Ileke is a conceptual portrait collection celebrating the power of women of African descent by illuminating her strength, sensuality and vulnerability. African women are courageous, full of strength, love, compassion, humility, and perseverance amongst others. However, it is important for me to also show that we can be vulnerable, soft and sensual, some of these attributes which we are often denied of encompassing.
Secondly, I’d like to use this project to bring an awareness to the horrific and harmful practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Nigeria where it is estimated that 25% of girls and women have undergone it, accounting for 10% of the global total.
I find it absurd that while the ileke has been used as a cultural accessory to celebrate the beauty and femininity of women, the same culture perpetuates harmful practices that stifles the autonomy of the same women through the vile act of FGM.
African Diasporan is a five part conceptual collection seeking to explore the experiences of African immigrants who were born elsewhere and now reside in the UK. The series aims to analyse the acculturation attitudes of first generation migrants. Which parts of their native culture persists and what other traditions or beliefs do they adopt? What changes and what remains?
How has the relationship and roles between married couples changed or evolved over time?
What do mothers teach their daughters? Which parts of the culture gets passed down through generations? What changes and what remains?
How are the relationships between siblings and friends maintained and fed to flourish?
What is masculine and as such appropriate forms of behaviour? What isn’t? Who makes these rules? Is there only one way to be both African and male?
What is it to be female? A woman? A mother? A sister or wife? Who gets to decide these? How have women’s roles evolved over time and what expectations persist?
MY SISTER’S KEEPER
“While this millennial movement of ascension to better self-love and care is awesome, I believe that we should also uphold the values of being our sister’s keeper. I mean, what are friends for if they aren’t there for you when you need them? What are siblings or families for if they aren’t there to support and give you that pat on the back that might very well keep you from loosing your mind?”
In this conceptual photoshoot, I explore the idea of genuinely caring for others in a more ever than before individualistic society. It was inspired by sisterhood and the desire to capture the beautiful essence of Black womanhood. I consciously sought out models with similar skin tones and decided to style them similarly as I wanted them to look like twins. In my mind’s eye, I envisioned the colourful backdrop of nature as well as the red lipstick and roses, to be a great backdrop to highlight the beauty of their rich melanin skin.
Then watching the camaraderie between both models(actually fashion bloggers) who are good friends, the title ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ easily came to mind. Read the full post.
WAITING FOR MY LOVER
“I think I see what I seek
but just as soon as I begin to feel the buzz
it evades again.
It’s a constant chase of cattle in the wilderness.
that untamed terrain that seems unending.
My heart yearns, my soul seeks, but my eyes do not find.
This emptiness is beginning to wear me out
Its sinkers in my soul is crushing me down
How long will I float?”
In this conceptual photoshoot, I explore the idea of having a soulmate and looking for, as well as waiting for “the one”. Is there truly only one person made for each human? Read the full post.
LOST IN THE DIASPORA
“At eighteen, I had quickly learned that I couldn’t eat plantain chips at college. Not that it was banned or that anyone would stop me from doing so, but there are unspoken things you learn when you’re trying to integrate into a new world. So you would quickly snap the packet open and leave it in your bag, sporadically dipping your hands in and grabbing a few crisps at a time because you couldn’t get caught. And then you sat and observed. You quickly learned things not to say or do because you had heard enough jokes about freshies and you couldn’t downright offer them the bull’s eye.
You quickly learned to omit your ‘ts’ and say “I’m fine” whenever you were asked “are you alright?” even if you were caving in on the inside and confused with all the eccentricities of this new place. You had also heard the roar of laughter when the boy in your class had mimicked his father’s accent and you had known too that before any words left your mouth, they would have to be well polished because if he could openly laugh at his father, who were you against his tongue?
So you adjusted, tucked in your eccentricities and flyaways, and squeezed into the box- there, perfect! You could belong.”
In this conceptual photoshoot, I explore the recent acceptance of African culture in western societies and the experience of an African living in the diaspora. Read the full post.
“Dear child, do you not know that the gods spoke of you even before you were breathed to life? That this life was made for you in mind and your place in it a significance?
Do you not know that the fullness of your lips bellies the beauty of the full moon and this nose you decry is as strong as the baobab, standing the test of time? That your eyes behold the beauty of the earth and through them your ancestors nurture the generations to come?
Do you not know that you are an original, a default in itself, needing no other for comparison or worship? That with your very being, life is formed and begotten?
Do not let this new world make you forget. Do not let its inequities put you asunder.
Remain steadfast and believe in your strength, for your back holds the power of those before you; and remain trusting in your beauty for the key to life does not come by happenstance.
And whenever you’re tested, remember that you do not walk alone and that you and those before you and even those after, will continue to do so until the end of time.
“You’d knowingly put your sisters in war with one another? Cause them to hate or envy their lighter skinned sisters for something that they’d never be? You’d cause them to bleach and tear their skin apart to fit into your narrow sized gaze of desirability?
Do you not see that you put us all to shame with your outlandish idealizations and “preferences”?
Do you not see that you mask your own demons and must free yourself from this prejudice?
When will you let go of this psychological bondage of self-hate?”
In this conceptual photoshoot, I explore Black male “preference” when choosing a life partner and the idea of skin colour influencing female desirability. Read the full post.