Disposable to Divine: Ayana V. Jackson’s Almighty Lens


Known for approaching her subjects in a manner that is equal parts personal, technical, and intense, Ayana Vellissia Jackson’s images provide viewers with compelling glimpses of a human condition that overflows borders.

Ms. Jackson’s present projects examine virtual maroon societies and spaces created to accommodate complex identities birthed by a rapidly expanding global community. Her work on Hip hop and punk communities erase lines between socio-cultural anthropology, reportage, and fine art fields. Full Circle: A Survey of Ghana Hip Hop  and subsequent studies of Cuban and Turkish- German hip hop present international hip hop as a borderless society.



El Negro Mas Chulo: African by Legacy, Mexican by Birth (2006)

Likewise, Colorproof: People of Color in Punk and Rock, expresses the idea that contained in the socio-political attributes of these communities is an explicit critique of mainstream, Americanized societies, a critique ultimately expressed through the formation of identities that are neither nationalist nor ethnic. El Negro Mas Chulo: African by Legacy, Mexican by Birth is a collaborative project Ms. Jackson completed with writer/artist Marco Villalobos. Here, Mexico’s community of African descendants is presented to us through a creative interplay of Photography, film, and music.

Ms. Jackson gives ACCRA [dot] ALT a sneak peek through her lens and nearly a decade of work on race, gender, identity and history:

Lord Kenya, from Full Circle a Survey of Hip Hop in Ghana, 2001
Full Circle was my first concentrated body of work. It looks Hip Life and ways Ghanaians engage with and further remix cultural expressions coming from the diaspora.
Heitah, from Portrait of the New Guard, Johannesburg 2007
Looks at South Africa via youth coming of age in post apartheid/post transition era.

Installation View of Maria de Latte (Matron Saint to Nannies and Wet Nurses), at Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg, 2011
Looks at the Black woman as caretaker of non-Black children and relates her to the Virgin Mary (a surrogate mother). By doing this I attempt to elevate the nanny and the wet nurse  from disposable to Divine.

Cornrows, from Aguadulce, Colombia,  2006
Looks at the footprint of the transatlantic slave trade in the Americas. Works to include Latin America and the Caribbean in the dialogue on the African Diaspora.

Leapfrog (a bit of the other) Grand Matron Army, Paris and Johannesburg, 2010
Traces Black female archetypes from the Pre-Colonial to the Afropolitan/AfroChic. Aims to highlight female organized space and the complexities within Black woman identity, while at the same time considering ways her body has historically been eroticized by the power elite.

La Reina de la Primavera, from African by Legacy, Mexican by Birth, 2005
Looks at African descendents on the Pacific and Gulf Coasts of Mexico.

Race and Gender, from Black Madonna Tabloid Series, 2011
Critiques the celebrity adoption trend by adopting the layout and typography of the tabloid and infusing it with scholarly text on the issue.

Death (Strange Fruit), from PovPorn, 2011
Recreates iconic images of suffering as a series of nudes. Examines the way photographic representation of violence in the Global South relies on the tension of seduction and repulsion.
To see more by Ayana Vellissia Jackson, check her out at www.avjphotography.com.

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