Hââbré: Beauty & Identity By Scarification
Beauty and identity, were the themes of most conversations sparked by Joana Choumali’s ‘Hââbré - The Last Generation’, at the private viewing of her first solo exhibition in London. Hââbré, meaning ‘writing’ in the Kô language of Burkina Faso — explores the dying practice of body scarification in African culture. Practiced by many cultures globally, the collection features portraits of men and women from Abidjan (Ivory Coast), with the sides of their faces bearing a mark, as the focus of each photo.
Accompanying each image is a quote from each sitter about their scarification, what it means and once meant to them. Carried out by incision, this practice once considered as a mark of beauty and often performed as a rite of passage is being eradicated by African society’s change of beauty ideals and religious principles, mostly influenced by the West.
Bold, strong and at first uncomfortable to look at for some, the imprint on the faces of each subject, challenges us to view beauty through lenses that are devoid of euro and western-centric values. It also encourages us to engage in the idea of beauty and identity as being interlinked - which could, and is a source of empowerment for many.
If one allows their eyes to take in the scars in a photo, it’s easy to image that each scar must mean something. Perhaps personal or tribal? Either way, Joana’s work exposes the meaning behind the art of scarification and underscores it as not being barbaric (as some may consider it to be), but as a practice with meaning which has taken a new face in the form of tattoos and piercings amongst the younger Ivorian (African) generation.
Joana’s work is currently exhibiting at 50 Golborne, until April 2nd.