Roots of imagination (2022 – 2023)

Roots of imagination (February 2022 – June 2023)

The Roots of imagination exhibition explores the relationship between hair and identity. This series of unpublished photographs was taken by photographer Delali Ayivi and Malaika Ismaella, co-founders of the “TogoYeye” project (“New Togo” in Ewe), whose objective is to celebrate Togolese creatives (fashion, hairdressing, photography).

The creative duo was commissioned by the Palais the Lomé to explore hairdressing techniques popular in Lomé at the end of the 20th century, which then fell into disuse. The result is a series of photographs that explore narratives – not only of hairstyles, but also of intimacy, individualism, and generational dreams.

An additional historical influence are the backdrops and attitudes of the subjects from classic West African studio portraits. Instead of shooting inside a studio, the duo took to the streets of Lomé using the city’s vibrant colours, painted walls and the beach lining the south end of the city as their backdrop.


Drawing parallels between the creativity and optimism of today’s Togolese youth and that of generations before them, Malaika and Delali document traditional hairdressing techniques, while examining historical and contemporary notions of self-expression, culturally encoded by hair.


Through collaboration with five NewGen designers from Lomé, Malaika and Delali managed to celebrate the historically symbiotic relationship between hair and fashion, while spotlighting trend setters in Togolese fashion today.


Photographer: Delali Ayivi

Artistic direction : Delali Ayivi, Malaika Ismaella

Hairdressing: Patron Aimé

Exhibition overview