Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts
New York City, NY
Littattafan soyayya is a genre of literature unique to Kano, Nigeria. Translated from Hausa to mean “books of love,” the paperback novels are written and self-published by women in Northern Nigeria. Referencing friendly relationships and moments of complex desire to criticism of arranged marriages and global occupation, the novels depict scenes that both challenge and reinforce the roles of women in conservative Islamic society.
Intending to document the relationship between the books and the daily lives of the women who write them, Glenna Gordon was made privy to the myriad possibilities that exist for women as they navigate domestic interiors, wedding ceremonies, and public space. While the resulting images are intentionally ambiguous in judgment, the women are revealed within sites of conflict and vitality.
Gordon maintains a healthy skepticism of documentary photography and its use as an agent for social change and awareness. However, she is certain of the effect of images on perception and subsequent behaviors. Taking her own understanding of Nigeria to task, Diagram of the Heart affirms the ability of the medium to unsettle the predominant narrative of a place toward one that is in conversation and evolving.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.