Joana Choumali

Born in 1974 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Joana studied Graphic Arts in Casablanca (Morocco). Before starting her carrier as a photographer, she worked as an Art Director for an advertising agency. Since 2000, she participated in numerous personal and group exhibitions on the African continent, in France and Great Britain. Her series "Hââbré*, the last generation”(2013-14), was awarded several times and was shown in Africa, Europe, the United States, and Malaysia. The depicted scarification is an old African tradition. Once being a norm with high social status, it is nowadays vanishing, due to the shift of values in contemporary societies. In consequence, this series is a witness of former times.


Also dealing with the past and present is the series “Resilience” (2013-14), where Joana photographed African women in the traditional clothes of her female ancestors. Likewise, “Adorn” (2015) has a documentary character. Nevertheless, it is about the reinterpretation of European beauty standards by present-day black African women. The series was on view in the Pavilion of the Ivory Coast at the Venice Biennale 2017, beside the series “Translation” (2016-17) was presented. Here the artist questions about migration and its effects on the concerned societies and the enduring dream of African people to find a better life in the western world, despite obstacles like visa requirements. “Ouagadougou New York” is our artwork of the month of January 2018.


Joana’s recent series "ça va aller..." (It will be OK) (2016) was taken three weeks after the terrorist attacks in Grand Bassam (Ivory Coast) on the 13 March 2016. Bassam was for her always an area of peaceful retreat, with positive memory of childhood experience and family meetings, until the day of the raid. Even though, the events caused a deep sadness in the little town, these feelings were often shortened by the formula “ça va aller...” In capturing the gloomy atmosphere and embroidering these images, the artist tried to heal mental wounds. "ça va aller..." was presented for the first time AKAA – Also Known As Africa 2017 in Paris, France, then in 1-54 Art Fair in Marrakech, in New York and in London 2018. For this series, Choumali was awarded the prestigious 100'000 CHF Prix Pictet in 2020.


Joana’s last series Albahian - Multiple layers of delicate and dreamy fabrics, intertwined and embroidered together with portions of images, poetic collages of photographs. The real world fuses with the feelings and impressions of the inner world, resulting in an evocative and complex image enriched by invisible meanings. One that would not be possible without the introspective examination Joana Choumali has been going through.


Alba'hian means the "first light of the morning", or the dawn, in Agni language of Côte d’Ivoire, celebrates the powerful energy that comes with the beginning of a new day, the new light that makes everything visible and illuminates the world the same way we are born again the moment we embrace our inner self and accept our real nature.

In Joana’s photographic projects, the documentary meets art and vice versa. In addition, she lately introduced embroidery into the images. As an attentive observer of her society, she picks up subjects of tradition and history as well as contemporary issues. Through these topics, she questions about collective and personal identity.

Works in the collection