Then There Was Us

Meeting at the Volta: Sanlé Sory / Kyle Weeks

2023-10-20 – Feature

Sanlé Sory, Kyle Weeks, David Hill Gallery, Exhibition

London's David Hill Gallery presents 'Meeting at the Volta', a celebration of two remarkable African photographers, Sanlé Sory (b. 1943, Burkina Faso) and Kyle Weeks (b. 1992, Namibia).

Black & white portrait of a woman in Africa by Sanlé Sory
Sanlé Sory - La Pensée Accroupie, 1983

The title of the exhibition refers to the Volta River, which connects Burkina Faso and Ghana (where Weeks works). Despite being separated by decades, both Sory and Weeks have drawn inspiration from the energy and urgency of West African youth, making it a central theme in their work.

Sanlé Sory - De Dos, en Denim, 1986

Exhibited side by side, their images form a striking contrast. Sory's black and white analogue shots, often set against painted backdrops, juxtaposed with Weeks' vivid, more stylized work, frequently showcasing aesthetic fragments of Accra's city streets, allowing viewers to witness the evolution of style and setting in West African photography.

Kyle Weeks - Shadraq, Accra, Ghana, 2020
Kyle Weeks - Diving Tower, Accra, Ghana, 2020

Sanlé Sory, though now internationally renowned and esteemed within the photographic community, remained virtually unknown outside of his homeland until very recently. He established his photographic studio in 1960, the same year Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) gained independence from France, and over the subsequent decades, he captured stunning portraits that depicted the sartorial youth of his hometown, Bobo-Dioulasso.

Sanlé Sory - Jeunesse Wilila, 1975

Despite his extraordinary talent, Sory's work wasn't exhibited outside of West Africa until 2017 when David Hill Gallery presented the exhibition, 'Sanlé Sory – Volta Photo, 1965-65'. It received widespread acclaim and led to his work being acquired by leading international galleries and museums, including the V&A, MoMA, Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the North Carolina Museum of Art.


Sanlé Sory - La Timidité, 1978
Sanlé Sory - Jeune Militant de l’UNRV, 1970

In contrast, Kyle Weeks represents the new generation of photography. A self-proclaimed 'outsider' - in contrast to Sanlé, who was an integral part of his community - he strives to shine a spotlight on the creativity, enthusiasm, and optimism that infuse Ghanaian youth culture, with a particular focus on those who lead the way in the art, fashion, and music scenes of Accra.

Sanlé Sory - Au Village, 1975

Weeks was recipient of the 2016 Magnum Prize and was named among "Ones to Watch" by The British Journal of Photography in 2019. He has exhibited at art fairs such as 1-54 and Photo London, and his images have appeared in various publications, including i-D, Dazed, Le Monde, and The Financial Times.

Kyle Weeks - Prince, Accra, Ghana 2016

'Meeting at the Volta' is on show at David Hill Gallery, London until Nov 25th, 2023 (more info here). The exhibition is produced in collaboration with Galerie Gomis, Brussels, which is currently showcasing 'Sanlé Sory x Kyle Weeks: Intersections of African Youth.'

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