Photographer Joana Choumali realized upon her grandmother’s passing just how much of her story had gone with her. She decided soon afterwards to embark on a project that would document young, contemporary African women and their relationships to past generations. Through the photos, Choumali not only hoped to promote the message that the past is never truly lost but she also wanted to celebrate African beauty in all of its diverse representations.
“I was hoping to convey the fact that African women mutate through the generations while remaining anchored to their roots and traditions, able to remain true to themselves, just like the earth from which they came,” she told The Huffington Post.
Soukeyna, 25, studied Marketing in Bordeaux (France). She is wearing her great grand mother’s outfit. To be able to bring it to the studio, She and her mother had to ask the permission to the actual King of Grand Bassam and promissed to bring the outfit and jewelry back to the royal court right after the photoshoot. the outfit was worn by the Queen , her great grand mother in the 1930s.Soukeyna came to the studio with her mother, who posed for the project as well. She was wearing a miniskirt and Converse sneakers. By wearing the outfit she felt like a different woman. Her gesture changed. Her mother was in tears, impressed by the resemblance between Soukeyna and her great grand mother. They came to the photoshoot with a portrait of the great grand mother aged 17, in this same outfit.
Selena Souadou, 21, is from Guinea. She essentially lived in Ivory Coast and Senegal. She studies International Relations with a specialization in international development and economics, in the United States. Guinean and Malian, she is from both Fulani and Sarakolé tribes . “I feel closer to my Fulani origins, just because my family is and because I often went to Guinea, where my father lives.” The outfit Selena, made indigo loincloth, comes from her maternal grandmother from whom she inherited her name, Souadou.
She reached out to her subjects through word of mouth and social media and also set out to find a certain type of personality. “I had a precise type of woman in mind, with a natural beauty, the type of beauty that could ‘time travel,” Choumali explained. “Women with beautiful skin, no matter the complexion. Most of them succeed in dealing with such a fragile balance between past and present, between Westernized habits and traditions. I think it makes them stronger. They adapt to these very subtle social and cultural changes.”
Danielle Niamke Asroumingoumin, 50 is a native of Grand-Bassam (southeast of the Ivory Coast) and belongs to the ethnic group N’zima.Danielle lived her childhood in Gabon and Spain She teaches spanish in Abidjan in a french high school. Danielle is wearing her grand mother’s outfit. The style and design cut of her outfit is typically from the 1950s.Danielle was very emotional as at that time her mother recently passed away. She inheritated the grandmother’s belongings from her mother. By posing for the series, she realized how much her mother and her looked alike. Danielle admits to not go very often in the village of his parents. She does not speak his mother tongue – to her regret. However, she feels proud to be an African woman.For Danielle, “Resilient” is a “great adventure back to our roots”, a project that highlights the beauty of African women.”Every day I am in trousers because it is very functional. This session was very fun, I enjoyed doing it. I was proud to wear these clothes from my grandmother. I found myself in my mother and my grandmother’s shoes. Seeing the final picture, I was surprised and pleased to discover my resemblance to my mother. “
“I hope to communicate the idea that there is an indissoluble bond that associates us with the previous generations,” Choumali said. “The importance of rediscovering and keeping in touch with the roots is what fully builds our identity. I would like to start a conversation about gender, cultural heritage and identity in today’s Africa. I believe that this is not only for African people, it is also valuable for any culture in the world.”