Art March 12, 2010 By Jenna Martin
Pieter Hugo Escort Kama, Enugu, Nigeria, 2008 From the series Nollywood Digital C-Print © Pieter Hugo, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

Pieter Hugo Escort Kama, Enugu, Nigeria, 2008.

Intrigued with the distinct style and operation of Nollywood cinema, Hugo started documenting on movie sets. Dissatisfied with the images and wanting “to take photographs that would challenge the usual representations of Africa”, Hugo set out with a team of local actors and assistants to recreate common Nollywood myths and archetypes. What began as a quasi-documentation of Nollywood evolved into something very different. “You never know what you are going to get. You arrange the variables to try to articulate best what you want to say or see, but it would invariably turn out in a very different way. It almost becomes a theatrical happening.”
The result was the Nollywood series — compelling tableaux vivants of recognizable scenes, reimagined, and captured in a space where reality and fiction converge. A naked man wearing a Darth Vader mask stands in the middle of a river basin; a group of children pose with a crucified Jesus; a mummified man stands among a table and dozens of chairs. “What lends these images their power is the fact that they are the opposite of what a documentary photographer would normally do, that is to strip away excesses to reveal some coherent, accessible articulation of their subject. In this instance, it’s embellished…it’s constructed. But it still relates to that experience in some way or another. I like the idea of placing something that sits in between spaces, that is hard to define.” Through occupying this ambiguous space, Nollywood challenges conventional notions of fiction and reality, to depict a fabricated world that is perhaps more authentic than we think.
Nollywood is on view at the Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, through April 10.

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