20 photographers capturing the beauty of modern Africa to follow in 2020

Ghanaian art and culture platform Manju Journal curate a selection of up-and-coming photographers you need to follow on Instagram.

by Manju Journal and Ryan White
01 May 2020, 8:00am

If there’s one thing, and one thing only, that productivity vortex Instagram is good for, it’s finding incredible imagery. So, in 2020, it’s time to unfollow @fuckjerry -- all the good memes are on Twitter anyway -- and instead enjoy its original purpose; unearthing brilliant photographers that offer your feed something truly original.

Orlando Mensah, born and raised in Ghana and currently based in Accra, set up Manju Journal with the aim of championing up-and-coming artists of African descent in an authentic way. With over 40,000 Instagram followers and a website in the making, it hasn’t taken long for his vision to come to life and for the platform to become a vital voice in celebrating emerging African creativity. “It’s really important to me that what we do is a conversation between the continent and the diaspora,” he says. “It should be as expansive as possible, to create space for us to really learn from each other, without being filtered by an external gaze.”

Kusi Kubi, who splits his time between London and Accra, joined Manju as Fashion Director a little later. “I was really impressed by what Orlando had managed to build,” he says. “It’s about intimacy. There is a lot you can capture when you aren’t seeing a place for the first time, so I really wanted to use the access I’d gained and relationships I’d built working in different parts of the world to support the talent here.” For both, being part of a community and having the chance to celebrate its rising artists alongside bigger names, all on one platform, is constantly rewarding. “When you’re in a smaller scene, like the one we have in Accra, you know everyone and it’s much clearer how things are emerging,” Kusi says. “The last few years have been really exciting and it’s great to see the different spaces people are creating for themselves and to share it with them.“

The goal for now is to simply keep growing, allowing Manju Journal to forge greater links between artists and institutions, and create more space for creativity to thrive and potential to be realised in Accra and beyond. “It’s not as easy for me to get to New York or London or Paris as it might be for someone from those places to come here if they wanted to,” Orlando adds. “That can be frustrating sometimes, how imbalanced movement is, and I have to say no to a lot of things simply because getting there is difficult. There are more and more artists of African descent creating, but the places where work is shown around the world follows older patterns that I’d like to open up a bit more. We have featured so much incredible work that I haven’t been able to see in person.”

Here, Orlando and Kusi curate 20 photographers to follow on Instagram, who they believe capture the beauty of modern Africa. With their choices, the pair are drawn to “artists who are able to convey their ideas in really concise ways,” Orlando says. “When you can look at one image and just get it without needing all the spiel... we really appreciate artists that are sensitive to the cultural dynamics they find themselves in, but remain unafraid to push boundaries. Fresh but grounded.”

Nana Yaw Oduro

The Accra-based photographer captures Ghanaian youth in celestial colours, juxtaposing light and dark in remarkable ways.

Sackitey Tesa

A subtle mix of absurdity and humour can be found in every one of Sackitey’s images.

David NO Ansah

The warmth and depth and clever use of colour in David’s images accentuate the small details of his subjects.

Ismail Zaidy

Utilising the rich, natural colours of Marrakech, Ismail’s mix of cerulean blue and pastel pink colour schemes with traditional Moroccan motifs creates an alternative perspective of his home.

Yannis Davy Guibinga

Gabonese photographer Yannis elevates his subjects to near divine status in his elaborate compositions, placing bright hair and beauty looks against contrasting gradient backdrops.

Mous Lamrabat

Mixing together symbols of Western capitalism with traditional Moroccan customs, Mous, who was born in the north of Morocco and grew up in Belgium, finds both humour and beauty at this intersection.

Trevor Stuurman

A diligent reporter of Johannesburg's enchanting street style and its many different subcultures, Trevor’s work is nothing short of magical.

Lawrence Agyei

Raised in Italy before moving to Chicago, Ghanaian photographer Lawrence tells stories about the many different faces of the diaspora in his pictures.

Sol Bela Mele

Based in Barcelona, Sol captures the energy of the city and its parties, such as beloved clubnight Voodoo Club.

Prince Gyasi

Crafting a cosmic portrait of Ghana and West Africa, each one of Prince’s kaleidoscopic pictures and projects inspires a burst of hope, optimism and joy.

Olya Oleinic

Born in the Republic of Moldova, Olya’s travelled extensively across the world, telling stories from Seoul to Lebanon. Her work in South Africa, Namibia and Morocco is quiet, sensitive and elegant.

Kreshonna Keane

24-year-old Bronx-based artist Kreshonna takes beautifully rich, colourful portraiture of life in the Bronx.

Jesse Navarre Vos

Based in Cape Town, Jesse’s photography is blissfully still.

Joshua Kissi

Ghanaian-American and raised in the Bronx, Joshua amassed a huge online following for his beautiful portraits of life unfolding in New York City.

Toby Coulson

The recipient of numerous awards and the subject of many exhibitions, Toby’s lens on the world captures something charming, beautiful and ever so slightly surreal.

Anne Akua Barlinckhoff

Shooting delicate photography against dusky evening light, Dutch-born Anne has a beautiful view on the world.

Aytekin Yalçın

Awe-inspiring, dramatic portraiture.

Ronan Mckenzie

London-based Ronan’s work always feels incredibly raw and honest no matter what and where she is shooting.

Sophie Jones

No one captures the energy of summer in London quite like Sophie.

Cary Fagan

Texas-based artist Cary caught the attention of many with his evocative work capturing the magic unfolding behind the scenes of Solange’s album and tour last year.

Special mention: Creative director Josef Adamu

A lesson in telling stories truthfully and meaningfully, as well as letting the natural beauty of your subjects speak for itself, creative director Josef’s work with other photographers and videographers is captivating in its simplicity.

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