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Photo by Lawrence Agyei.

'Last Born' Is Sunday School's Striking Photo Series Depicting the Strong Bond Between Siblings

Josef Adamu's creative platform enlists Ghanaian photographer Lawrence Agyei to bring this beautiful concept on sibling dynamics to life in their latest series.

Sunday School, the creative platform pushing the art of cultural storytelling, has released their latest photo series, Last Born. In the series, we follow two brothers and their strong bond as they navigate a new environment after immigrating to the States from the continent.

Josef Adamu, Sunday School's creative director, intended to highlight and focus on the younger brother who in turn looks up to his older brother in an aspirational way. With the brothers matching ensembles, symmetric posing and photography by Chicago-based Ghanaian photographer Lawrence Agyei, the end product is no less than elegant.

Agyei, who was born and raised in Italy, moved to the Chicago when he was 16 years old to pursue better opportunities and quality education. Once he won a school photography project during his senior year of high school, his teacher pushed him to pursue the art form seriously. Focusing on portrait photography, Agyei approaches his projects by trusting his intuition along with doing his homework via researching and watching documentaries.

Adamu also notes that this collaboration has been long overdue—but for good measure.

"I have always admired his film photography, and the way in which he captures subjects," Adamu says. "My goal with Sunday School involves telling stories in various spaces across the globe, and I was happy with this first effort in Chicago. The universe is literally our playscape as creatives, and we aim to showcase the beauty around the world, one project at a time."

We caught up with Agyei to learn a bit more about his creative approach for the series.


Antoinette Isama for OkayAfrica: How did you get involved in work with with Josef and Sunday School?

Lawrence Agyei: I've been close friends with Josef for about 5 years. We share the same beliefs when it comes to photography, design and just life in general. Our main focus is to tell stories that challenge the world we live in today. Since the beginning, we've wanted to collaborate on a project, but it was all about timing. Last Born was the project that we felt needed to happen, especially now.

How were you able to execute the vision of the concept while staying true to your aesthetic?

From the start, I knew that this project had to be photographed with a Mamiya RZ67, which is a medium format film camera. Shooting with the Mamiya film camera has allowed me to stay true to myself. Working with film requires a disciplined, considered approach. You can make all the decisions without the camera and then take a picture of it—that's how I was able to execute the project.

What's one thing you'd want viewers to take away from the series?

Last Born is a story about two brothers who have recently moved to the USA from Africa without their parents. The brothers are forced to start from scratch in a new environment, with the eldest brother being 25, and the younger brother, 10. The clear distinction between their age was meant to emphasize the parental role that the older brother had to step into.

With unity, perseverance and love, the brothers were able to overcome the struggles that many immigrants face when they move to a new country. I relate to this story because just like the two brothers, I had to start from scratch, so in a way, it felt like I was telling my story. With love, unity and perseverance, you will be able to overcome anything.

Take a look at our favorite shots from Last Born below, and view the full story here.

Photo by Lawrence Agyei.

Photo by Lawrence Agyei.

Photo by Lawrence Agyei.

Photo by Lawrence Agyei.

Photo by Lawrence Agyei.

Photo by Lawrence Agyei.

Photo by Lawrence Agyei.

Photo by Lawrence Agyei.

Photo by Lawrence Agyei.

Photo by Lawrence Agyei.

Credits

Models: Lino + Moses Wilson | Photography: Lawrence Agyei | Direction: Josef Adamu

BTS Videography: Darren Sanders Jr. | Styling: KJ | Styling Assistant: Ismael Lopez | Makeup: Annechellie Akuamah

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Cover of Isha Sesay's 'Beneath the Tamarind Tree'

'Beneath the Tamarind Tree'—an Excerpt From Isha Sesay's Book About Remembering the Chibok Girls

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Continue on to read more, and revisit our interview with the reporter about why it's important for the world to remember the girls' stories, here.

***

"We should burn these girls!"

"No, let's take them with us!"

"Why not leave them here?"

The men were still arguing, dozens of them trading verbal blows while Saa and the other horrified girls looked on. None of the men seemed particularly troubled by the fact that the lives of almost three hundred schoolgirls hung in the balance. Amid all the yelling, the girls had been divided into groups. Each batch would burn in a different room in the school buildings that were aflame just a few feet away. Tensions were escalating when a slim man with outsize eyes suddenly appeared. Saa had never seen him before. Like many of the insurgents, he too looked young and was just as scruffy. But when he spoke, tempers seemed to cool for a moment.

"Ah! What are you trying to do?"

"We wanted to burn them!"

"Why not take them with us, since we have an empty vehicle?"

His suggestion triggered a fresh round of quarreling. The same positions were expressed, and the newcomer continued to calmly repeat his idea of taking the girls with them, till he finally got his way. The girls later discovered his name was Mallam Abba. He was a commander.

"Follow us!" the men shouted.

None of it made any sense to Saa. Why? To where? As the insurgents shuffled her out of the compound, she felt as if her whole life were on fire. All Saa could see was the ominous orange glow of flames consuming every one of her school buildings. With every step, the fears within her grew. She struggled to make sense of the competing thoughts throbbing in her head. This isn't supposed to be happening. The insurgents had asked about the boys and the brick-making machine; they'd systematically emptied the school store, carrying bag after bag of foodstuffs and loading all of it into the huge waiting truck. With everything now packed away, Saa had thought the insurgents would simply let the girls go home. After all, that's what had happened during their previous attacks on schools—they'd always let the schoolgirls go, after handing out a warning to abandon their education and strict instructions to get married. Saa had simply expected the same thing to happen once more, not this.

She scanned the crowd of faces surrounding her; the creased brows and startled expressions of the others made it clear that everyone was equally confused. Whatever the turmoil they were feeling, they kept it to themselves. No one said a word. Saa fell into a sort of orderly scrum with the men corralling and motioning her forward with their guns, each weapon held high and pointed straight at the girls.

Saa and Blessing moved in unison, along with the hundreds of others, snaking along in the dark through the open compound gate, past the small guard post usually occupied by Mr. Jida, which now sat empty. Yelling came from nearby Chibok town. Saa could smell burning, then heard the sound of gunshots and people running. It was bedlam.

Just beyond the compound walls sat a crowd of bushes. As she and the men moved out into the open, Saa felt their thorns spring forward, eager to pull at her clothing and scratch and pierce her body. Careful not to yell out in pain, she tried to keep her clothes beyond the reach of the grasping thicket with no time to pause and examine what might be broken skin.

Saa retreated into herself and turned to the faith that had anchored her entire life. Lord, am I going to die tonight, or will I survive? Desperate to live, unspoken prayers filled her mind and she pleaded, repeatedly, God save me.

She was still praying as they walked down the dirt path away from the flaming school. The shabby-looking men with their wild eyes gave no explanation or directions. They simply motioned with their heads and the sweep of their rifles, making it clear to keep moving. As the reality began to sink in, Saa felt her chest tightening. Her heart was going to beat its way out of her body. But she couldn't allow herself to cry or make any sound. Any kind of display would make her a target, and who knew what these men might do?

The insurgents walked alongside, behind, and in front of her; they were everywhere. Every time Saa looked around, their menacing forms filled her view. Initially, all the girls were steered away from the main road and onto a rambling path overgrown with bushes; the detour was likely made in an attempt to avoid detection.

Parents lining up for reunion with daughters (c) Adam Dobby


***

This excerpt was published with permission from the author. 'Beneath the Tamarind Tree' is available now.

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