Instagramming The Diaspora

Okayafrica looks at ten of the best accounts Instagramming Africa and the Diaspora, including work from Mambu Bayoh and Francis Kokoroko.

In their article #InstagramingAfrica: The Narcissism of Global Voluntourism Lauren Kascak and Sayantani DasGupta observe the three common types of photographs "voluntourists" share via social media whilst abroad in Africa: "The Overseas Selfie," "The Suffering Other" and of course "The Self-Directed Samaritan." While photos from the motherland have the opportunity to "completely change a woman's Facebook profile picture," as witnessed in a satirical piece published on the Onion, the phenomenon of instagramming the diaspora as a one-dimensional, disease and poverty afflicted land of the suffering is a monotonous narrative that has grown tiresome. What social media has also allowed, however, is the capacity to share other narratives about life in Africa. From portraits and landscapes to quotidian activities, here is a list of ten of our favorite Instagram accounts chronicling life throughout the black diaspora.


1. @everydayafrica

Shot primarily on mobile phones, Everyday Africa presents a collection of images that "attempt to redirect focus toward a more accurate understanding of what Africans experience on a day to day basis: normal life." Developed in 2012 by Peter DiCampo and Austin Merrill, the Instagram account has inspired similar projects endeavored towards combatting stereotypes of war, poverty, or disease in black communities.

2. @everydayjamaica

Inspired by Everyday Africa, Everyday Jamaica proves there's more to Jamaica than Rastas and reggae. As contributor, @ruddyroye eloquently states in his caption of "Bayroute Dad," "Everywhere I go in the world I am aware of the reputation that Jamaican men have sewn worldwide. Rastas, reggae mavericks, owners of the best ganja in the world, highly creative artists, possessive lovers, WENDY holders (it's a story, if you don't know ask somebody) domesticated home makers, and firm believers in siring their fair share of juveniles, just to name a few. Some of these are true, others are myths..."

3. @lagosphotofestival

The first and only international arts festival of photography in Nigeria, LagosPhoto is a growing community of local and international artists united through images composed of individual experiences and identities across the African continent. "LagosPhoto presents and educates about photography as it is embodied in the exploration of historical and contemporary issues, the sharing of cultural practices, and the promotion of social programs." Find out more on the festival in our gallery recap of the 2013 edition.

4. @mambub

New York-based photographer Mambu Bayoh was born in Liberia and immigrated to the states during the time of his country's civil war. He moved to New York in 2008 to shoot black models as an underrepresented demographic. His talent comes from the ability to allow his subjects to "personally, uniquely and culturally express themselves."

5. @africashowboy

"I grew up on stories. Now, I am a storyteller who uses the camera as his favorite medium," Nana Kofi Acquah states in his bio. Acquah left the advertising world to pursue a full-time career as a photographer. His work spans from Cameroon, Uganda, Angola, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Côte D'Ivoire, Liberia, and Ghana. Currently residing in Accra, Acquah is a contributor of @everydayafrica.

6. @accraphoto

There's not much of a bio for  Francis Kokoroko, so we'll let his work act as a visual resume. Primarily capturing moments in Ghana, Kokoroko's project "Gates" is a gem that appears from time to time on his Instagram feed. He describes it as "a visual project on how creatively barriers are created in Accra."

7. @glennagordon

Documentary photographer Glenna Gordon's photo essays capture the beauty, horror, joy and strife of everyday life. A contributor of both @everydayafrica and @lagosphotofestival, her photos of the belongings of the kidnapped school girls of Chibok, Nigeria, appeared on Lens Blog: The New York Times.

8. @andreweisiebo

Currently in Paris, last year Andrew Eisiebo's photo essays of West African barbershops appeared on the Lens Blog: The New York Times. His work explores the rapid development of urban Nigeria as well as sexuality, gender politics, football, pop culture and migration. View more of his West African barbershop photos here.

9. @emekaokereke

Emeka Okereke's project Africans in Bordeaux explores the lives of Africans living in a Western culture. Drawn to the African community while under residency in Bordeaux, France, he "met, dinned and photographed many Africans from Mali, Tchad, Senegal, Nigeria, Republic of Benin, etc.…all of whom were grappling with the complex situation of oscillating between two or more cultures."

10. @mandelagr

New York city-based photographer and filmmaker Mandela Gregoire has in fact met his namesake. With a background in international affairs, Gregoire's work ranges from producing videos for non-profits to shooting the likes of Rihanna.

In the gallery above we selected some of our favorite images from @everydayafrica, @everydayjamaica, @lagosphotofestival, @mambub, @africashowboy, @accraphoto, @glennagordon, @andreweisiebo, @emekaokereke, and @mandelagr.


A Candid Conversation With Olamide & Fireboy DML

We talk to the Nigerian stars about the hardest lessons they've learned, best advice they've ever been given and what Nigeria means to them.

Olamide and Fireboy DML have been working together for three years, but the first time they sit down to do an interview together is hours after they arrive in New York City on a promo tour.

It's Fireboy's first time in the Big Apple — and in the US — and the rain that's pouring outside his hotel doesn't hinder his gratitude. "It's such a relief to be here, it's long overdue," he tells OkayAfrica. "I was supposed to be here last year, but Covid stopped that. This is a time to reflect and refresh. It's a reset button for me."

Olamide looks on, smiling assuredly. Since signing Fireboy to his YBNL Nation label in 2018, he's watched the soulful young singer rise to become one of Nigeria's most talked-about artists — from his breakout single, "Jealous," to his debut album Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, hit collabs with D.Smoke and Cuppy, and his sophomore release, Apollo, last year.

Even while he shares his own latest record, UY Scuti, with the world, Olamide nurtures Fireboy's career with as much care and attention as he does his own, oscillating between his two roles of artist and label exec seamlessly. His 2020 album Carpe Diem is the most streamed album ever by an African rap artist, according to Audiomack, hitting over 140 million streams. When Olamide signed a joint venture with US-based record label and distribution company, Empire, in February last year he did so through his label, bringing Fireboy and any other artist he decides to sign along for the ride, and establishing one of the most noteworthy deals on the continent.

Below, Olamide & Fireboy DML speak to OkayAfrica about their mutual admiration for each other, what makes them get up in the morning and how they switch off.

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