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Photo by Ejatu Shaw.

This Dreamy Photo Series Questions the Intersection of Being Black, British & Muslim

We catch up with Sierra Leonean-Guinean artist Ejatu Shaw's contemplative photo series.

Poly- is an honest and thought-provoking photo series that discerns the internal struggle many of us experience—making sense of our given identities while discovering who we truly are.

Ejatu Shaw, a 21-year-old multidisciplinary artist and architecture student at University of Edinburgh, is the brain behind the project. She flexes her various editing techniques to produce unique and impactful images that allow the viewer to intensely experience the thoughts and feelings of the subjects.


Shaw says she started Poly- when Reform The Funk asked her to explore her Black-British-Muslim identity.

"Made up of many different identities (British, Fulani, Muslim, West African—specifically Sierra Leonean and Guinean), the project made me realize that I often struggle to have a firm understanding of myself and my place in all the communities I belong to," she says.

"Poly- explores the conflict I have with my identity whenever I try to connect with my Fulani roots outside of the confinements of Islam (a religion that 99 percent of Fulani people follow), and my struggle and failure to meet both the religious and cultural requirements of my tribe due to my British identity and values."

The artist notes that throughout the project, she used polymeric materials, including plastic bags, cling film, plastic containers and trash bags, to highlight that her identity feels "synthetic and not true" to her.

"The properties of these materials mean they cannot easily be destroyed, the same way I cannot easily rid myself of Islam or my Fulani culture. Plastic cannot break itself down naturally, and instead pollutes our oceans and landscapes. Burning plastic releases toxic fumes," Shaw explains.

"Every time I try to reinvent my identity to suit my values, every time I try to break down the polymeric chain that is my cultural and religious upbringing, nothing but toxicity comes from it and I end up feeling as though I have no identity at all. Throughout the project, my mother and grandmother serve as reminders that the Fulani identity is the only identity I'll ever have both culturally and Islamically and I should never steer away from it."

Shaw says the crescent—a significant symbol in Islam—is in every photo to show Islam's continued presence in her life and identity. "Islam's influences extend beyond theology, affecting day to day cultural practices within the Fulani community."

Although the younger members in Shaw's community relate and connect with her conversation around this conflict of identity, she mentions that the older members, including her parents, interpret Poly- as an homage to her Fulani culture.

"However it is far from that," she says. "I am, in fact, in the process of questioning both my culture and religion, currently feeling myself depart from the two more and more."

Take a look at Poly- by clicking on the slideshow below, and keep up with Ejatu Shaw via her website and on Instagram.

Photo by Ejatu Shaw.

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Image by Londeka Thabethe.

Spotlight: Meet the South African Street Photographer Capturing Photos of Black Life in the Johannesburg CBD

We chat to emerging South African photographer Londeka Thabethe about her work and her interest in taxis and commuters in and around central Johannesburg.

Londeka Thabethe insists on stating her favorite hip-hop producer is J Dilla. "I will take no slander about the god, may he rest in beats," she tells OkayAfrica in an interview about her photography.

During her birth month this year, the emerging South African photographer from Estcourt in KwaZulu Natal opened her solo exhibition at Durban's Distillery 031 venue. Titled 4:4 Mas'hlalisane, the exhibition showcased a series of images depicting the Joburg inner city and the country's most used mode of public transport—(minibus) taxis.

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Image courtesy of the artist.

In 'Aba Women Riot' Nigerian Artist, Fred Martins, Reinterprets a Groundbreaking Moment In African History

In a new series of prints, the artist celebrates 'the women who lend their voices and stood strong against the oppression of Africans.'

March marks Women's History Month, and for African women, one event that epitomizes the will and tenacity within our community is the Aba Women's Riot, also known as The Women's War of 1929, in which thousands of predominantly Igbo women in eastern Nigeria mobilized to challenge British colonial rule and the barriers placed on women's civic life.

This paradigm-shifting moment in history is the center of the latest series from Nigerian visual artist Fred Martins, who began conceptualizing "Aba Women Riot" in 2019, while reflecting on the invaluable contributions women have made throughout history. "I reflected on the power of femininity and how it has affected history on every stage and era of human civilization," said the artist in a statement.

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(Photo by Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images)

Blitz the Ambassador Named 2020 Guggenheim Fellow

The Ghanaian artist and filmmaker is among 175 "individuals who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts."

Ghanaian filmmaker Blitz Bazawule, also known as Blitz the Ambassador has been named a 2020 Guggenheim fellow.

The musician, artist and director behind he critically acclaimed film The Burial of Kojo, announced the news via social media on Thursday, writing: "Super excited to announce I've been awarded the Guggenheim 2020 Fellowship. Truly grateful and inspired."

He is among 175 scholars, "appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, the successful candidates were chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the Foundation's ninety-sixth competition," says the Guggenheim.

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Culture
Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

6 South African Podcasts to Listen to During the Lockdown

Here are six South African podcasts worth listening to.

South Africa has been on lockdown for almost two weeks as a measure to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and it looks like the period might just get extended. If you are one of those whose work can't be done from home, then you must have a lot of time in your hands. Below, we recommend six South African podcasts you can occupy yourself with and get empowered, entertained and informed.


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