Culture

The Superheroes of Ouagadougou

Alexander Eudier looks at the West's benevolence towards Africa by photographing people dressed up as Marvel characters.

by Alexandre Eudier
Jun 30 2015, 4:15pm

All photos by author

All photos courtesy of the author.

This article originally appeared on VICE France.

These photographs were shot in Burkina Faso and are a continuation of a project I began in Indonesia. There, the idea was to use local traditional crafts to reinterpret pop culture. In Bali and Java, I had a rather unique opportunity to work with some sculptors who could integrate graffiti into traditional houses, as well as a few hyperrealist painters whom I hired to re-imagine my photographs.

When I arrived in Burkina Faso in 2012, I wanted to continue that cultural overlap by merging African clichés with familiar symbols of consumerism and new technologies, thereby creating situations that question the images we see in the media.

My plan was not to anchor myself in my surroundings, but to play around with references that transcended borders. This series about superheroes came from a simple sketch—a Spider-Man boubou I had drawn on my notebook. Together with my colleague, Bruno Revert, we built upon that idea and decided to expand it to include other key figures of Western pop culture. We came up with three different outfits.

For models, I hired Kaboré (Spider-Man), who is part of a small organization that creates theater sets and with whom I've collaborated on several projects; Gedor (Iron Man), who had just finished his art studies and was looking for an apprenticeship; and Mathias (Batman), who doubled as our driver.

To achieve that particular shine I was after, the costumes were made completely out of bazin. This particular fabric is quite popular and generally used for regalia, so it commands a certain respect. To reach its full glistening potential, you need to coat it in vegetable sap.

I chose to recreate superheroes for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, because of aesthetics—the costume's bright colors echoed that of the traditional local outfits. There was also something quite funny about swapping out the ultra skin-tight costumes of hyper-masculine superheroes with these baggy tunics.

I also made a Ronald McDonald costume. That was actually one of Bruno Revert's realizations, intended for another project of mine. We were quite surprised to find out that a lot of Burkinabé people didn't even knew who he was. I wonder how much longer that will last.

TDTF is a publishing house created by Alexandre Eudier and Matthew Noiret. Their first books Vermillion Coast and Super are out now.