Past and present collide in Omar Victor Diop’s (b. 1980) work. The Senegalese photographer takes cues from 15th to 19th century western portraits to portray overlooked Black pioneers. In the series Diaspora (2014), for example, he appears as Juan de Pareja (1606-1670), an enslaved man who became a painter after an apprenticeship with Spanish artist Diego Velázquez (1599-1660). Diop holds an anachronistic object, such as shiny football boots, to allude to the present. The photographer moves beyond single figures in Liberty (2017), revisiting significant moments from the Civil Rights Movement in the USA to activism against imperialism across Africa. Restaged scenes from the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches and the Soweto uprising in 1976 celebrate legacies of revolt and the fight for equality.
His latest project, Allegoria (2021), continues in a similar vein stylistically, but focuses on a contemporary issue: the climate emergency. Diop sits on a platform, smelling the scent of an illustrated purple flower – a bloom that is a complete mirage. In one, he cradles an arctic hare and, in another, a dodo, high- lighting the current destruction of natural habitats and its ultimate consequence: extinction. These images seem to be pulled straight from fairytales, yet they question the future of humanity, specifically in the global south, amidst environmental decline. Fotografiska Stockholm brings together these three major bodies of work for the first time in one show. The artist revisits the past to challenge representations of diasporic experiences and asks: what can be unearthed from history if we look hard enough?
Fotografiska, Stockholm | Until 12 March
1. Omar Victor Diop, Allegoria 8 (2021). Pigment inkjet print on Canson Infinity Arches 88 paper. 60 x 60 cm. Edition de 7 + 2 artist’s proofs. 100 x 100 cm. Edition de 5 + 1 artist’s proof © Omar Victor Diop Courtesy MAGNIN-A Gallery, Paris.
2. Omar Victor Diop, Allegoria 13 (2021). Pigment inkjet print on Canson Infinity Arches 88 paper. 60 x 60 cm. Edition de 7 + 2 artist’s proofs. 100 x 100 cm. Edition de 5 + 1 artist’s proof © Omar Victor Diop Courtesy MAGNIN-A Gallery, Paris.