Popular
Photo by Ngadi Smart.

Spotlight: Artist, Ngadi Smart, Captures Black Sensuality, Sexuality & Culture Through Striking Photography

In her new series, "Latitude," the Sierra Leonean artist explores the rich indigenous culture in Grand-Bassam, Côte d'Ivoire through the lens of fashion.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists and more who are producing vibrant, original work. In our latest piece, we spotlight the art of Ngadi Smart, a Sierra Leonean photographer visual artist and illustrator based between Côte d'Ivoire and London. View images from her latest series "Latitude," and read more about the inspirations behind her work. Keep up with Smart via her website and on Instagram.


How did your latest photography series come about?

My latest photography series was a story I shot for Atmos Magazine's second issue, entitled Latitude, a story based on the many facets of the word. More than just a system for mapping the world, latitude also means "freedom of action or choice." Atmos Magazine asked me to capture the meaning of "latitude" in my culture, through the lens of fashion. In keeping with the magazine's mission, we were conscious of our environmental impact: only local models & designers, materials and fabrics were used, with an eco-responsible vision. I chose to shoot in Grand-Bassam, Côte d'Ivoire's old French-colonial seaside town which was once the nation's capital, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's filled with arresting, 19th and 20th-century architectural ruins. It embodies—on the one hand—colonial architecture and town planning, based on the principles of functionalism and adaptations to climatic conditions, and—on the other hand—a community of the N'zima people, which demonstrates the permanency of indigenous cultures, despite a serious environmental issue affecting it: coastal erosion.

What would you say are the central themes in your work?
My photography work has long been focused on how people self-identify and choose to present themselves in front of the lens. As of late, my interest has been documenting Black sensuality, sexuality, and African culture through an African lens and point of view. I want to show as many representations of African people, and what it means to be African, as I can.

Can you talk about a particular moment or a turning point in your life that made you want to pursue art or a creative path?

I have always been a creative and have always been creating art. I would say what pushed me into taking photography seriously was quitting my job in 2014 and starting a photo and illustration blog in Toronto, where I would shoot and draw strangers I met or acquaintances in the comfort of their homes. I'm always so surprised and grateful that so many people let me into their intimacy, That really started my focus on the topic of the presentation of one's self, when facing the lens.

See more of Smart's work below.

Photo by Ngadi Smart

Photo by Ngadi Smart

Photo by Ngadi Smart

Photo by Ngadi Smart

Photo by Ngadi Smart

Photo by Ngadi Smart

Photo by Ngadi Smart

Photo by Ngadi Smart

Interview
Photo: Benoit Peverelli

Interview: Oumou Sangaré Proves Why She's the Songbird of Wassoulou

We caught up with the Malian singer to talk about her new Acoustic album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

When Oumou Sangaré tells me freedom is at her core, I am not surprised. If you listen to her discography, you'll be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn't center or in some way touch on women's rights or child abuse. The Grammy award-winning Malian singer has spent a significant part of her career using her voice to fight for the rights of women across Africa and the world, a testimony to this is her naming her debut studio album Moussolou, meaning Woman. The album, a pure masterpiece that solidified Oumou's place amongst the greats and earned her the name 'Songbird of Wassoulou,' was a commercial success selling over 250,000 records in Africa and would in turn go on to inspire other singers across the world.

On her latest body of work Acoustic, a reworking of her critically acclaimed 2017 album Mogoya, Oumou Sangaré proves how and why she earned her accolades. The entirety of the 11-track album was recorded within two days in the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse in 'live' conditions—with no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones. Throughout the album, using her powerful and raw voice that has come to define feminism in Africa and shaped opinions across the continent, Oumou boldly addresses themes like loss, polygamy and female circumcision.

We caught up with the Malian singer at the studio she is staying while in quarantine to talk about her new album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.