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AGO presents three contemporary artists re-imagining African studio portraiture

Re-Mixing African Photography: Kelani Abass, Mallory Lowe Mpoka and Abraham Oghobase is on view now


On view now at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Re-Mixing African Photography: Kelani Abass, Mallory Lowe Mpoka and Abraham Oghobase presents new and recent works by three contemporary African artists. United by their shared interest in the photographic histories of West and Central Africa—specifically studio portraiture – these artists are reimagining traditions with introspective, experimental and critical approaches. Featuring family photographs, archival material and mixed media objects, the exhibition is curated by Dr. Julie Crooks, Curator, Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora, and organized by the AGO.

“The works here on view reflect the enduring influence of the many African studio photographers who came before and look towards the future,  demonstrating varying degrees of nostalgia and critique and reflecting their makers own unique perspectives and approaches,” says Dr. Julie Crooks, Curator, Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora.

In a series of three-dimentional objects Scrap of Evidence (2018 – 2021), Kelani Abass combines vintage photographs from private archives, paintings, and materials including metallic letters and symbols sourced from his father’s old printing press. In doing so, the Nigerian artist creates a dialogue between the past and present, analogue and digital; reflecting his interest in memory, archives, and the passage of time. He notes: “Scrap of Evidence contributes to a historical recalling, in which I stand as mediator. I think I am responsible for protecting the materials left by my father.”

Finding in studio portraiture a means to explore family history and connection, Cameroonian-Belgian artist Mallory Lowe Mpoka presents The Self-Portrait Project,  a diptych in which the artist incorporates her own family photographs as a tribute to her Bamileke heritage. The staged black and white portraits are heavily inspired by the visual aesthetics set forth by pioneer photographers such as Samuel Fosso, Seydou Keita, and Jacques Toussele. The exhibition will also include her series What Lives Within Us (2023) that combines photography, collage, embroidery and hand-dyed threads using red earth pigments to examine notions of home, kinship ties, and belonging.

In his series Colonial Self-Portrait (2018), Nigerian born, Toronto-based artist Abraham Oghobase inscribes his own image on a series of late 19th- and early 20th-century portraits of British administrators in colonial Nigeria. Through digital manipulation and costume, he re-envisions history by severing the photographs from their original context, thereby subverting the colonial gaze. Artist and artefact are fused together in the process of interrogating memory and reimagining history through iconic self-portraits.

Admission to Re-Mixing African Photography: Kelani Abass, Mallory Lowe Mpoka and Abraham Oghobase is free for all Indigenous peoples, AGO Members, Annual Passholders and visitors aged 25 and under. On view now, the exhibition runs until January 7, 2024. For more details on how to book your tickets or to become a Member or Annual Passholder, visit

Kelani Abass (b. Lagos, Nigeria, 1979) lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria. In his practice, Abass employs personal photographs to construct his multilayered and multi-dimensional work. Using archival material, he explores the possibilities inherent in photography, painting, and printing to highlight personal stories inspired by social and political events.

Abraham Onoriode Oghobase (b. Lagos, Nigeria, 1979) is a Nigerian visual artist living and working in Toronto, Canada. In his photography-based practice, he engages with issues around knowledge production, land, colonial histories and representation by experimenting with the narrative and materiality of his images.

Mallory Lowe Mpoka (b. Montreal, Canada, 1996) is a queer Cameroonian-Belgian artist who works between Tiohtiá:ke (Montreal) and Douala, Cameroon. Mpoka’s work often employs self-portraiture, and her images form a unique diasporic aesthetic that draws inspiration from the history of Central African portrait photography.

Re-Mixing African Photography: Kelani Abass, Mallory Lowe Mpoka and Abraham Oghobase is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario.

@AGOToronto | #seeAGO   

Lead Support:
TD Bank Group through the TD Ready Commitment 

Contemporary programming at the AGO is generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts

Located in Toronto, the Art Gallery of Ontario is one of the largest art museums in North America, attracting approximately one million visitors annually. The AGO Collection of more than 120,000 works of art ranges from cutting-edge contemporary art to significant works by Indigenous and Canadian artists to European masterpieces. The AGO presents wide-ranging exhibitions and programs, including solo exhibitions and acquisitions by diverse and underrepresented artists from around the world. The AGO is committed to being welcoming and accessible: admission is free for anyone under 25 years, and anyone can purchase an annual pass for $35. In 2022, the AGO began the design phase of an expansion project intended to increase exhibition space for the museum’s growing modern and contemporary collection. When construction begins in 2024, it will be the seventh expansion that the AGO has undertaken since it was founded in 1900.  Visit to learn more.

The AGO is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO Members, donors and private-sector partners.

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