I first came across Namsa Leuba’s microscopic images this past summer when The Cut featured her as part of their Out of the Box series. Aside from the gorgeously knit sweaters that were supposed to take centerstage, what caught my eye was the vivid transparency of the portfolio. It is pretty clear that Leuba works on a fluid frequency that makes allowances for an assortment of interpretations and cosmic ideology.
Images from The Cut’s Out of the Box series featuring the rarely shot artist
I immediately contacted the Swiss-born visual artist and it resulted in a healthy transatlantic correspondence where I was privy to the fact that Leuba is African-European. Her unique and vibrant background definitely plays a huge part when it comes to her acute curiosity of the world, particularly indigenous inhabitants, and it also explains the seamless way she chooses to interpret her final analysis.
One of her most ambitious projects titled Ya Kala Ben is a testimony of Leuba’s chromosomal aesthetic as she embodies the tribal remedies present and transcribes the results in a way that challenges and almost defies the realms. Ya Kala Ben was a manifestation of her gloriously conscious trek to Guinea Conakry and her need to capture the African deity in a coetaneous way. Being part Guinean may have made her even more astute and appreciative of her surroundings, but her mantra is always consistent. She likes to employ a secular approach to her work by dissecting, de-constructing and then arranging a visual board that transcends all cultures and religious persuasions. Her tendency to manipulate preordained statues has expectedly evoked strong emotions from members of the sect who are used to a more monotonous existence.
She is definitely a subscriber of all things that set into motion riveting events and demand a visceral reaction. That is also what propelled her other immaculately conceived series, What We Want We Believe In. The collage of black and white images were all shot in Switzerland in 2010 and rivetingly captures the intensity of The Black Panther movement that started in the 60’s.
Namsa Leuba seems to have been in training for most of her life for the role she is currently perfecting. She was born to a Guinean mother and an Helvetian father, and spent her childhood on the shores of Neuchatel’s Lake in Switzerland. She obtained a BA in photography from the ECAl/University of art and design Lausanne, and awarded the ECAL prize for her outstanding work.
In 2012 Leuba was awarded the Hyeres PhotoGlobal Prize, which led to a scholarship to study for one year at the school of visual arts in New York City.
Her recent installment, Last and First Men. Towards a New Anthropology was staged at the Armsden in London
Leuba’s impressive CV combined with her voracious appetite for symbolic reverences fueled our need to badger her for more information about the process behind her creations.
MTB: What inspires your creative vision
NL: I analyze myself through the objective and I constantly question myself – which is very challenging. It is like a capture of image. I travel from a spiritual ground to get to the plasticity. Spirituality is tradition; plasticity is modernism.
MTB: How did your background dictate your career path?
NL: In 2004, I studied Design of Information in the Art School of La Chaux-de-Fonds (CH). When I was in my second degree, I realized that I wanted to improve in photography.
In 2011, I graduated from ECAL/ University of art and design in Lausanne, obtaining a BA in photography. During my studies I developed a curiosity, sensitivity and a particular focus towards the world around me. For two years now, my research has been focused on African identity through Western eyes.
MTB: Your images from Kitende Congo are breathtaking and symbolic. How did you come up with the vision for that portfolio?
NL: They are people who have specific principles about their appearance/ looking and their beauty. It’s for them a religion and lifestyle. They take much care daily the art of elegance. This art it’s call the « sapologie». It’s from to Congo in Africa. The «sapeur» are bred to spend a lot of money for the clothes.
MTB: As an artist, how do you navigate your world and decide what projects to tackle?
NL: I am passionate about photography because it is the perfect way to reveal conceptions and to expose myself through the objective. I found in photography the perfect way to express myself, letting out all my most personal ideas. Moreover, photography represents a huge part of the current communication; one image is often worth more than a thousand words.
MTB: What’s next for you?
NL: I am going to participate in APhF: 12 Athens Photo Festival which will be held from October 19 to November 4, 2012 in Athens. At the end of September I am going to live one year in New York then I am going for 6 months in South Africa to keep on my own projects. I am very enthusiastic for the next.
I would like to travel around the world and have the luxury to keep doing what I like to do: photograph.
To find out more about this visionary artist, visit: namsaleuba.com
Images from Ya Kala Ben:
Images from What We Want We Believe In: