Senegalese artist Omar Victor Diop stages his self-portraits as historical photographs—complete with “original” dates. The photo above, for example, is titled A Moroccan man (1913); the one to the left is Dom Nicolau (Circa. 1830–1860). Both are from his 2014 series Project Diaspora. His subjects are drawn from various moments in history in which African men (and men of African descent) have played a role, but which have been forgotten or erased. Dom Nicolau, for example, was one of the earliest African leaders to protest against colonial rule; a letter he wrote to a newspaper in Lisbon is the first written record of Angolan protest against Portuguese commercial, political, and military influence and is seen as an antecedent to the later move toward Angolan independence. Nicolau was assassinated in Kissembo under obscure circumstances in February 1860.
The inclusion of soccer paraphernalia (balls, cleats, red cards) is not, of course, historically accurate. Bansie Vasvani writes that “Soccer here is the double-edged nemesis of the African people: Both revered and patronized by the West, it is perceived as Africa’s main achievement in recent history. By commingling the old with the new, Diop inserts conspicuously absent historical black male figures into Western art while making it amply evident that there is more to African history than sports.”