In Intersections of African Youth, the photographs of Kyle Weeks and Sanlé Sory are exhibited alongside one another, showcasing the harmony that can exist in images taken generations apart
In 2016, the creative director and curator Marie Gomis-Trezise founded Galerie Number 8, an online space that allowed her to exhibit photography from artists within the African diaspora. But this year, Gomis-Trezise realised that what she wanted more than anything was a physical space where she could truly showcase the work. “The inspiration to launch a physical space was seeing all these wonderful galleries and thinking I want one of my own,” she says. “Being an online gallery isn’t enough for me, I wanted to have a home for my name.” Gomis-Trezise’s longing for an IRL location comes as no surprise: in the age of digital oversaturation, the immediacy of physical artwork inside a brick-and-mortar space is something that can’t be replicated on a screen.
Out of this longing for a home came Galerie Gomis, a new exhibition space in Brussels that opens its doors this autumn. The gallery’s inaugural exhibition is a showcase of two separate works presented in harmony, in what Gomis-Trezise has called Intersections of African Youth. Images from contemporary photographer Kyle Weeks make up one half of the exhibition, his vivid work capturing a vibrant and urgent Ghanaian life. The other half is occupied by the work of Sanlé Sory, a renowned photographer whose striking black and white images captured the flair and fun of 1970s Burkina Faso. By placing each photographer in dialogue with the other, Gomis-Trieze draws out the connections in their respective practices, ones that span countries and generations to showcase a defiant display of Pan-African youth.
Below, we chat to Gomis-Trezise about why she chose to these particular photographers, how she decided to curate the space, and the guiding principles of her work.
What was the inspiration behind founding Galerie Gomis?
Marie Gomis-Trezise: I’ve been operating online since 2016 as Galerie Number 8, but the inspiration to launch a physical space was seeing all these wonderful galleries and thinking I want one of my own. Part of the frustration coming out of Covid was realising that being an online gallery isn’t enough for me. I loved putting on great presentations for pop-ups and art fairs, but I wanted to have a home for my name; to do shows on a more regular basis.
What made you choose Sanlé Sory’s photographs to exhibit with the newer work?
Marie Gomis-Trezise: I wanted to have a representation from the past and the present, and it was important to find someone that represented the past in a very eloquent way, and obviously Sory does that brilliantly. I’m also about celebrating the new voices and what they are going to do in the future, so I really wanted to represent both sides for my first show.
“Sory and Weeks have captured the energy and positivity of being young. That feeling of strength, optimism and happiness” -Marie Gomis-Trezise
What qualities do you think the 1960s and 2020s share that connects the two photographers’ works together?
Marie Gomis-Trezise: You’ve just got to look at the work and you will see instantly that they are absolutely, totally interconnected. That’s what is so wonderful and exciting about this. Yes, you can see the clothes are coming from another time but the energy, the attitude, the confidence are the same.
What kinds of emotional states were you expecting to draw from viewers of the exhibition?
Marie Gomis-Trezise: Sory and Weeks have captured the energy and positivity of being young. That feeling of strength, optimism and happiness. That feeling of the future, of what’s next. I think we are bombarded with negative imagery that saturates the craziness that exists in our world, but there’s a lot of joy in it. It’s always been there and you feel it with both these artists.
How have you decided to curate both sets of photographs?
Marie Gomis-Trezise: The premise of the show is that it’s totally mixed. It would be ridiculous to have one artist on one wall and one on the other. I’ve called the show Intersections of African Youth, but by mixing them, it is almost impossible to tell which is the photographer and that’s where my buzz is. Because despite the eras that separate them, they are both relevant and they are both showcasing wonderful images that are poignant, beautiful and full of joy.
I want someone to come into that room and be carried away on that journey with these images. Even if you are in there for five minutes, you are going to leave that exhibition and that gallery feeling uplifted because of the way those two photographers go about doing what they do. It was a pleasure curating this show, but in a few days, I will finally get to the point where the works are going to be up on the wall…
What would you say are the main differences between the two photographers’ work?
Marie Gomis-Trezise: I think Kyle’s approach is a very intimate study of understanding his journey in Accra. It’s coming from a traveller’s perspective – he’s from Namibia – and I think you can feel that there’s a collaborative approach to the work. He’s a photographer visiting somewhere and falling in love with it, making friends and documenting their stories. For his series Good News, he mostly shot the same group of people since his first trip in 2016.
With Sory, the intimacy is slightly different. It’s about his surroundings, his whereabouts. He’s always got his camera with him or has these characters dropping by his studio. It’s about the moments of his [own] life.
How would you characterise Weeks’ vision of African youth? What kinds of images does it evoke for you?
Marie Gomis-Trezise: The photos in my exhibition are a fraction of Kyle’s Good News series, his journey in Ghana and the joy that gives him. His vision of African youth is extremely positive and dynamic. It’s a new beginning, a new generation full of confidence, not referencing the past. Yes, the presence of colonial history is there in a few shots because of the old buildings, but it’s really about the people. The images evoke the beginning of true independence for Africa.
For you, what is the guiding principle of the exhibition?
Marie Gomis-Trezise: This exhibition represents the gaze of two African photographers sharing powerful, beautiful and uplifting work. You feel their belief and pride. I think these are principles of Pan-Africanism.
Sanlé Sory x Kyle Weeks: Intersections of African Youth opens September 7 to October 28 at Galerie Gomis, Brussels.