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
popular
Still from Burna Boy's Tiny Desk concert video via NPR.

Watch Burna Boy's Mellowed-Out 'Tiny Desk' Concert

Watch the 'African Giant' run through some of his hits like 'Gbona,' 'Ye' and more for NPR's Tiny Desk concert series.

Burna Boy is the latest artist to grace NPR's famous Tiny Desk.

The Nigerian "afrofusion" star took to the set for a mellowed out performance of four of his biggest tracks. Getting straight to business, the artist opened his set with a toned down rendition of his single "Gbona" before heading into the socially-aware "Wetin Man Go Do." It's much calmer of a performance than we're used to seeing from the artist.

Next he performs a funky version of "Dangote," before rounding his set out with his magnum opus of sorts "Ye." He's backed by the band The Outsiders and vocalist Christina Matovu throughout.

Burna Boy has had a stellar year, releasing his seminal album African Giant, performing at Coachella and winning several awards—including 'Best African Act' at the BET Awards—in the process.

Check out his full Tiny Desk performance below, and revisit a recent Tiny Desk performance from British-Nigerian rapper Dave from last week and check out Burna Boy's okay acoustics performance of 'Anybody' from August.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Simi in "Selense" (Youtube)

Watch Simi's Beautiful Music Video For 'Selense'

Premiere: Simi shares the upbeat new video for "Selense," a song about time which draws inspiration from classic highlife.

Nigeria's Simi comes through with the new music video for her recent single, "Selense."

The song, which sees her sing about using your time and years on this earth preciously, gets a beautiful new video that follows Simi's verses about different characters who may or may not be spending their hours in the best way.

The upbeat new music video, which was directed by Adasa Cookey, is getting premiered here on OkayAfrica today.

"'Selense' is a song about time," Simi tells OkayAfrica. "The song draws inspiration from classic African highlife. A timeless classic that is perfect for all seasons."

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.