Adji Dieye’s artistic practice pushes the boundaries of photography in an attempt to investigate the archetypes that constitute African visual cultures. In her research, the continent is never considered an end in itself; instead, it represents a bridge towards further investigations into broader social and geopolitical realities.
Adji Dieye graduated in new technologies for art at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in Milan and is now a Master degree student in fine arts at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHDK).
Please tell us more about yourself?
My name is Adji Dieye. I’m an artist and photographer of Italian-Senegalese heritage, based in Switzerland. I’m here in Lagos to present my work titled Red Fever for the LagosPhoto Festival.
How have you been able to reflect these different experiences into your work?
I’m in Switzerland at the moment because I’m completing my MFA in arts and politics at the University of Zurich. This work starts specifically from an observation of Monument de la Renaissance Africaine, a gigantic sculpture in my neighbourhood in Dakar, where all my projects develop.
Does this work emanate from your studies for your Master’s degree?
I started making observations for the work two and a half years earlier while I was doing a previous Masters in photography. However, it was in Lausanne, Decan where I chose to continue my studies in fine art at the University of Zurich that the whole project began. After seeing that 49-metre high monument, I wanted to create a work centred on it. I began to research its presence in Senegal; it was fascinating for me to uncover the history of socialism and communism in Africa. Interestingly, there are other monuments like this on the African continent, made by a North Korean company called Mansudae Overseas Projects. I began to wonder how North Korea assumed a dominant presence in Africa I also noted significantly that during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, North Korea delegated their ambassador to continue with the African countries where they had established trade. These economic transactions are now the foundations of presidential policies and the financing of armament. It is indeed fascinating that we have this monument that sort of became the icon for all these historical transactions.
Your work is exciting and unique in the sense that it blurs the boundaries between photography, installation and sculpture. What can you say about this?
Essentially, my work is about monuments, buildings, and public spaces, something everyone is a part of. This was the feeling I wanted to communicate through the installation of the project. I wasn’t interested in having a picture in a frame or creating an atlas on the wall, although it could have been a legitimate way of communicating. For me, it was essential to express the same feelings I had when I observed the big monument of the renaissance in Dakar. That’s the way I try to work with photography. It is the medium I’m most comfortable with, but that doesn’t mean I have to conform to its rules that have existed since its inception, as it’s a very malleable channel. In addition, there is a vital sculptural quality of Red Fever, because I’m engaging a monument.
Tell us about LagosPhoto and its impact on photography.
I find LagosPhoto Festival to be an incredible opportunity for Lagos to have international artists present their work and give a new feel to what photography is. This understanding of photography is fundamental because it is a field that is undergoing so much research. I find my creative process in tandem with this research and how we present photography. I am happy with this opportunity to show at LagosPhoto; it is great for my development because of the international playground it provides with a huge number of visitors.
With the quality of your work, I’m certain you’ve received comparisons with your mother, also a famous photographer. How would you react to these?
I haven’t received that many comparisons. The moment it was known that my mother is Maïmouna Guerresi, then maybe a link was drawn, because of our shared focus on the sculptural image and still life. However, we work in two very different worlds with different themes and ways to deal with photography. I can say that she has been a great mentor and a learning resource for me – teaching me how to build a studio, work and deal with models.
How does having two significant artists in the family feel?
It feels interesting for me now, because it’s my first time participating in an international festival. It’s nice but funny to see the same faces that I would see with my mom, working with as her an assistant, but with me now being the artist. It can be a bit confusing for some people.
Tell us a bit about your next project.
I’m based in Switzerland where I will start working with some photography foundations and with a group of young Italian curators and photographers interested in pushing the boundaries of photography. It will be a project about self-power.