope to achieve with your work?

I believe photography to be a very important tool for social activism, in Africa especially, and I think it can help highlight certain issues that are very often not talked about as well as celebrating aspects of our cultures that are so ordinary for us yet so important. With my work, I hope to highlight certain of these issues and pay homage to these cultures as accurately and respectfully as I can but I also hope to inspire other African and Black creatives to do the same thing along the way.

What do you plan to do next?

Right now I am focusing on growing artistically by experimenting more with my art through carefully studying African cultures in general and my own especially.

What are some of your proudest moments as an artist?

There’s nothing more validating to me than seeing my work hung up on a wall of a gallery. Every time I take part of an exhibition it gives me a little more confidence to keep doing what I’m doing and keep working on being the best artist I can be.