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PHOTOS: 'African Spirits,' From A Guy On A Bike To Cardi B

Hassan Hajjaj, born in Morocco in 1961, is often called the Andy Warhol of Marrakesh for his fusion of glamour and everyday life. Both are evident in his 2017 portrait <em>Cardi B Unity. </em>The rap star, dressed in a high-fashion outfit, sits on utilitarian green plastic cartons against a textured fabric backdrop. The frame consists of tins of green tea, each decorated with a butterfly.

A young man clowns around with a bicycle or two. Cardi B strikes a pose. A man in a camouflage uniform blends into camouflage wallpaper but the flowers he holds are an explosion of color.

These are some of the images in the exhibit "African Spirits" at the Yossi Milo Gallery in New York through August 23. Almost all of the photographers themselves are African spirits, hailing from such countries as Algeria, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria and Senegal. Those who aren't from the continent either base their work in Africa or pay homage in their art to African photographers.

The images in the exhibit are infused with the spirit of African identity. Hanging on the gallery walls, the photos seem to speak to each other across time and space — and making statements about African society and culture.

The artists range from the pioneering African portrait photographers Seydou Keita (1921-2001) and Malick Sidibé (1935-2016) to photographers at work today like Samuel Fosso, Sanle Sory, Hassan Hajjaj and Leonce Raphael Agbodjelelou.

Among the earliest photos on display, the trio of candid black and white snapshots from the Roka photo studio in Mali dates to the 1960s or 1970s and captures a young man and his bicycle (see above).

Many of the photos provide glimpses of everyday life amid the transition from colonial rule to independence, showing informally dressed party-goers as well as solemn-faced portrait-sitters in traditional outfits.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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