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Updated: Mar 1, 2019

Artist 72

Keyezua Fortia Empowering Photography

Keyezua is an Angolan-Dutch artist who graduated at the Royal Academy of Arts, in The Hague. As an artist, she explores the rebirth of Africa as a contemporary storyteller.

Her use of handmade African masks creates an empowering narrative that counteracts images of suffering

She believes that African artists can only break the stigmatised image and the prejudice of Africa through media, when they break their silence towards the African Art and expand their indigenous stories like a new vision of Africa.

Our focus today is on her series, Fortia in which Keyezua transforms the way we look at and think about the physical disability. Each photograph features a black woman in a red dress wearing a mask designed and created by a group of six Angolan men who, like Keyezua’s father, no longer had legs.

Keyezua lost her father as a young girl. He suffered from diabetes and had both his legs amputated before he died. Growing up without a father, Keyezua began to question the disempowering beliefs of standards of men and how disability was viewed in her community that were damaging the image of her father that she held close to her heart.

In 2015 Keyezua approached the group of six mask craftsmen. She started to have conversations with them about their stories and invited them to do the project with her. In her own words, “...I needed to understand their psychological way of thinking in a society that doesn’t really understand people who go through sicknesses where you are left incomplete.”

From months of research, interviews, and Keyezua used the conversations to inform the movement in the project by putting herself in the same positions these men have to work with daily. Through this she tries to achieve an understanding of what exactly she wanted to tell with this story, to personally feel, and try to understand what her father was going through. Through this experience, She created the series ritual: Fortia, which is Latin for ‘strength.’”

“Fortia as an image is a woman who seduces the eye of the viewer with a red dress but the story is the masks. Each mask represents the strength of people that go through a physical disability around the world. It is strength that should be celebrated – not exhibited as sad stories. We want the conversation in another way. ...Each mask represents a part of me, but it’s also the ritual continuing and how I see my father in all the details of the work: the things that I wanted to keep with me that will never vanish.” - Keyezua

Keyezua explains her uses the female body in this project explaining her voice as an African woman and growing up in a patriarchal world without a father. In this she addresses stereotypical views of a woman’s place in her society and challenges it by channeling her voice and empowering the voices of others in the process.

In the analysis of Diaspora it can refer not to only physical displacement but emotional displacement. Keyezua critically comments on her community whilst celebrating the disenfranchised finding her voice outside of cultural expectations.


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