Doyle Wham proudly presents the first UK solo exhibition of Yannis Davy Guibinga, a celebrated photographer from Libreville, Gabon, who is currently based in Montreal, Canada. Renowned for his storytelling prowess, Guibinga is passionately committed to rewriting outdated narratives about Africa, demonstrating the multiplicity of identities and stories that co-exist. His research-based practice is grounded in the exploration and re-imagination of mythologies from the continent, particularly from Western and Central Africa.
His new exhibition, Children of Distant Suns, is a collection of visual stories which extends this approach. The artist not only draws inspiration from folklore but weaves mythological strands to create an imaginary location, Shira Island, in which these disparate legends can thrive together, even alongside biblical tales. In this way, Guibinga demonstrates how myths have a global resonance and relevance that transcends their geographical and cultural origins – with the same themes and figures recurring under different names.
Guibinga honours the cultural richness of water spirits throughout Western Africa in two new series: OLOKUN and Daughter of the Lake, which reinterpret the Yoruba deity Olokun and the mermaid goddess Mami Wata respectively. Depicting these figures through a hyper-contemporary lens, the artist highlights their flexibility of identity and offers a vision for the modern preservation of these important cultural cornerstones.
The artist also debuts for the first time two series, Melting Daylight and Tangled Sins, that explore Christian themes and reimagine its iconography. Melting Daylight considers the significance of the sun and sunsets within systems of belief, for example as evidence of the natural beauty of God’s creation, while Tangled Sins mines the rich biblical symbolism of the serpent to explore humanity’s relationship with vices. The sinuous twists of the serpent mirror the intricate and inescapable dance between desire and restraint, seduction and resistance, that has inspired so many foundational myths across religions and cultures.
Throughout this exhibition, Guibinga calls for us to reflect on our relationship to myth and divinity. He asks us to consider the points of connection between our beliefs and our stories, and to remember their power: as sources of inspiration, aspiration, morality, and even envy. He poses the question: how can these foundational stories be understood today and to what extent is a new visual vocabulary required? With this in mind, the artist’s proposition of Shira Island is just the first step in a commitment to inclusive and unconstrained world-building.