Mario Epanya: Giving black women the beauty they deserve
Discreet but present through an eclectic work Mario Epanya is an artist who freezes in time
luminous moments. In December 2012 Flashmag met with Mario for the first time, as part of his Glamazonia exhibition at the August Wilson Center in Pittsburg. It was a real treat for aesthetes, and aficionados of the beauty of the black woman. Glamazonia made exclusively of photo in black and white made the showcase of the museums from the 4 corners of the world. Five years later Mario is back with a work that will surely mark its time. Beautiful as the name suggests is an ode to the black beauty. Beautiful presents an unpublished portrait collection of black women from the most famous to the most ordinary. In the lines that follow Mario tells us a bit more about his new production.
Flashmag: Hello Mario we are glad to meet you once again. Glamazonia was a feast in showcase, and Beautiful, seems to announce itself as a treat on glossy paper, at the pace where things are going it will not hurt to call you Super Mario, since your work seems every time to sublimate the physical imprint of the so-called black woman. Why this “obsession” between quotes, to present the black woman on her finest attires?
Mario: Thank you Flashmag for these encouragements. You know the sublime
black woman is something very natural to me because I grew up surrounded by exceptionally beautiful women, Elegant and combative, besides this work is dedicated to My Grandmother Monique Moussinga Makaki.
When you disembark in Paris in 2000, with a self-taught hairdresser and make-up artist's background, do you have any idea that you would end up a photographer? Because it is a euphemism to say that you are one of the best camera in Paris. How this conversion took place?
Mario: I was the first one surprised by this conversion, because my dream was to become Artistic Director of a major cosmetics brand ... having reached a glass ceiling and very angry, I resigned from my position as a trainer for a large Parisian brand. I took some time to think it through, because despite my disappointment, the world of beauty has brought me a lot. Contacts, Great experience etc. So, with my savings, I equipped myself with photo equipment, I chose my niche ...
Afro activist you have lobbied towards Condé Nast the American publisher of magazines, so that this company finally publishes an African edition of their flagship Magazine Vogue. You will receive an end of no reception and in response you’ll create Winkler in March 2011. How did you feel about this refusal of Condé Nast?
Mario: Quiet, it's their choice and I respect it because according to them Africa was not their target.
With Winkler, do you think you have brought a solution, fill the void of a magazine that Would represent African beauty?
Mario: Not at all, I stopped the magazine for lack of advertisers ... I think it was a bit
Early on my end, because for Many, buying a fashion magazine is not a priority ....
Are you aware that the redefinition of African beauty in its own canons, runs against the interests of a multi-billion-dollar market, because the Westernized black woman already consumes cosmetics made available to the white woman, to whom she forces herself to resemble. Yet with the Afro activism and Afro cosmetics movements, the African braiders from Paris, New York or Montreal should become more professional to meet the demand, the same for the rest of the world. In the Clothing industry and cosmetics now there aren’t enough structures to meet the needs of black beauty there is still no school in the West where you learn to plait like Africans? And some Afro cosmetic products were banned by the French authorities a few years ago?
Mario: I come from the hairdressing and make-up, yes there have been some
worries of training of big brands, with respect to black hair and black skin ... but things evolve in the right direction because today www.lecoledeparis Offers to train and specialize on afro hair.
It is somewhat embarrassing to talk about the behavior of African consumers who often have difficulty accepting to consume what is produced by members of their community. About you why?
Mario: For my part, there are several explanations to consume Made in Africa by the Africans. For centuries, Africa has had a rather negative image in several economic sectors, and I believe that there is a new generation that is rebranding Africa and which unfortunately is facing this challenge. But I remain optimistic because, mentalities are evolving very quickly and some begin to understand the importance and urgency to consume Made in Africa.
Second in your marketing approach you focus your production on which target, Afro or the whole world who might be interested in afro and your art?
Mario: I target everyone, Art has no boundaries.
To come back to Beautiful your new book how long it took you to realize it if
the woman as usual was your main source of inspiration, in this book what impression of the black woman you want to give to those who will walk through it?
Mario: I was contacted in 2015 by Shokopress, this publishing house based in England and we set to work, we will say it took me 1 year and a half. The impression is simply to appreciate The Beauty that every woman carries in her.
How was your collaboration with your Publisher Shoko Presse was it easy for you to convince them to join the project?
Mario: This book is not my idea, the director at Shokopress Tapiwa Matsinde contacted me by e-mail at the end of 2015, and told me about this project, she was following my work and wanted to make a Book of Art about my work. They gave me carte blanche and saw that it was falling right on my 10 years of career as a photographer. I immediately said YES, a great opportunity to celebrate African photography and to pay tribute to the black Woman, my theme of predilection. A great adventure in any case.
Before putting an end to this interview do you have a word towards the audience? Apart from Beautiful released on April 24 is there another meeting you would like to invite the public, signing evening and another project?
Mario: For now, no, nothing planned besides the promo of BEAUTIFUL which will be organized by the publishing house Shokopress. I continue to do my work as a photographer and enjoy the present moment. Tomorrow is another day.
Mario Flashmag and its readership thank you for this interview.
Mario: thank you all.
Hubert Marlin Elingui Jr