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Lagos photo festival puts mega city in the spotlight

By Teo Kermeliotis, for CNN
updated 5:12 AM EST, Wed November 13, 2013
Samuel Fosso poses next to his self portrait, in which he transforms into Chinese leader Mao Zedong for his latest photographic series titled "The Emperor of Africa," premiered at this year's LagosPhoto Festival. Samuel Fosso poses next to his self portrait, in which he transforms into Chinese leader Mao Zedong for his latest photographic series titled "The Emperor of Africa," premiered at this year's LagosPhoto Festival.
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LagosPhoto Festival (2013)
LagosPhoto Festival (2013)
LagosPhoto Festival (2013)
LagosPhoto Festival (2013)
LagosPhoto Festival (2013)
LagosPhoto Festival (2013)
LagosPhoto Festival (2013)
LagosPhoto Festival (2013)
LagosPhoto Festival (2013)
LagosPhoto Festival (2013)
LagosPhoto Festival (2013)
LagosPhoto Festival (2013)
LagosPhoto Festival (2013)
LagosPhoto Festival (2013)
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LagosPhoto Festival is underway
  • This year's theme is "The Megacity and the Non-City"
  • The festival features more than 50 photographers and artists spanning 15 countries
  • It also introduces the global premiere of Samuel Fosso's latest photographic series

(CNN) -- Celebrated Cameroonian-born photographer Samuel Fosso, famous for his compelling self-portraits, has had his work exhibited in major museums across the world -- from New York and Paris to London and Buenos Aires.

Yet Fosso's thought-provoking creations, in which he transforms into characters ranging from symbols of black identity to pop culture icons, had never been exhibited in Nigeria, the country he grew up in but had to flee at a young age to escape the Biafran War in the late 1960s.

Not any longer. Fosso, who now lives and works in the Central African Republic, has chosen the LagosPhoto Festival for the global premiere of his latest photographic series, "The Emperor of Africa." In his latest work, the award-winning artist uses his constructed images to explore the relationship between Africa and China by assuming the part of Chinese leader Mao Zedong.

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"We are very excited to have him," says Joseph Gergel, one of the festival's curators. "He is one of the biggest names in photography on the continent."

Read this: Hollywood classics get photographic remake

Running for the fourth consecutive year, LagosPhoto features more than 50 photographers and artists from 15 countries, including Martin Parr, Kudzanai Chiurai, Cristina de Middel, Jerome Delay and Cyrus Kabiru.

The month-long event, described as the first and only international festival of photography in Nigeria, revolves around a series of exhibitions, workshops, artist presentations, panel discussions and displays of outdoor prints throughout Lagos, as well as an amateurs' competition designed to help young Nigerian photographers develop their talents.

Read this: Artists' road trip across Africa

"The festival is really a platform for a myriad of different activities," says Gergel. "They're all focused on engaging the emerging community of photographers and contemporary artists and give them a voice," he adds.

"The real goal of LagosPhoto is not only in the work that we show but also to show that there's another side of Nigeria -- there's another side of Africa -- and we hope that spreading that message will lead to positive change."

Read this: Meet the 'Afronauts'

The real goal of LagosPhoto is not only in the work that we show but also to show that there's another side of Nigeria .
Joseph Gergel, LagosPhoto Festival curator

This year, LagosPhoto is exploring the theme "The Megacity and the Non-City," looking at how the growth of African urban centers and the technical advance of photography have transformed the sense of place in an interconnected world.

Gergel says the theme explores both the documentary tradition of photography and the artistic practices that examine the circulation of images in today's culture.

Read this: Photos show Congo in new light

"It also explores two sides of the city," he adds. "One that is informed by vast changes taking place at an unprecedented speed, such as population explosion, urban development, socioeconomic gaps, and the rising middle class, and the other that is defined by the internet, the digital revolution and virtual connectivity."

The fourth edition of LagosPhotos runs until November 16. Click through the gallery above to check out some of the creations exhibited at this year's festival.

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