« Bito Ba Mundi » means « Women of the City »in douala. But Charlotte Yonga is not even sure this is a proper translation. The information was « difficult to obtain ».And this is the kind of distance that is present, but also somehow lifted in her photographic work.
Bito Ba Mundi, her latest photographic series, portraits of women from and in the city of Douala, looks both familiar — mundane —, and eerie. As she explains: « I choose to photograph women with what I perceived as a unique attitude and sense of self, in a setting which is all their own, in the city of Douala. I meet them on street corners, in bars, at universities or in marketplaces. I am attracted by their faces, their appearances and their ‘colors’. I only ask them to let loose — as much as they can — during the shooting, but also to pose while I take the picture. I hope that what shows through is the complexity of their singularity. »
Charlotte Yonga feeds herself with reality. Her portraits are a delight in capturing it: the looks, the backgrounds, every detail is characteristic of a context that makes the whole image fascinating. Through a very sophisticated color scheme, subtle stagings, an awareness of architecture, patterns, and forms, Yonga impregnates her works with a touch of oddity. Not that the people portrayed are or become weird in Charlotte Yonga’s photographs ; it is more about giving a sense of how extraordinary and important they appeared to her when she met them.
Charlotte Yonga’sBito Ba Mundi’swomen are sovereign, they demand our attention. It seems that the part of intimacy they allow us to access, through the photographs, has been negotiated ; so that they can stand, just like that, in front of us, framed.
Eva Barois de Caevel
Exhibition view, LagosPhoto Festival 2019 - Alliance française, Lagos (Nigeria)