Africa's Icon portrays affection for Barack Obama as US Presidential Election begins

By Ben Miller | 06 November 2012
A photo of a young boy at a grocer's stall in Africa wearing a t-shirt which says obama
Mercelyne Selling Fruit, West Kenya© Harry Hook
Exhibition Preview: Obama – Africa's Icon, Royal West of England Academy, Bristol, until November 11 2012

If nothing else, Barack Obama has proved himself a photogenic President. But rather than portray the man who hopes to retain the White House this week, Harry Hook – a filmmaker and photographer who was born in East Africa and studied at The London College of Printing and the National Film School – has travelled across Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burkino Faso and Mali, surveying a totemic influence.

A photo of a young boy with a goat in Africa wearing a t-shirt bearing a picture of a man
Mesay and Lamb, South Ethiopia© Harry Hook
He sees Obama on walls, clothing and jewellery. The continent’s affection for Obama, he suggests, surpasses political favouritism.

Children are dressed in shirts bearing the President’s smile, investing him with an all-seeing power allaying the brief nature of his visits to Africa during his reign so far (totalling a day in Egypt and two days in Ghana, both in 2009).

The attraction, Hook concludes, is in the common touch of a fellow African who happens to have the most powerful job in the world.

  • Open 9.30am-5.30pm (11am-5pm Sunday). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @RWABristol.

More pictures:

A photo of an African woman standing in a canoe wearing a sarong bearing a man's face
Elizabeth on Lake Victoria, west Kenya© Harry Hook
A photo of an African tribesman with his back to the camera wearing a floral gown
Maasai Senior Elder, south Kenya© Harry Hook
A photo of an African man standing in a yard surrounded by blue sheds wearing a t-shirt bearing a man's face
Saibo with Trolley, west Kenya© Harry Hook
More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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