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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
Photo: Mariela Alvarez.

Interview: ÌFÉ Blends Music & Religion to Honor Those Who Have Died During the Pandemic

Producer and percussionist Otura Mun talks about his latest EP, The Living Dead, and how he traces the influences of West Africa in his new work.

There are bands that open up a spiritual world through their music. ÌFÉ is one example. An electro-futurist band that fuses Afro-Cuban rhythms and Jamaican dancehall with Yoruba mystical voices. With the success of their 2017 debut album "IIII+IIII" (pronounced Eji-Ogbe), ÌFÉ has reached an audience that is looking for Caribbean and contemporary sounds.

The Puerto Rican-based band just released a new EP, The Living Dead- Ashé Bogbo Egun, that aims to heal and honor those who have died during this pandemic. Otura Mun, the band leader, is an African-American producer and percussionist, who began a personal journey about a decade ago, when he landed in San Juan, and decided to move there. He learned Spanish, dug deep into his African ancestry and started to practice the Yoruba-Caribbean religion of Santería.

ÌFÉ, which means "love and expansion" in Yoruba, ties two worlds, music and religion, artistically. This new EP modernized prayer songs to hopefully make them more accessible to a younger generation. OkayAfrica spoke with Otura Mun on his latest work.

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