My work as a photographer is to bring more diversity and show the beauty of Africa and African designs…
With the launch of his new book, Beautiful: Portraits of Black Beauty, Mario Epanya, photographer, makeup artist, art director, and visionary, has once again risen to the surface. Although his stunning photographs should have always been the topic of worldwide conversation, it wasn’t until 2010 that Mario Epanya was placed on the map. His bold move to launch a campaign for the creation of a Vogue Africa garnered both support and criticism on a global scale. Please note that there is currently no actual edition of Vogue Africa. Some of the photographs are part of a series of fictional Vogue covers designed by Mario Epanya.
Born and raised in Douala, Cameroon, Mario Epanya is a self-taught photographer and makeup artist who decided to turn his passion into his livelihood. While living in Paris, he set up Studio Epanya and continues to be a prominent commercial beauty and fashion photographer. Mario Epanya’s first and famous exhibition, GLAMAZONIA, was featured in collaboration with FashionAFRICANA, one of the leading African-inspired fashion and art events in Pittsburgh, PA. This glorious exhibition of African beauty was held at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.
Mario Epanya’s bid to create a Vogue Africa was rejected by Condé Nast, an American mass media company whose brands include The New Yorker, Glamour, Allure, and GQ, just to name a few. The rejection of Vogue Africa should come of no surprise. To even suggest that women of African descent are beautiful and fashionable is still considered taboo. Of course, there is also the issue of money and power. God forbid there be a shift in status quo.
One could easily argue both sides of the controversy. If there is a Vogue Italia, Vogue India, Vogue Japan, Vogue Australia, and the recently launched Vogue Arabia, why not a Vogue Africa? Then again, why do we need an African or Black version of Vogue? Clearly we have enough beauty, talent, skill, professionalism, and yes, money to create and support our own unique and successful magazines. Please do not send messages on what Black people can’t afford. We always have plenty of money to buy other people’s stuff, but can’t afford to support our own. Why not see ourselves as the gold standard?
Perhaps we need to educate ourselves on the successful print and digital magazines already putting the spotlight on African beauty, culture, and booming fashion industry. Take some time to browse through the pages of Ghana’s Glitz Africa Magazine, South Africa’s True Love, Zen Magazine, Fab Afriq, London-based New African Woman, or France’s FashizBlack.
No matter which side of the controversy you stand, there is no debate with respect to Mario Epanya’s photographic genius. He should be applauded not only for his photographs, but for his journey as an artist, his reverence for African culture, his work to promote diversity in fashion, and his ongoing celebration of Black beauty.
His new book, Beautiful: Portraits of Black Beauty (Portraits De Beauté Noire), pays homage to his grandmother, mother, aunts, sisters, and friends, all the women who had a hand in raising him. Both the French and English version can be purchased via the Shoko Press, an independent publisher of African art books. The book can also be found on Amazon France, UK, and Germany. Please connect with Mario Epanya on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, YouTube, or his website.
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