Nearly two decades since his death, the legacy of Afrobeat pioneer and human rights activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti (born Olufela Ransome-Kuti) is only growing with the years. The British Library exhibition on West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song paid homage to him last winter as one of Nigeria’s most prominent and prolific cultural figures. There is a rising cult interest in African funk music, a genre within which he is a crucial voice and his life and musicality echo in the contemporary hybrid of protest and music that is the annual Afropunk festival, a counter-cultural platform for asserting black identity and social activism, which took place in London for the first time on September 24th.
But closer to his Fela’s own hometown, the arts and music festival Felabration brings hundreds of local and international musicians, performers and artists to the New Afrika Shrine in Lagos to celebrate the life and work of the multi-instrumentalist, composer, maverick and activist. Started in 1998, the year after Fela’s death, by his daughter, Yeni Anikulapo-Kuti, the festival aims both to celebrate his artistic and cultural contribution to Nigeria and keep his legacy alive. The festival ended this Saturday and to commemorate we are excited to share the work of Nigerian documentary photographer, Yagazie Emezi, who attended Felabration in 2015 and photographed the backstage experience. The result was a stunning series of photographs, which she has kindly agreed to share with us.
I actually didn’t know of Fela while growing up in Nigeria. I’m sure his music surrounded me at certain points, but I would never have been able to pick it out as a child. My earliest memories of Fela are blurry, but I am sure I was already in university in the States by then. His sounds came in through a friend’s computer and from there, I went on to find out more about him on my own.
I was drawn to the crowd that the celebration attracts. It was just one of those events that I had heard everyone talking about so the hype drew me in.
More than anything, Fela lives on in his children. Seun and Femi still perform on stage regularly and the energy and spirit never stops.
I had a friend who was performing at Felabration which is a big deal so I offered to capture her on stage. I’ve been to Shrine on its quiet days and was always curious about what was behind all the doors.
Most rooms are packed with performers. One room is for Femi Kuti’s family and friends. The others are for performers and dancers. Everyone was excited, but you could tell the experienced artists from the first-timers. There was smoke in the air, people were relaxed, lovers mixing with friends, supporters blending in with performers, everything was positive and encouraging.
The spirit of Felabration is that of openness and acceptance, you’re in a safe space when you’re in Shrine. Holding a camera is a common sight and people are very receptive.
If I manage to snag some special access passes, I will definitely do my best! Some good photographs are created in the less accessible spaces!
Check out our feature on Yagazie Emezi and her many creative outlets here (among them photography, cartoon, documentary and straight-talking YouTube videos). Follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter. You can also watch her antics on Youtube!
Interview by Rose Miyonga
I first came across Ronan Mckenzie’s photography in December 2015, around the time of her Dalston exhibition A Black Body, and have been a fan ever since, so I was delighted when she agreed to share some of her stories and inspirations with us.
Her photographs capture the epitome of ‘London cool’, but also convey a deeper message: the celebration and demystification of the black body. As such she challenges the mainstream representations that fear and fetishise Blackness, refusing to be silenced and exploring the diversity of faces, bodies and opinions that exists.
Mckenzie has been featured in Dazed and Confused, i-D and Vogue, to name but a few.
She may be young, shockingly young considering the depth and breadth of her work, but don’t be fooled, the 21 year old knows what she’s talking about.
I’m 21, I was born and live in Walthamstow – North East London. I had loads of fun as a kid, there were some tough times, but i have a lot of funny and happy memories; one time my brother took a biscuit without asking from the cupboard so my mum took us all to the police station and got a police officer to tell us off, I never stole anything again.
We were always around cameras when we were young, my parents took a lot of photos and videos of us, and my mum always gave us disposable cameras or Polaroids to take on school trips, but I only thought of photography as a career early last year.
It just wasn’t for me, I didn’t feel like myself – I was coming home feeling low and didn’t put any passion into any of my work so I knew there was no point me being there. I was going to try and stick it out until Christmas but I just trusted my instinct and jumped ship after 2 weeks.
I just wanted to show black beauty and diversity, that was the main idea. I felt and still feel for the most part that black people were always portrayed as one type of person in the media, and I wanted to create a space full of different black faces, bodies and personalities.
