Interview with Laeïla Adjovi, Winner of the Léopold Sédar Senghor Prize at the Dakar

L'agence à Paris
Nov 11, 2018 2:22PM
Laeila Adjovi
Malaïka Dotou Sankofa #3bis, 2017
L'agence à Paris

Could you please tell us more about the symbolism behind Malaïka and the poem ? Could one speak of "Malaïka Dotou Sankofa" as a photographic poem?

L.A : I wanted to create a winged character to express the idea of breaking free. The process of the series started with a poem that I wrote in the late summer of 2016 - 'Open letter'. Then, with French photographer and film maker Loïc Hoquet, we illustrated the tale.

At the last Dakar Biennial, the series "Malaïka Dotou Sankofa" was perceived by some as a metaphor for the African continent. The title itself mobilizes languages as diverse as Swahili, Fon, and Akan. What is the metaphor at work in Malaïka Dotou Sankofa?

L.A : 'Malaïka', means angel in Swahili, 'Malaaka', in Wolof. 'Dotou' means "stay strong, determined" in the Fon language of Benin. Sankofa is an Adinkra symbol originating from the Akan people in Ghana and Ivory coast. It’s a messenger bird with its head turned backwards. Sankofa means 'return and get it', 'learn from the past'.

Loïc and I designed and built giant articulated wings with Bassirou Wade (Bas design), a gifted Seneglase artisan. Heavy and wide, the wings represent African identity. Each feather is made of a different kind of wax print fabric. The mosaic is meant to suggest the Ndiakhass pattern worn by the Baye Fall community of Senegal, while translating unity in diversity.

Malaïka is incarnated by prodigy dancer Marie-Agnès Gomis. We gave her an androgynous look, to move away from the sexualization of the black female body. She is wearing a drab suit, because not everyone can/must fit in the costume of Western modernity.

Malaïka Dotou Sankofa tells us about the struggle to bring about real change in our relation to the rest of the world. She tells us that as we Africans rise - or so I hear - it needs to be on our own terms.

Laeïla Adjovi and Loïc Hoquet's work is currently being shown at Paris Photo, booth D7.

L'agence à Paris