“I want to explode some myths around the African female gaze,” Anderson explained, noting that her curatorial research has been foregrounded in the 2019 exhibitions at Toronto’s Ryerson Image Centre and at Brooklyn’s United Photo Industries Gallery. “Her Eyes, They Never Lie” is the first time the African female gaze in photography has been explored on the African continent. The show also coincided with the first retreat celebrating African contemporary creativity—an exclusive, invite-only event organized by AFRƎEculture
, also taking place at the hotel.
Although the women in these portraits are anonymous and unnamed, they offer rich insights into the lives of women during the first years after independence: mothers and daughters, groups of friends, aunties, teenagers, young women. Their expressions, poses, and gestures—finger to chin, a coquettish glance, a wistful stare—together with the details of their clothing, hair, and accessories all show how creativity and originality were fundamental in the performance of one’s self. They also reframe the history of the female gaze, locating it in Africa and more than a decade before the popular ideas of the artists working in the West in the 1970s.
“It was something new and exciting in that first decade when you were able to control your image and own it to some extent,” Anderson said, drawing an analogy with the introduction of Instagram selfies, which have been equally important for the development of the female gaze in photography on a global scale. “Historically, culturally, and socially, it was a way of celebrating the power to control the image.”