TJ Boulting is proud to present ‘Land of Ibeji’, a collaborative photographic series by Benedicte Kurzen and Sanne De Wilde exploring the mythology of twinhood in Nigeria. West Africa and specifically Yoruba-land (Nigeria’s South West) has ten times more twins than any other region in the world. “Ibeji” meaning ‘double birth’ and ‘the inseparable two’ in Yoruba stands for the ultimate harmony between two people. Through a visual narrative and an aesthetic language that is meant to reflect and empower the Yoruba culture that celebrates twins, the two photographers extend their gaze beyond appearance - with symmetry and resemblance as tools - to open the eyes to the twin as a mythological figure and a powerful metaphor: for the duality within a human being and the duality we experience in the world that surrounds us.
To highlight the ‘magical’ and ‘supernatural’, to visualise that what cannot be seen; two colour filters were used in certain pictures, amplifying the duality of two photographers, two individuals, two identities; two perceptions coloured differently. Colours symbolising contradictory beliefs: purple for the spiritual and heavenly and red for the earthly, danger. Layers of portraiture, double exposure, landscape and still life come together as visual narrative translating the mythology of twin hood. The photographers are using various genres with duality as a key theme: the metaphor and the literal, the visible and the invisible, the material and the spiritual.
“We believe ‘Ibeji’ (twins) bring good luck. They represent fertility and bring love, they are a blessing to the family. Once you have twins, people believe that more and more of everything will come to you. Twins are also related to the monkey spirit and more specifically to the Edun monkey. These monkeys always give birth to twins so they are a symbol for the ‘Ibeji’.’’ Nike Davies Okundaye, Yoruba artist and designer.
There is a vast fascination for twins around the world. Although many of the myths and stories about twin-hood have faded or been forgotten it is a recurring theme weaving through biblical and cultural storytelling, philosophy and even science. Think of the Gemini stars Castor and Pollux, Romulus and Remus creating Rome and Plato articulating the double nature of humanity. Folklorist Alan Dundes defines myth as a sacred narrative that explains how the world and humanity evolved into their present form. Dundes classified a sacred narrative as “a story that serves to define the fundamental worldview of a culture by explaining aspects of the natural world and delineating the psychological and social practices and ideals of a society”.
As such the mythology of twin-hood in the wider sense becomes a way to address themes like identity, genetics, demographics, economy, religion and environmental issues.
The opening is part of FITZROVIA PHOTO LONDON, with Private Views also held at the Fitzrovia Chapel and Webber Gallery Space.
Bénédicte Kurzen (born 1980), is a French photographer and photojournalist. She graduated with a Master’s degree in contemporary history from Sorbonne University in Paris. She wrote her final essay about the “myth of the war photographer”, which inspired her to become a visual storyteller herself. Her photographic career began when she moved to Israel in 2003, covering hard news as a freelancer in the Gaza Strip, Iraq and Lebanon. In 2004, her photography developed from hard news to a more documentary style with her work on the lives of volunteer suicide bombers and widows in the Gaza Strip. Bénédicte contributed with this work to the “Violence Against Women” group project, in collaboration with Amnesty International and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). For the past ten years, Bénédicte has been covering conflicts and socio-economical changes in Africa. In South Africa, where she was based, she explored some of the deepest social challenges of the post-apartheid society producing “Next of Kin”, “The Boers Last Stand” and “Amaqabane”, on the life of former anti-apartheid combatants. The latest was produced for prestigious World Press Joop Swart Masterclass 2008. In 2011, she received a grant from the Pulitzer Center, which allowed her to produce a body of work on Nigeria, “A Nation Lost to Gods”. Her work has been screened and exhibited at Visa pour l’Image and was nominated for the Visa d’Or in 2012. After becoming a full member of the NOOR agency in 2012, she decided to move to Lagos, from where she could pursue her coverage of Africa, with a focus on Nigeria.Her work has been published in The New York Times, Paris Match, The New Yorker, Le Monde Magazine and Newsweek. Her first exhibition was at TJ Boulting in 2015 with Robin Maddock and Cristina de Middel ‘Shine Ur Eye’ which then travelled to Lagos Photo Festival. She is based in Lagos, Nigeria.
Sanne De Wilde (Belgium, 1987) graduated with a Master in the Fine Arts at KASK in Ghent (BE) with great honours in 2012. Her photo series ‘The Dwarf Empire’ was rewarded with the Photo Academy Award 2012 as well as the International Photography Award Emergentes DST in 2013. Her serie ‘Snow White’ was awarded 16ème Prix National Photographie Ouverte and NuWork Award for Photographic Excellence. She was awarded the Nikon Press Award in 2014 and 2016 for most promising young photographer. The British Journal of Photography selected De Wilde as one of ‘the best emerging talents from around the world’ in 2014 and recently received the Firecracker Grant 2016, PHmuseum Women’s Grant and de Zilveren Camera award for ‘The Island of the Colorblind’. This project was exhibited in Rencontres d’Arles in 2018 and was an award-winning book published by Hannibal/Kehrer. She has been internationally published (Guardian, New Yorker, Le Monde, CNN, Vogue) and exhibited (Voies OFF, Tribeca Film Festival, Circulations, Lagos Photo, Lodz Fotofestiwal, IDFA, STAM and EYE). She became a member of NOOR agency in 2017. She lives and works between Nigeria and Amsterdam.
‘Land of Ibeji’ was recently named winner of the Portrait Series category at World Press Photo.
For more information please contact Hannah Watson firstname.lastname@example.org