The 25 shortlisted projects were chosen by a panel of 20 international judges.
The 25 shortlisted projects were chosen by a panel of 20 international judges. Copyright Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023

Take a look at these awe-inspiring photos from the Contemporary African Photography prize

By Theo Farrant
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As we anticipate the announcement of the five winners of the Contemporary African Photography prize, we've handpicked a selection of our favourite projects.


25 incredibly talented photographers have been shortlisted for the Contemporary African Photography (CAP) prize. 

The CAP prize, an esteemed accolade, is bestowed annually upon five photographers whose creations either originate in Africa or explore the rich tapestry of the African diaspora.

As we await the announcement of the winners, set to take place in Arles, France, on 7 July, we've selected a few of our favourites. 

From the profoundly impactful 'Dark Memories' project by Emeke Obanor, which sheds light on the harrowing tales of child trafficking victims in Nigeria, to Jonathan Jasberg's unflinchingly honest exploration of the vibrant streets of Cairo, these photographs are bound to astound and mesmerise you. 

'Reaching for Dawn' - Elliott Verdier

Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
Boys on concert, Westpoint. From Reaching for Dawn. (Elliott Verdier)Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
Of the bloody civil war (1989-2003) that decimated Liberia, its population does not speak. No proper memorial has been built, no day is dedicated to commemoration. The country, still held by several protagonists of the carnage, refuses to condemn its perpetrators.

This deafening silence, which resonates internationally, denies any possibility of social recognition or collective memory of the massacres, immersing Liberia in an endless feeling of abandonment and drowsy resignation. The trauma carved into the population’s flesh is crystallised in the society’s weak foundations, still imbued with an unsound Americanism, and bleeds onto a new generation with a hazy future. Liberia is suffering a long, anonymous night, a decaying sludge of existence miring pain and innate loneliness.

This photographic and audio work explores the mechanisms of its resilience and the invisible resorts of psychic trauma in war.

'Another Tale By Moonlight' - Yagazie Emezi

Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
Pay the Piper. From Another Tale By Moonlight (Yagazie Emezi)Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
Another Tale by Moonlight is an acute photographic re-imagination of European fairy tales that juxtaposes Nigeria's historical, cultural, environmental and contemporary socio-political realities. This project illuminates obscured narratives and the intertwined moral complexities of both cultures.

'The Women's War' - Bright Charles

Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
Dying To Live. From The Women’s War (Bright Charles)Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
'The Women’s War' (based on true events) brings us a history of the exploits of the women who fought in the Aba Women’s Riot of 1929.

'Mapalakata' - Robin Bernstein

Credit: Contemporary African photography prize
Untitled. From Mapalakata by Robin Bernstein (2023)Credit: Contemporary African photography prize
'Mapalakata' is a word recorded in oral traditions of the area meaning ‘visitors’, that was used to describe Arab and Indian traders who moved through Southern Africa before the time of European colonisation. The word is not commonly used today.

This project looks at the transient nature of ‘visitors’ to the landscape, via a visual reassessment of this key historical and geographical region in Southern Africa. It intends to comment on the broader South African social condition — particularly the relationship South African people maintain with the land they inhabit and narratives of cyclical decay and rebirth.

'Burger Movement' - Kwasi Darko

Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
Eli & Sons. From Burger Movement (Kwasi Darko)Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
Burger in Ghanaian pidgin language means to relocate/elope to another place or country, typically one with better or higher living conditions than where one's from. It also originates from the high migration of people from Ghana to Hamburg, Germany, from the late 70s to the '80s. Scaling down to local usage, the rampant movement of people from other regions and rural areas in Ghana to more urban centres like Accra, Kumasi and Tamale and from these urban areas to other parts of the world is not strange. Continuous uneven distribution of development and resources across the country ensures this movement continues across generations.

This photo series documents one fishing community, Senchi, in the Volta Region of Ghana that is heavily affected by this phenomenon.

'Hond' - Nadia Ettwein

Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
Pienk Baba. From Hond. (Nadia Ettwein)Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
I was told my mother threw me away like a dog - I’ve never stopped believing that.
We were discarded children in a time when my country was struggling with its demons.

I’m Nadia. Born in 1984 and raised all over South Africa.
My sister was three when mom left dad in 1989.
We were raised by parents who fought private battles within a faltering political ideology.
There was sickness outside and at home.