Well when I first started it was more about getting my work seen by as many people as possible so I would shoot and send it off to small magazines, websites and anyone who would take it. When it came to my exhibition, because I’d been interning and assisting in the fashion industry since I was 16, I had a few friends that helped me get exposure on big platforms like i-D and Dazed. It is difficult to get exposure in mainstream magazines, and now that I know my work and my style, I’m not about just pushing my work to anyone and more about selecting what’s best for me and creating my own platforms..
I think this is a very exciting time for women, and all creatives because opportunities are broad, and if you work hard you can achieve. I think with platforms like Gal Dem, ethnic minority women have a safe place to speak openly on their experiences which is amazing. We need that to become mainstream.
I just shoot anyone that catches my eye, it’s difficult to explain but I love faces that for some reason jump out at me. It could be that I see the kindness in their eyes or they just have incredible ears haha, but it just catches my eye.
A warm soul.
At the moment I’m so inspired by Simone Biles!! 4’9, from a non conventional family, defied all odds and is world champion! That shows true determination and passion!
I have a few things in the pipeline.. 😉
Being happy working on wherever my path leads me! 🙂
Follow Ronan on Instagram
How to describe Hardy Indiigo? This multi-level-creative force of a man exudes the kind of positive energy that just makes you want to bake in the warmth of it. Hardy (born Hardy Muanza) was born in Congo, raised in France is now based in New York where he continues to develop his talents as a creator whilst working with various artists in “creating innovative sounds and captivating musical textures.”
In 2012 Hardy produced and co wrote the hit song “Superstar” on Madonna‘s MDNA album as well as collaborating as a musical director and Dj for her Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange Project, the Macy’s Launch event for the Material Girl clothing line as well as many other private functions (Hardy “kept the party moving” as Dj for Madonna’s 2012 and 2013 Oscars party).
In 2014, Hardy produced 4 songs for America’s Got Talent finalist Kehlani as well as producing 10 tracks for Stella, (Carlos Santana‘s daughter) including a duo with the Carlos himself.
Hardy’s love of music and passion to create also lead to his first accessories and leather goods capsule collection. A sneaker collaboration with Italian sportswear brand Fila that is expected to be released in fall 2016 as well as a collaboration with Italian eyewear brand Glassing. Keeping up?
Feeling the desire to help kids in need Hardy founded Invest In Kids (called iiKids), a foundation that empowers kids through education, arts and culture. Hardy and iiKids donate a percentage of his earnings to non-profit organizations, charities and foundations involved in helping kids such as our friend Noella’s Malaika Foundation, a school in Congo that empowers women through education.
Yes it was at school I was like 7 years old, her name was Laura Crispy.
She was blonde with blue eyes and a beautiful smile. Everybody wanted to be with her, I didn’t pay her no mind until she did and we became very close. The best part about it is that she was loyal. She didn’t care about nobody or nothing else but me. That was attractive to me.
As a human being and especially as men we are attracted by what we see first then everything else. Physical beauty plays a part until it doesn’t, it’s one of the element that defines attraction. But physical beauty is not enough and will never be for the simple fact that our body transforms as we get older, and only the internal beauty will live as long as we have a soul.
She’s physically a beautiful woman, and a great mom. She raised 4 kids on her own as a young Congolese fresh out the plane. The sacrifices she made, the education she gave us is priceless. Even if a lot of mistakes were made she stood by us and did everything she could. That’s a beautiful person in my eyes.
Values and principles. I get it from my mama. That’s the most important thing for me. This society breeds lost souls, and push insecurity to the extreme. Social medias are the best platform for it.
Way more important. Let’s take social media for example. If you look at instagram, almost everything is related to women is about Fitness/Yoga, Hair/Make up, Fashion, strippers, Kardashians. Everything is about appearances, not much about philanthropy or real women empowerment. And it’s all over the platform whether you follow them or not.
Beauty comes from within, that’s the real beauty. You will always be beautiful in my eyes and those who love you for who you are. Regardless of what people may say or think always know that you are beautiful inside and outside and let no one ever make you think or feel otherwise.
