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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
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South African Filmmaker Carmen Sangion Unpacks Her Short Film 'Uncertainty'

Uncertainty, a film about a couple's emotional battles during lockdown, forms part of the global nine-chapter anthology project titled One(Nine).

During the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, nine filmmakers isolating in various parts of the world came together for a collective experiment. The global team of female filmmakers worked on short films which formed part of the anthology One(Nine), a nine-chapter project of perspectives and experiences — real, unreal, fiction, non-fiction and everything in between.

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For this piece, South Africa's Carmen Sangion dissects Uncertainty, a film which interrogates Black men's vulnerability and mental health struggles through the lens of one couple's relationship battles during lockdown.

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