Le Grande Boubou (The Grand Dress) subtly reveals the beauty and tradition of West African women and culture. I began this body of work over 15 years ago during my Fulbright residence in The Gambia and continued in Senegal, Guinea & Mali over a period of 5 years. In 2021 I returned to the series, including portraits of women in the United States. The Grand Boubou has been around as a fashionable component and necessity for women primarily of West Africa. It never goes out of style and seems to constantly reinvent itself over decades. The Boubou may also symbolize status and elegance. The Boubou can either be elaborately adorned with embroidery or perhaps locally hand dyed onto high quality (Cotton/Bazin Riche) with intricate patterns. These colorful works of art can be seen being worn in everyday life and concurrently at weddings, many local ceremonies and prayers. Growing up, the clothing worn by my mothers resembled these styles. I began to think about western ideologies of African dress and misconceptions. Depicting the often-lavish environments became important to show as it offered a glimpse into the lives of these women.
Photo by Nzingah Oyo, 2021.