Photos
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.

popular
Photo of Nnedi Okorafor by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images.

Nnedi Okorafor's Highly-Anticipated Memoir, 'Broken Places & Outer Spaces,' Is Here

This is the first work of non-fiction to come from the prolific science fiction writer.

Nnedi Okorafor, acclaimed Nigerian-American science fiction, fantasy and magical realism writer, has released her first work of non-fiction, Brittle Paper reports.

Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected is her memoir chronicling the journey from being a star athlete to facing paralysis—to her eventual creative awakening. Published by TED Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint, the prolific author gives us a powerful example and guide of how our perceived limitations can have the potential to become our greatest strengths.

"I've been writing this on and off since it all happened," she explains in a thread on Twitter. "The original manuscript is over 300 pages. I *needed* to record every detail while they were fresh, so there are parts of this book that I wrote while I still wasn't quite able to walk."

Here's a snippet of the synopsis from the publisher below:

Keep reading... Show less
popular
nedi Okorafor at TEDGlobal 2017. Courtesy of TED

Nnedi Okorafor Is Starting a Production Company for Africanfuturist Stories

The company will focus exclusively on television projects.

Multiple award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor has announced her latest creative endeavor, and it has us pretty excited about the possibilities.

As noted in Brittle Paper, Okorafor took to Facebook to share the name of her new production company that she created in a post from April 16. The name of the production imprint is Africanfuturism Productions, Inc.

In the comments section, she noted that the company would be focusing exclusively on television projects for the time being, as she considers film ti be "too restrictive."

Keep reading... Show less
News Brief

Listen to Hymphatic Thabs’ New Album ‘Centre of the Universe’

Hymphatic Thabs releases his first album in 12 years.

Legendary South African lyricist Hymphatic Thabs hasn't released an album since 2007's The Age of Horus. Last week, Thabs was one of the 26 pioneers who were inducted into the South African Hip Hop Museum's Hennessy Wall of Fame.

Today, the rapper shared a new album titled Centre of the Universe on his bandcamp page.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Left: Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images; Center: Photo by Leon Bennett/WireImage; Right: Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix

Trevor Noah, Lupita Nyong'o, Cynthia Erivo & Mati Diop Nominated for 2020 Critics Choice Awards

Check out the full list of 2020 nominees for the 2020 Critics Choice Awards.

This past Sunday, the full list of nominees for the 2020 Critics Choice Awards was announced.

Among the nominees are South African comedian and host of the The Daily Show, Trevor Noah, for his Netflix comedy special Son of Patricia, Lupita Nyong'o for her role in the horror film Us, Cynthia Erivo for her role in the Harriet Tubman biopic Harriet and French-Senegalese filmmaker Mati Diop for her film Atlantics.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.