Sunday Special:
Carlos Idun-Tawiah

Sunday Special:<br>Carlos Idun-Tawiah

“I photographed this series as a requiem of my memories.” Carlos Idun-Tawiah (b. 1997) is a Ghanaian photographer and filmmaker based in Accra. Inspired by the country’s rich photographic archives, the artist crafts fictional visual narratives about community, hope, love and tradition. Idun-Tawiah is committed to carefully accenting Black beauty and depth, and tells these nuanced stories with clarity and grace. Sunday Special (2022), on view now at Galerie Huit Arles, was sparked by a close study of family albums, revisiting memories of growing up in a Christian Ghanaian family.

Idun-Tawiah’s photographs bear a quiet intimacy. In one image, a group of sisters huddle together in a living room, adjusting and preening each other’s hairstyles and outfits. In another, a young boy lifts his face to the side, allowing a barber to shave his head. These pictures are complex tableaux, rich in colour and detail, transporting viewers from sunny courtyards to turquoise kitchens. Undertones of studio photography, such as the work of Seydou Keïta (b. 1921) and Malick Sidibé (b. 1936), are traceable in the artist’s practice. There is a sense of history at play, advocated by a rigorous and and biographical eye that values the importance of preservation. Beyond this, they possess a delicacy and rawness – depicting devotion, laughter and grief. This poetic, lyrical quality is reminiscent of other Ghanian photographers working today. Eric Asamoah (b. 1999) is one such example. His series Forever Lasts Until It Ends (2021) focuses on the coming-of-age experiences of young men in Ghana.

“I tried to highlight the ethos of Sundays from a much more vernacular perspective. I played with visual nostalgia, juxtapositions, colour and gesture to fully extract the roundedness of the traditions of what Sundays typically felt like in Ghana. [I was] also being conscious of blurring the lines between sanctity and our humanity, and underscoring the idea of how community and divinity could exist in one place. My joy is to have everyone who sees this go back in time one way or the other; to incite that delight that can only be found when we look back; to provoke the sweet joys of what our memories could best serve us.” Idun-Tawiah is interested in both the individual and the collective. This comes through in his stories, which feature in-depth characters and communities brought to life through immersive costume, set design and period details. As Nana Oforiatta Ayim writes in Aperture, “He conjures visceral recollections held in his memory yet out of reach, […] his subjects freely inhabit the roles they are playing.” These are lived histories.

In June 2023, the work was selected as a winning series for OpenWalls Arles vol.4, a collaboration between the British Journal of Photography and Galerie Huit Arles. Entrants were asked to respond to the theme of “Truth” in an open call that encouraged work on subjectivity, political realities and self-actualisation. Idun-Tawiah joins single-image winners such as Julia Gunther, (b. 1979), who presents a portrait of Eunice, a deaf tailor from Southern Malawi, as well as Heather Agyepong’s b. (1990) Too Many Blackamoors (#4) (2015), that uses concealed portraiture to challenge the expectations Black women face. Here, photography is used to depict real events and to push imaginative boundaries. Sunday Special blends personal and shared experiences, shedding light on family, memory and what it means to belong.

Sunday Special | Until 23 September

Words: Chloe Elliott

Image Credits:

Sunday Special ©Carlos Idun-Tawiah, Courtesy of Galerie Huit Arles & British Journal of Photography