One critic said that having Naomi Campbell sitting there looking beautiful wasn’t an honest representation of people in Africa. I asked him: ‘If it was a woman with a distended belly and open sores, would that be more profound for you?’ We see those images every day, on the TV and in newspapers. I have this idea that you can use glamour and still have it represent something that matters. I believe in a visual language that should be as strong as the written word.”

From David LaChapelle, he of the gaudy photography and expensive music videos.*

Judging from this glowing piece in The Independent, we are now meant to take him (more) seriously. The Rape of Africa (his new show running in London), we are told, is “an angry political statement.”

The photograph above is LaChapelle’s reinterpretation of Botticelli’s Venus.

Except here “the ravaged backdrop, the armed children and the piles of gold point to a land and a culture destroyed by global consumerism, notably the gold and diamond industries, and war. Meanwhile Campbell, in all her exotic finery, represents the objectification of African women, by Western culture, as their homes and countries are torn apart.”

I appreciate (pop) culture, especially the ways in which it intersects with politics in and on Africa, more than the next person, but David LaChapelle somehow doesn’t seem to be the right person for this job. Of course, “this job” is routinely taken up by many North American and Europeans artists, celebrities, and the like. All one needs to do to stay relevant is say something “meaningful” about Africa.

The show runs until 25 May at the Robilant + Voena gallery in London.

*To be fair, I did enjoy his 2005 film, Rize.

Further Reading