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All images © Omar Victor Diop, from the Project Diaspora

* Featured in African Portraits, 6 October - 19th November 2016
*Online preview here

"Soccer is an interesting global phenomenon that for me often reveals where society is in terms of race. When you look at the way that the African soccer royalty is perceived in Europe, there is a very interesting blend of glory, hero-worship and exclusion. Every so often, you get racist chants or banana skins thrown on the pitch and the whole illusion of integration is shattered in the most brutal way. It’s that kind of paradox I am investigating in the work.
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Omar Victor Diop was born in Dakar in 1980. Since his early days, Omar Victor Diop developed an interest for Photography and Design, essentially as a means to capture the diversity of modern african societies and lifestyles. The quick success of his first conceptual project Fashion 2112, le Futur du Beau which was featured at the Pan African Exhibition of the African Biennale of Photography of 2011 in Bamako (Rencontres de Bamako) encouraged him to end his carrer in Corporate Communications to dedicate to photography in 2012.

Omar Victor lives in Dakar, and his body of work includes Fine Arts and Fashion Photography as well as Advertising Photography. He enjoys mixing his photography with other forms of art, such as costume design, styling and creative writing. His work is interrogative and intriguing, prospective, yet a tad vintage and draws inspiration from Diop's international uplifting, as well as his african visual heritage.

PROJECT DIASPORA

Identity and discovery – at both the collective and personal levels–are themes in the forefront of Omar Victor Diop’s Project Diaspora. A journey through time, the photographic series delves into and exposes less spoken narratives of the role of Africans out of Africa.

With this body of work, Diop challenges us to rethink our own ideas of history and gives answer to his ongoing, internal dialogue of who he is as artist and person.Starting his research during a four month residency in Màlaga, Spain, where he was immersed in the reality of being a stranger, Diop has focused this first installment on Europe during the 15th through 19th centuries.

Inspired by the many baroque artworks created during this time, he considers this period as an awakening of an intense (and previously nonexistent) era of interaction between Africa and the rest of the world. Using portraits of notable Africans in European history as his inspiration, Diop pits their life-journeys and legacies with those of his own, and further defining his intrigue of the singular destinies of travellers and those in alien environments. Choosing, for the first time, to use himself as object in his artwork, he has delved into the realities of being both narrator and character, forcing him to face his insecurities head on, and uses references to sport, football in particular, to show the duality of living a life of glory and recognition, while facing the challenges of being “other”.

Paradoxes he finds are shared between modern day footballers in Europe and the men of the original portraits depicted in his self-portraits. With plans to widen Project Diaspora’s scope to Asia, the Americas and Middle East, Diop hopes his project lends to the current debates, accusations and impacts of migration and immigration, and reshapes thoughts on the histories of Africans discovering the world.

(Text © Raquel Wilson, Cultural Curator)

 




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