Andrew Dosunmu’s exhibition, The African Game, looks to soccer as a way to explore modern African life, culture, and identity. A compelling, on-the-ground depiction of Africa’s passion for football, these photographs look at the rich sporting culture that has produced some of professional football’s biggest and highest-paid stars. We spoke to Dosunmu about his project, being a fan, and the advantages of joy. His images will be on display in the Project Space in conjunction with the Kicking + Screening Football Film Festival.
In 2006, Nigerian photographer/filmmaker/international man of mystery Andrew Dosunmu published “The African Game,” an exquisite collection of images about the beautiful game that he shot while traveling throughout the continent. Dosunmu’s photographs sit alongside essays from journalist Knox Robinson, creating a stirring portrait of what soccer means to the people of Africa. The photographs in this exhibition are based on this book project but also include a selection of new and unpublished images alongside.
How did The African Game come about?
I was commissioned by Puma to travel around the continent and document the cultural diversity of soccer and soccer fans. The interest grew. There was a big exhibition at the Germany World Cup and it turned into a book. It started as a commission that grew into a personal interest. The pictures go beyond the sport itself. I wanted to document how soccer was celebrated on the continent. It’s a joy. It’s a gathering. It’s a place of fun. When you look at European soccer fans, or most soccer fans around the world, there’s always this hooliganism that is attached to it. I wanted to show a different kind of soccer spirit.
Soccer is such a cinematic sport. Does that make it easy to shoot?
My soccer pictures are really about the fan. I wanted to capture them. It’s about the joy that comes across. I really tried to focus on the passion and the people. I’m not an voyeur. I’m an insider myself, so it made it easier to capture those moments.
Did you get caught up in the emotion and miss any shots?
Certainly. You’re caught up sometimes, trying to watch the game. But it works the other way, too. You feel like you’re missing something because you have a camera on you, you’re trying to get a shot, you hear the crowd scream, and you wonder what happened in the game.
Have you considered making a soccer film?
I did a documentary about the African Game. It’s about capturing the emotion and the emotion of the fans. If I do make a soccer film, it would venture more into that rather than the game itself, because the game has been covered in a number of ways. What is the African Game and what looks different? That interests me. The joy. The dance. To bring all those cultural elements into it fascinates me.
Favorite soccer player?
Oh boy. There are a bunch of them. Pelé, probably.
It’s funny because I’m not a big fan of the major clubs. I really love the World Cup because of what it does, how it brings people and countries together. I like the national teams more than the club teams. There’s a joy that comes. The World Cup is completely different than club soccer. They are playing for pride. That’s what really attracts me to it.
THE AFRICAN GAME
MARCH 4 – 14
OPENING RECEPTION : Wednesday, March 4, 5:30 PM
The exhibition is free and open to the public.
Presented in partnership with The Art Gallery at NYUAD.
KICKING + SCREENING FILM FESTVAL
Kicking + Screening Film Festival (K+S) brings together football fans and cinephiles to celebrate the excitement, athleticism, and passion of the beautiful game as captured on film, with a lineup of five exceptional films about football and football culture from around the world.
Kicking + Screening Film Festival is presented in partnership with NYUAD Institute.