The colors of dawn by Joana Choumali exhibited at La Gacilly


“Alba’hian”, “the first light of day”, in Agni, the language of his father’s village. Ivorian photographer Joana Choumali is an early riser. She has a habit of surveying, between 5 am and 7 am, the city where she wakes up. This ritual, she launched it in 2018 in Abidjan, where she lives. First to get in physical condition for a long trek in Asia. But also to prepare mentally, the young woman then caring for a sick loved one.

“I needed to treat myself to this skylight of solitude before starting my day, she confides. It was a moment of introspection during which I could sum up what I was going through. I found peace in this spiritual, almost magical spectacle of the eternal return of daylight. »

For five years, Joana Choumali has never given up her morning walks in the African metropolises where she has stayed: Johannesburg (South Africa), Dakar (Senegal), Accra (Ghana), Lagos (Nigeria), until Sal Island, Cape Verde, and Casablanca (Morocco).

Interior landscapes

A portraitist, she is also a fan of street photography. She captures on the spot, with her phone, the first rays of the sun, the fleeting gestures of passers-by. “Contemplating the landscape in the morning, I have the impression of encountering the city, of measuring its pulse, she describes. Places have a personality, a character and even a genre. Cities are masculine or feminine and to each, even to each district, I attribute an identity. »

His paintings, however, do not bear the names of these cities. Their titles are concepts, sometimes short sentences, like poems: Tomorrow, Trapped Soul (“trapped soul”), Waves Under my Eyelids (“waves under my eyelids”), And You’d Walk Alongside Me (“and you would walk by my side”)… All his paintings represent interior landscapes, in the straight line of Verlainian romanticism. “What I feel is superimposed on what I see, explains Joana Choumali. And I translate it on my canvases by these superimpositions of layers, images and textures. »

Read also: Joana Choumali, a photographer on the trail of identity

“In general, I start by photographing desert landscapes and printing them large, like a canvas. » On this canvas, she sews by hand an interlacing of curtains and fabrics, to restore the colors of the sky at daybreak. The characters photographed then populate the canvas. Fabrics, touches of paint and even embroidery in colored or gold thread highlight a bridge, a street, fishing boats or stars.

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