A sullen look towards the camera, a veiled head….body painted in vertical lines along the edges…underexposure, a small fading —Kader Diaby’s series of photographs; Miria, iyé i yèrè gniniga evoke a deep gentle sadness. The Japanese have a term for this feeling; mono no aware —a transient sadness and a sensitivity towards ephemera.
Miria, iyé i yèrè gniniga is a visual story pondering on questions of identity. Through particularly sensorial and delicate images, Diaby meanders on concepts of culture, mysteries, globalisation, values, purpose, life and death —a mind in chaos, intrigued and haunted by the strangeness of life.
This series is titled “Miria, iyé i yèrè gniniga” which means (in the West African Malinké dialect) “think, and ask yourself about yourself ”. It is an illustration of me questioning my cultural identity, which brings me back to introspection on the meaning of life, while facing the reality that an unquestionable death is to come. I ask myself; will the questioning lead to living an honourable life or can we strive to live an honourable life without questioning?
Miria, iyé i yèrè gniniga is the journey of embracing the realities of life and death.
Through his work, Diaby speaks to the struggle of staying rooted in culture while finding ways to move graciously as culture shifts and evolves. The camera is the vessel through which he reflects on his perception of and resistance towards a rigid-hidebound-monolithic outlook on culture. He merges different visual elements of tone, line, texture and the arrangement of bodies; turning his photographs into more than just images but representations and allegories.
Miria, iyé i yèrè gniniga relentlessly beams with beauty; an expressive trace of Diaby’s thoughts that calls upon the viewer to consider life’s difficult questions.
Growing up, my cultural identity was influenced by various television programs; European, American, Asian etc. As a result, I now speak both English and French better than my native tongue. So I ask myself; have I lost my cultural identity? Or is this my new identity – a merging of cultures?
Kader Diaby is an Ivorian photographer, art director and designer. He later received his training in photography through KLAYM; an independent association dedicated to training young Africans in photography, video production, graphic media design and writing. Diary balances life as a creative and an auditor for a multinational firm in Abidjan; finding ways to allow these seemingly different worlds to co-exist.
I have always been fascinated by art and began investing myself in the field as a way to express myself. I work in finance as well as in the art through photography, designing, and art directing. I am constantly pulled in between these two opposite worlds…. often feeling as though society forces me to choose between them; as if one can only exist with just one label.
Diaby discovered his love for photography through Instagram, a medium he continues to use to communicate his ideas. In the early days of working on personal photography projects he found it difficult to access quality, interesting and affordable clothing to use in his shoots. This led to him following his curiosities and scratching his own itch through creating his own clothing line – one he continues to incorporate in his shoots.
Kader Diaby is a prolific creator continuing to push himself in the various art forms that inform his practice. His work is filled with depth and thoughtfulness, deftly balancing the soft and the strong. The warmth and soulfulness in his work inspires and overwhelms.