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'Fortia (7), 2017 by Keyezua. Image courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery.

These Photographers From Africa and Its Diaspora Expose the Complex Link Between Black Stereotypes and Black Reality

"Refraction: New Photography of Africa and Its Diaspora" opens at Steven Kasher Gallery April 19 in NYC.

Refraction: New Photography of Africa and Its Diaspora is a photo exhibition that will present a generation of photographic artists of African descent born in the 1970s through the 1990s. Premiering on Thursday, April 19 at Steven Kasher Gallery in NYC, these 12 artists, who reside from all over the world, portray black bodies in acts of cultural meditation, revive the traditional African rites of masking, costuming, quilting, body ornamentation and invocation of spirits, through their work.


"They refract those rituals through the lenses of contemporary art practices such as performative self-portraiture, collage, montage and digital manipulation," the Gallery's press release states. "They merge cultures past and present, looking towards a more inclusive, harmonious future."

Cultural anthropologist and independent curator Niama Safia Sandy co-curated Refraction with Steven Kasher Gallery director Cassandra Johnson. Sandy says the aspect of the exhibit's name, "new photography of Africa and its diaspora," was intentional, as they wanted to authentically include the African diaspora when one hears of it in the art market, especially.

"City of Saints VIII, 2017" by Eyerusalem Jirenga. Image courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery.

"We could say 'black' because that's what it is, but it's really about showing these many facets of blackness and the way that identity is influenced across all these different geographical boundaries," Sandy says. "Whether it's because of [black] people being stolen, even despite all of that, we're all connected and we're all facing similar issues at this moment."

The works curated for Refraction are meant to bridge the gap between black stereotypes and black reality. The photos maneuver the complex relationship between innate identities and identities that have grown from social, political and cultural influences. "On a technical level, these artists are heralds of new dimensions and photography, bending, transmuting and pushing the medium," the Gallery says.

The photographs in this exhibit range from Afro-futurism and Afro-documentary, as they reclaim and re-connect a multitude of black histories and identities.

Refraction runs from April 19 and concludes on June 2 with an artist talk. Sandy also highlights four artists in the exhibit you can't miss. Take a look below.

Adama Delphine Fawundu (2018 OkayAfrica 100 Women Honoree)

"The Sacred Star of Isis" by Adama Delphine Fawundu. Image courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery.

"Her work of late has been phenomenal. Your jaw will drop on the floor when you see it person. Her approach to her practice at the moment is really a good encapsulation of thinking about how nationalistic identities, ethnographic identities and more combine to present black people as they are now. Her parents are from Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone respectively, she grew up in Brooklyn; exposed to lots of different people from the diaspora. These ideas are very much present in her work."

Stan Squirewell

"King Kane" by Stan Squirewell. Image courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery.

"His family is partially from Barbados, and through his practice, he's exploring the idea of what we would be like if not all of us were taken across the Atlantic on slave ships. He asks, 'What if we've been here for quite some time?" He's done an extensive amount of research on how indigenous peoples were described in texts written in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and they're almost all described as being very, very dark people. What if we could imagine, via an image, people who have existed in this very cosmopolitan state, but are very black, dark and have features that look like yours or mine, and people who are dressed in an opulent way but are also clearly black?"

Ivan Forde

"The Birth of Enkidu" by Ivan Forde. Image courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery.

"I'm kind of obsessed with Ivan—he's incredible. Instead of utilizing the regular photograph approach, he uses cyanotype, which is a chemical process wherein you're exposing an object with sunlight, versus the traditional approach of how the lens captures images on film or digitally. His hands are literally more involved in his practice, as well as his body. It's a much more time consuming process with cyanotype, as well as his silkscreen process. He creates these tapestries of a character called Enkidu from the epic poem of Gilgamesh. He's, in his own words, trying to breach temporal, geographical and other boundaries. It's very much a performative work. Cyanotype is a very specific blue, and for me, I think about how people would make fun of very dark people as 'blue black,' and how we fit into a creation myth and breakout whatever has been taught to us at this point about who we are, who we've been and where we've been—how do you actually create new stories around that?"

Émilie Régnier

"Mme Faye" by Émilie Régnier. Image courtesy of Image courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery.

"Émilie is a Canadian-Haitian photographer who lives in Paris at the moment. In her series, Leopard, she's again trying to mess with those tropes that people have placed upon Africa in terms of what they expect to see and the narratives that they expect to be explored. She creates these images in her series that you wouldn't expect when one thinks, 'How would leopard appear on the continent? What would someone be wearing that's not a loincloth?' People are wearing different variations of it, but they're regular people, going about their day or in their home or dressed to go out. She's giving a face to regular people. The woman photographed is looking straight at the camera with beautiful skin—a wonderful encapsulation of who she is without us mentioning her economic or social status."

For more information on 'Refraction', visit Steven Kasher Gallery's website here.

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Stop What You're Doing Right Now and Watch Falz's New Video 'This Is Nigeria'

The Nigerian rapper tackles his country's social ills in his very own answer to Childish Gambino's "This Is America."

Nigerian rapper, Falz has been known to use his sharp brand of humor to address social ills in his country. Today he's taken it a step further with the release of a new song and video entitled "This is Nigeria" and the outcome is an audacious, decidedly necessary critique of Nigerian society inspired by Childish Gambino's viral video "This is America."