My work relates to dissociating from painful memories, trauma, rejection, 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.

'This is a story about my family' - Yassmine Forte

Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
History repeats itself. From This is a story about my family. (Yassmine Forte)Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
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, 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.

'Sunday Special' - Carlos Idun-Tawiah

Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
Untitled. From Sunday Special. (Carlos Idun-Tawiah)Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
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.

'Cairo: A Beautiful Thing Is Never Perfect' - Jonathan Jasberg

Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
El Fishawy. From Cairo: A Beautiful Thing Is Never PerfectCredit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
The project's title borrows from an ancient Egyptian proverb, "A Beautiful Thing Is Never Perfect". Cairo was named “Most Beautiful City In The World” in 1925 but has gone through a very turbulent century since and thus is not often explored or photographed beyond the tourist sights.

These candid photographs are far from perfect, sometimes messy, grainy, and rushed. Through the spontaneity of a mix of classic and contemporary candid street photography techniques and styles, I aim to show moments of joy, sadness, quirkiness, and hope.

'From Here, the doors don't know me' - Mohamed Mahdy

Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
Untitled. From Here, the doors don't know me. (Mohamed Mahdy)Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
This Village is a community of fishers in Al Max, my neighbourhood in Alexandria, Egypt. It was called the Middle East's Venice because it had the same vibes and beauty as Venice, Italy.

One day residents woke up to the news that they had to leave their houses, their history, and possibly their lives as fishers. Now, One-third of the village is gone, and they are like fish in the sea, with nowhere and anywhere to go but no place they can call home. It led me to wonder: What does a home mean? What does displacement mean? And how does it feel just waiting for something to come and change your life forever?

'Aimless Wanderings' - Merji

Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
Parking. From Aimless Wanderings (Merji)Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
For a very long time, with my series "Diary of the Bled" and then with "Aimless Wanderings", I created photographic illusions by transforming reality with my camera and my retouching without ever really understanding why, as if the world bored me, as if it was not enough for itself, as if it was only a veil put in front of my eyes to hide the real world, a more magical and intense world.

And then later, I understood in pain that it was linked to a visceral fear of the outside world, which I was trying to avoid by "building imaginary worlds for myself, by tending to be elsewhere, to dream".

The fascinating question that haunts me is whether these photos are a curse because they keep me in my illusions or a blessing because they represent the last little window on the world of my childlike soul. I hope to find the answer to this question one day.

'From Genetic Bomb' - Kriss Munsya

Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
Fading Frontier. String Theory. From Genetic Bomb. (Kriss Munsya)Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
Genetic Bomb is a photographic project shot in the Democratic Republic of Congo in November and December 2022.

I was born in Kinshasa, DRC and moved to Belgium when I was two years old with my parents. Like many people who have experienced similar emigrations, I carry generational guilt, confusion and disenchantment. The guilt of being a chosen one, one who was granted the opportunity to escape poverty, insecurity and war that colonialism created. The confusion stemmed from the realisation that the warmth, love and energy of my family's native land could never be replaced, no matter where we went. And disenchantment from realising the place we grew up upheld, and continues to uphold, racism and white supremacy directed against us. These realisations raised several questions.

How are we supposed to come together with our homeland? How can we embrace our roots and, at the same time, live in a system that is poisoning them? How can we love if we are a product of hate? Are we doomed to reproduce the same colonial patterns, or do we have the ingredients within ourselves to create a change... a GENETIC BOMB.

This project is approaching those questions from a visual and poetic angle.

'From Dark Memories' - Emeke Obanor

Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
From Dark Memories. (Emeke Obanor)Credit: Contemporary African photography prize 2023
The Dark Memories Project is a thought-provoking photograph that tells the stories of victims of child trafficking in Nigeria, who have overcome unimaginable adversities, forced labour, domestic slavery, and sexual exploitation and now seek to rebuild their lives.

The girls and I collaborated in this project to reveal their shared experiences of being exploited by their wards and traffickers and the inhumane treatment in the hands of their "buyers".

This partnership reveals their courage to speak out after escaping the grasp of their handlers, to provide insight into the abuses that they have experienced, and to raise awareness about the issue of trafficking and the need to take action to prevent it and support victims, as well as their motivation to set out on the quest to reclaim their lives through counselling and their dignity through formal-education.
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