ZAM Reporter

Here are the winners of the Contemporary Art Photography Prize 2023

The winning projects of the CAP Prize were announced on 7 July 2023 during the opening week of Les Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles, France.

This year marks the 12th edition of the prize. The jury of twenty photography industry professionals selected these exciting and thoughtful series by photographers engaging with the African continent and its diaspora.

The awarded stories, in alphabetical order, are:

Hond (2023) by Nadia Ettwein

I was told my mother threw me away like a dog – I’ve never stopped believing that. We were discarded children at a time when my country was struggling with its demons.

I’m Nadia. Born in 1984 and raised all over South Africa.

Looks Like Dad. From Hond, 2023

My sister was three when mom left dad in 1989. We were brought up by parents who fought private battles within a faltering political ideology. There was sickness outside and at home.

My father joined the South African Army, and my mother legally wrote me off. I was adopted. Had multiple stepparents. (I felt) absence of love.

I am afflicted by my ancestry and heredity. There are always people who give you up. My work relates to dissociating from painful memories, trauma, rejection, femininity and my current experiences. You find yourself in a situation of instability and displacement of post-apartheid, religion, and child welfare, trying to grow up as a solid human in-between the neglect. There are beginnings and endings, balance and imbalance, and the ‘betweenness’ of a collective memory.

Pienk Baba. From Hond, 2023

Abuse isn’t poetic, nor was being raised as an Afrikaans girl.”

Nadia Ettwein is based in Cape Town, South Africa. Nadia started taking photos with a point-and-shoot camera at around the age of 16. Ettwein is mostly self-taught.

Ziplock. From Hond, 2023

This Is a Story About My Family (2022) by Yassmin Forte

“My parents fell in love on a dance floor in Quelimane, Mozambique. My father was stationed at the height of the Portuguese occupation of Mozambique, part of the armed forces, and my mother was a local Mozambican woman. My father was destined to return to Portugal.

With independence in 1975, the Frelimo Party (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique) ordered the Portuguese to leave the country within 24 hours. My father stayed and fell in love.

Young in Moz. From This is a story about my family, 2022

My images attempt to dissect and navigate the effects of colonialism and migration from my family's history. It addresses three aspects – family, migration and the story of Africans – by using family archives and my images. I attempt to investigate how Africans have become the result of mixtures, migrations and colonisation, histories mixed and patterns repeated, and in this way, unpack my own African identity.

History repeats itself. From This is a story about my family, 2022

The collage exaggerates and emphasises this history; at times, family images are placed on top of the scenes from modern and remembered Mozambique in juxtaposing past and present. I used collage to construct a past and the perception of my own identity.”

Yassmin Forte (1980) lives in Maputo, Mozambique.

Family letter. From This is a story about my family, 2022

Between Yesterday and Tomorrow (2023) by Maheder Haileselassie

“I read Ethiopia’s history as a child in my father’s books that he left before his passing. Ethiopian society prides itself on having 3000 years of history and defeating colonisation. Remembering is in our cultural DNA. We stand at an intersection, yearning for the past and longing for the future with profound uncertainty.

The seduction of memory II. From Between Yesterday and Tomorrow, 2023

I superimposed 19th-century archives made by Europeans with images from my current work and family albums. This acts as a metaphor for the overlapping of time and space in one’s memory, speaking to our nostalgia while acknowledging the involvement of the Western world in our history.

The landscape is part of our heritage. Visiting my grandparents' birthplace brought a fleet of memories. It was an initial longing for the presence of my ancestors, followed by a rush of melancholy for the complex and contested future awaiting this generation of Ethiopians.

Shifting memories II. A 19th-century palace in Ankober, now named Ankober Lodge. From Between Yesterday and Tomorrow, 2023

Identity photos from my family album are layered with archival portraits of Ethiopian rulers and everyday people, bringing a new being into existence, removed further from the original, speaking to the fluidity of memory and identity shifting between personal and collective memories.

Remembering is feeling. It’s involuntarily navigating in a dreamlike state between yesterday and tomorrow.”

Maheder Haileselassie (1990) is an Ethiopian documentary photographer/visual artist born and based in Addis Ababa.

National memories III, Shifting identities Axum Obelisks symbolise pride and testify to 3000 years of Ethiopian history. However, during the recent war in Ethiopia, hundreds of town residents were brutally executed, shifting our memory and outlook forever. From Between Yesterday and Tomorrow, 2023

Sunday Special (2022), Carlos Idun-Tawiah

“I photographed this series as a requiem of my memories. I was inspired by a close study of the family album and my recollection of growing up in a Christian home. I highlighted the ethos of Sundays from a much more vernacular perspective. I played with visual nostalgia, juxtapositions, colour and gesture to fully extract the roundedness of the traditions of what Sundays typically felt like in Ghana. Also, being conscious of blurring the lines between sanctity and our humanity and underscoring how community and divinity could exist in one place.

Untitled. From Sunday Special, 2022

My joy is to watch everyone who sees this go back in time. Inciting that delight that can only be found when we look back. Provoking the sweet joys of what our memories could best serve us.”

Untitled. From Sunday Special, 2022

Carlos Idun-Tawiah (1997) is a Ghanaian photographer and filmmaker based in Accra, Ghana. Inspired by Africa’s rich photographic archives, Carlos seeks to remark and reimagine the ever-changing landscapes of Black life. His photographs are mostly characterised by subject matters around the vernacular, community, love and hope. Through his fictionalised photographic stories, Idun-Tawiah is committed to carefully accenting Black beauty and depth, by telling the African story with as much clarity as grace.

Untitled. From Sunday Special, 2022

Primordial Earth (2023), Léonard Pongo

“Primordial Earth is an experimental documentary project that relies on technical inaccuracies to translate the idea that vision is limited and man is biased. Inspired by Kasaï traditions (southern DRC) that where parts of reality existing outside of human's limited reach, the project uses "full spectrum" cameras to create images "touched by the invisible" and impacted by wavelengths invisible to humans.

Untitled. From Primordial Earth, 2023

By photographing the landscape of the Democratic Republic of Congo and focusing on the places, objects and shapes mentioned in Congolese traditions, the project recreates a visual narrative connected to the country's traditional tales and stories. It is based on a physical experience of the landscape.

Untitled. From Primordial Earth, 2023

Photography becomes a tool to connect with the land. It creates a dialogue between the country's incredibly varied landscape – a character with its own will and power – the inspiration from traditional symbols, stories and philosophies, and my presence as a limited actor trying to reconnect with this heritage. The space depicted becomes an allegorical tale revolving around genesis, apocalypse and eternal return, questioning our relevance and relationship to nature in a constant cycle of life & death as part of a natural cycle originating in Congo.”

Untitled. From Primordial Earth, 2023

Léonard Pongo (1988) is a photographer and visual artist. He divides his time between long-term projects in Congo DR, teaching, and assignment work. Pongo is also a member of the Photographic Collective’s advisory board. His work is part of institutional and private collections.