Born in Switzerland to a Swiss father and Guinean mother, Namsa Leuba uses photography in order to get closer to her African heritage and blend it with her Swiss identity. The artist has said, “There is a great richness in being of mixed cultures,” and she works to display this within her portraits. Thus Leuba’s work focuses on African identity through the Western imagination. The use of color and lively pattern in Damien gives the piece a dreamlike, rhythmic feeling, pointing to the colorful and exotic stereotypes that the West places on Africa. Damien is part of the series NGL, or New Generation Lagos, which focuses on the faces of the subjects while keeping in mind two of Leuba’s major interests: color and fashion. The yellow color on the skin may refer to a masking of identity that is imposed by the West on those with darker skin to make blackness more digestible. By exoticizing the entire continent, the West does not allow individuals or communities to determine their own blackness. By layering another color onto the skin of her subject, Leuba draws attention to the complex layers that can exist between Africa and the West, black and white, viewer and subject.
Namsa Leuba was born in Switzerland. She studied photography at the University of Art and Design Lausanne (ECAL) and received her master’s in art direction there. Leuba has been published in magazines such as i-D, Numéro, Interview, KALEIDOSCOPE, New York, and British Journal of Photography. She has won several awards including first prize at the Festival Planche(s) Contact, France, in 2010, the Photo Global Prize at the Fashion and Photography Festival in Hyères in 2012, and the Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward Festival in 2013. Leuba has exhibited internationally at museums like the Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain, Redhook Labs in Brooklyn, and the Daegu Photo Biennale in Korea and has works in important private collections such as the Swiss Foundation for Photography. In 2016 the artist had her first large-scale solo exhibition, Ethnomodern, at Art Twenty One in Lagos. Leuba spends her time between Switzerland and various places on the African continent.
From the exhibition: Africa Pop Studio (April 1 – April 23, 2017)