Photographer Joana Choumali was born in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in 1974, and came to my attention after wining the Prix Pictet photography and sustainability prize, themed ‘Hope’, in late 2019 for her series Ça va aller (It will be OK). The winning photographs were taken on an iphone three weeks after terrorist attacks were carried out in the former colonial Ivorian capital of Grand-Bassam, a popular beach resort town, in March 2016. The photographs were then decorated with ornate, vibrant embroidery. Embroidery, that traditionally feminine craft activity, has been employed by other artists working to explore trauma, notably Mexican artist Margarita Cabrera.
Choumali is quoted as saying: “This work is a way to address the way Ivorian people deal with trauma and mental health. Each stitch was a way to recover, to lay down the emotions, the loneliness, and mixed feelings I felt. Adding embroidery on these street photographs was an act of channelling hope and resilience.”
Due for physical exhibition and a world-wide tour, the Prix Pictet initially had to be reimagined as a virtual exhibition in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The interactive 3D exhibition was designed by digital artist Gabriel Stones. A physical exhibition has since opened at the EPFL ArtLab in Lausanne, Switzerland.