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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

Interview: Bizzle Osikoya Is the A&R Shaping the Voice of a New Generation

We caught up with the A&R expert and co-founder of The Plug Management to talk about the fast-rising demand for Nigerian music and what it takes to break out as an artist.

The meteoric rise of Nigeria's burgeoning music industry over the last few years is definitely one for the books. From high profile collaborations that have graced international charts to appearances on American late night TV and a Grammy nomination, the Nigerian sound is sitting at the epicenter of a global conversation that the world—including Queen Bey herself —seem to scrabbling to get a piece of the action.

However, way before this global infiltration and westernized conflation of Africa's assortment of genres into one Afrobeats, Bizzle Osikoya was studying Music Business in England and plotting for a way to be a part of what he knew was inevitable. "I remember going to clubs in school and they would always play Jamaican music but rarely Nigerian songs. I knew we made good music here but I knew I couldn't sing. So I was motivated to come back, go behind the scenes, and see how we can make that crossover possible," he tells OkayAfrica.

More than a decade after making the intrepid decision to venture into A&R, helping artists find and develop their sound, Bizzle's creative genius has cascaded across different musical generations, from the piracy rife CD mix era with artists like Naeto C, Wande Coal and Dr. Sid to a streaming era populated with hits from Reekado Banks, Tiwa Savage and Davido.

Following the success of his latest project, Oxlade's Oxygene, we caught up with the A&R expert and co-founder of the Plug Management—a talent management company that has managed Davido, Peruzzi and DJ Obi—to talk about what it takes to break out as an artist, the fast-rising demand for Nigerian music, and how "alté" is not the same thing as alternative music.

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In Photos: 'Covid' is Cape Town's New Informal Settlement for Those Displaced by the Pandemic

Cape Town residents whose livelihoods are impacted by the coronavirus pandemic are building new homes in a place they call 'Covid'.