Falz opens the song with a voice over of his father the lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana, discussing the consequences of rampant corruption and exploitation, before adding his own cutting criticism: "This is Nigeria, look how I'm living now, look how I'm living now. Everybody be criminal," he rhymes as chaos ensues all around him.

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Photo courtesy of Nike

The Secret Behind Nike's New Naija Football Kits are Nigerians Themselves

The story behind the bold new uniforms the Super Eagles will be wearing at this year's World Cup.

Partner content from Nike

The new Nigeria football kits are not even out yet, but they're already causing pandemonium with Nigerian press reporting that there have been already 3 million worldwide orders. And it's easy to see why—the designs are daring with a bold nod to Nigerian culture that is very in vogue right now. In addition, UK Grime MCs with Nigerian roots, Skepta and Tinie Tempah have already been photographed in the new jerseys causing a surge of social media chatter about the new look.

But while rock star endorsements and an edgy new design will certainly bring attention, there's no doubt that the real bulk of the demand is due to what is ramping up to be a significant moment in the history of Nigerian football—the 2018 World Cup.



If you don't already know, Nigeria is entering this year's World Cup in Russia with some of the most exciting young players we've seen in years. With youthful talent like Wilfred Ndidi, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho—all 21—and veteran Olympic captain Jon Obi Mikel ready to take the field in Moscow all eyes are on Nigeria to advance out of Group D and challenge the world for a chance at the cup.

The plan here is to outdo the teams previous international achievement, the 1996 Olympic Gold Medal in men's football which is commemorated on the home kit with a badge recolored in the colors of the '96 gold medal-winning "Dream Team."

The home kit also pays subtle homage to Nigeria's '94 shirt— the first Nigerian team to qualify for the tournament—with its eagle wing-inspired black-and-white sleeve and green torso. But if the allusion to the pasty is subtle, the new supercharged patterns are anything but.

The look of the kit feels particularly in touch with what's going on in youth fashion both in Nigeria and the world and that's no accident. Much of the collection comes in bold print, both floral and Ankara-inspired chevrons, ideas that we've seen entering street wear collections and on the runway in recent years. That's because African and Nigerian style has become a big deal internationally of late. And not just in style, the country's huge cultural industries from Nollywood to Afrobeats have announced themselves on the world stage. This cultural ascendance is reflected in the design.


Courtesy of Nike

"With Nigeria, we wanted to tap into the attitude of the nation," notes Dan Farron, Nike Football Design Director. "We built this kit and collection based on the players' full identities." Along with other members of the Nike Football design group, Farron dug into learning more about Nigeria's players, "We started to see trends in attitude and energy connecting the athletes to music, fashion and more. They are part of a resoundingly cool culture."

In fact OkayAfrica has covered the team's love for music before—even dedicating an edition of the African in Your Earbuds mixtape to John Obi Mikel, Alex Iwobi & Kelechi Iheanacho's favorite songs to get hyped up before a game. When we asked the charismatic trio, they gave us list that included many of the huge Nigerian artists that we love, like Tekno, Wizkid, Yemi Alade and Nigerian-American rapper Wale and also, perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not, Celine Dion.

Nigerian culture has gone global partly through its infectious energy but also because of its vibrant diaspora populations that bring it with them wherever they land. Lagos-born Alex Iwobi whose goal in the 73rd minute to qualified Nigeria for this summer's tournament spent most of his life in London but still reps Naija to the fullest.

"I grew up in England, but Nigeria is my homeland," he says. "When I scored that goal, the players were dancing, the fans were playing trumpets and bringing drums…there was just so much passion and energy. It is always an honor to wear the white and green. To compete this summer is not just our dream, it is also the dream of our fans. Together, we all represent Naija."

This similar energy can be felt in Nigerian communities from Brooklyn to Peckham and even in China. Naija culture is truly global and no doubt the fans will embody the Naija spirit wherever they will be watching the games this summer.

If you're wondering, Nike isn't simply hopping on the Nigeria bandwagon. The apparel company has been sponsoring the Nigerian football since 2015, supplying kits to all nine of the Nigeria Football Federation teams at every level, including the men's and women's senior teams, men's and women's under-20 teams, men's and women's under-17 teams, men's and women's Olympic teams, and the men's beach football team.

So while the kit is available for purchase worldwide June 1, just know that you'll be competing with millions to get your own official shirts for the World Cup. If you are in New York, find the kit for sale exclusively at Nike's 21 Mercer store.

And please join OkayAfrica and Nike on June 2nd for Naija Worldwide as we celebrate Team Nigeria's journey to Russia in style.

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Listen to Adekunle Gold's New Album 'About 30'

Adekunle Gold's highly-anticipated sophomore album is here.

Adekunle Gold's much-anticipated sophomore album, About 30, has arrived.

The 14-track album boasts features from Seun Kuti, Flavor and British-Nigerian soul singer Jacob Banks, who appears on a remix to the popular lead single "Ire." The album sees the artist flexing immense versatility and range as he delivers emotional ballads, folk-Inspired cuts sung in Yoruba, and a few highlife-tinged summer jams.

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