Review – A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography

January 2, 2024Amy Hughes0

A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography explores the vastly changing landscape of Africa through photography, with a diverse assembly of 36 artists at Tate Modern. Exciting, powerful and challenging, it’s an important exhibition that’s not to be missed. 

An impressive collection of works, the exhibition is split into three sections: Identity and Tradition; Counter Histories and The Living Archive. Each large room showcases a vibrant array of installations combining photography and film techniques to create a more expansive and inclusive narrative of humanity. Attempting to represent 54 countries and 1.4 billion people under one roof is a daring feat, but curator, Osei Bonsu, makes a bold effort.

From traditional portraits to experimental film, you will find something that resonates with you here. Starting with the work of George Osodi, a Nigerian photographer whose collection Nigerian Monarchs adorns the walls with grand portraits of Nigeria’s long-standing and defiant royals. 

Around the corner, you will find Spiritual Worlds – a representation of the vast traditions and religions in African culture. Tipo Passe, a standout display by Edson Chagas, juxtaposes traditional Bantu masks with contemporary clothing in a series of passport-style portraits. 

If you manage to peel your eyes away from Chagas’ captivating work, you will enter worlds of colonialism, family portraits, queer joy, Moroccan motorcycle gangs and climate change. A hot topic, and an important one, the shadow of climate change lingers in the penultimate installation. The works of Mário Macilau and Fabrice Monteiro comment on landfill and pollution; whilst Aïda Muluneh’s eye-catching prints explore clean water access.

It’s not all doom and gloom however, as the final room takes us on a journey through natural environments, leaving onlookers to imagine Africa’s future as it is being written. 

5. Installation View, A World In Common: Contemporary African Photography at Tate Modern 2023 © Tate (Lucy Green)

Installation View, A World In Common: Contemporary African Photography at Tate Modern 2023 © Tate (Lucy Green)

Africa has always been the object of discourse by others. Now is the time to dream this utopia in Africa itself, to design Africa ourselves, to think, and to act for ourselves.

 Felwine Sarr, Afrotopia, 2016

A World in Common provides an experience that is both confronting and visually stunning. At its best, the works are masterfully composed and aesthetically striking, whilst revealing a story. Taking almost two hours to view, this is the perfect trip to keep you out of the cold and your brain engaged.

Words by Olivia Hylton.

Essential Information

A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography is open at Tate Modern until 14 January 2024

Address: Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1 9TG
Nearest station: London Bridge or Southwark
Tickets: Adult £17; child £5; under 12s free

Book your ticket and timeslot online at

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