Be careful, protect yourself and your heart by any means necessary. Whoever you are attracted to, make sure he has values and principles that match or complete yours. Have integrity and get the respect you deserve when its due. Never lose sight of your life’s goals. Compromise but don’t lose yourself or waste your time pleasing someone who doesn’t deserve your devotion. Find happiness within. Do not put your dreams on hold to build someone else’s.
A wider variety. We see the same thing over and over again. People have no life, it’s all about gossip nowadays. I would love to see the other women who are geniuses, warriors, skilled in what they do but nobody cares to know. It goes from single moms, CEOs, athletes, doctors to actresses and activists. There’s a wide spectrum to be covered.
Absolutely not. Like I said earlier it’s very degrading. if you do not pay attention, and most people don’t, you really are going to think that this is what women are. And it goes for both men and women, especially the youth. The media sets the standards for the uneducated mind. If Kim K is society’s standard and a proof of concept of success, how the new generation won’t want to be naked online or have their body redone, especially if it equals success. Insecurities and ego are unfortunately the main reason why society and its system is very hard to beat. It’s very upsetting.
For the last 20 years, multi-talented Agnes Baddoo has been a Los Angeles-based stylist working for Italian and US Vogue, Vanity Fair, commercials and film. She’s also the author of five travel guides, creator of numerology inspired sprays known as Everyw’air and designer of some highly covetetable leather totes. She lives between her hometown in NYC and at her home base in Los Angeles, where she designs her collections of leather goods.
I first noticed Agnes’ beautiful pieces on the Edible Gardens website – where Agnes and Lauri Kranz collaborated to create the perfect ‘everything’ shopper. Both Agnes and Lauri’s signature of using ethically produced, sustainable materials is a match made in heaven.
“Last year, when I visited Thandie in LA, I was invited to a lunch by my friend Kendall Conrad. It was there that I met the lovely Agnes Baddoo, “maker of things she needs, wants and likes”. She was wearing the most simple, yet perfect little shouder bag that I totally had my eye on.
Cut to last week, Thandie emailed me to say “met this great bag designer at the Echo Park Craft Fair, let’s post on her”. Clearly, Agnes was destined to be on ThandieKay! ”
Growing up, Sunday evenings were for home spa pampering and prep for the week. It involved hair prep (my mother would wash/iron/set – mine was short as a child so often braided), face masks, long baths with oils, followed by lotions, cremes and this Japanese nail buffing system called P-Shine.
My Mother was of an era where people (men/women/children) dressed for all situations: work clothes, school clothes, play clothes, clothes they wore on the weekend, clothes they changed into when they came home, night gowns/robes/pyjamas for sleeping etc). She was always immaculate, or at least thoughtful, in all those situations.
Meeting the day always began with the beauty routine. Everything smelled soft and nice. I have many sense memories of the products she used from drugstore to high-end department store as long as it worked and smelled nice – Cocoa Butter, Shea Butter, Yardley’s English Lavender Brilliantine, Nivea, Jergen’s, Pond’s, Jean Naté, Clinique, Elizabeth Arden or Chanel No. 5/No.19/No.22/Christelle, Diorissimo or Eau de Givenchy -these are a few staples I always remember, a whiff of which would take me back to being sink-height.
She took a bath, rarely a shower, then a soft smelling body lotion, face cream/moisturizer. Then on to make-up, light foundation, blush, mascara, eye shadow, lipstick – more polished for work, more natural for weekends but always something – eyes, cheeks, lipstick at minimum. Always. And nails too. She was fairer than I and preferred coral tones for lips and nails. Then before bed, the cold creme removal ritual, bath, lotion etc.
I’m happy, well rested, have done some form of exercise – some combination thereof that starts from within. Having said that, newly showered in a favorite outfit, a dab of a favorite fragrance and a pinch of makeup works too!
Is neither a neither a chore or a delight – I don’t mind it. For me it’s quick and painless: eyeliner or mascara, light cheek, light lip unless for an occasion then I pick either eye or lip to feature with something bolder. Products I use in rotation: W3llPeople, Universalist Color Stick and Mascara, Jillian Dempsey, Rick Brown Kohl Liner, RMS mascara and lip shine, Rodin lip gloss, Earth Tu Face skin stick. I’ve been using this since they started the brand in 2010 and it is always on top, within easy reach, in any bag I carry. Such an essential, like breathing.
My father is a reserved man of few flowery words of affection, but I do remember him often referring to his “beautiful wife”.
In my work, I am inspired by nature, form and function. The inspiration for my line started with an old natural leather tote bag belonging to my mother that I’d been modifying over the years. I had changed the shape, moved the straps – different details, to suit my taste and how I intended to use it. When it became unrepairable and too frail for wear the tote became a catchall for files, bills, magazines, next to my desk.
One day while (procrastinating) doing my taxes I just looked at it and decided I needed that particular form and function in my life. So I set off to create a version of that tote which became Sac 1.
Working with local leather-crafters I made several samples, brought them to the Echo Park Craft Fair, where I sold out within the first 2 hours -and there my leather goods line was born. Prior to launching the bags, I was only making/selling an aromatherapy line of Everyw’air Sprays at the fair, now I do both.
Then I created a larger version, Sac 2, which is a more unisex, weekender sized tote. I launched a website and with some fortuitous features in Tomboy Style and PriscillaWoolworth.com to name a few, the leather goods business really took off.
Over the following months and years I’ve added different materials, fabrications and other styles as different needs and functions presented themselves. Now, in addition to the original Sac 1 and Sac 2 totes there is a small Cross body for hands-free bag experience, light-weight canvas carry-all market bags and key cases.
They are all simple in design, with form and function foremost in my mind when creating them.
Our pores are like millions of tiny mouths; I would like to see less chemical, harmful additives in all beauty products we put on our body. I would like to see stores like CAP beauty, that only carry non-toxic head to toe beauty products, become the norm not the exception so all the non-toxic products that already exist and those to come can be more widely available at all price points.
I am very sentimental and have maintained friendships from various stages in my life, even from my earliest play group memories. I recently got together for dinner with a small group a gals from high school, some of whom I hadn’t seen since we graduated. Although through the wonder of Facebook we have been in touch, walking into that restaurant and seeing them around the table I burst into tears of joy and nostalgia. I was wearing my new W3llPeople mascara -it did NOT run, but it was that sort of situation, recently.
Lotions, creams and fragrance are fantastic because aromatherapy does affect the way we feel for the better. Edible Gardens x Le Feu de L’eau African Basil candle – it’s my favorite scented candle. I burn this candle sparingly (because it’s so precious to me I want to make it last) but regularly, leave the jar open so it can scent up the room when it’s not burning and travel with it so that grounding sweet basil aroma gets in my clothes and is with me at every new location. Wholesome, delicious nutritious food and drink shared among friends and family is a beauty gift, but the power of a kind word or compliment that makes someone beam from the inside out – that’s a true beauty gift!
Rosalind: Tahmina Begum heads up XXY magazine – a fabulous online publication full of smart writing and great imagery.
I only met Tahmina recently but she’s someone I immediately clicked with. Her work ethic and ability to balance so many things at once is something I both admire and, I think, recognise slightly.
Talking to other driven young women who are open and curious and full of questions is always a pleasure: they’re the kinds of chats where the hours just disappear. She’s also, like me, in her final year at university. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Tahmina: The foundations of XXY is that it is an ‘agender’ magazine and platform which produces intelligent content and striking visuals to form conversations. The name ‘XXY’ comes from the blend of the male and female chromosomes. It’s a clear statement in which our content is suitable for both genders.
It is run by myself and Georgina Dunn, my business partner, with myself as Head of Content. I also have a kick ass team of editors, directors and journalists who simply have a love for this labour.
We have six themes a year and we are currently on Neverland– tales on things from your childhood which effect your adulthood. However we concentrate on emerging designers whether that be in textiles or a film maker focusing on architecture.
We’re niche in all our culture subsections. It is vital to me that we create worthy content as digital journalism still has a bad name. The ethos of quality over quantity is very real.
I grew up in Solihull in the West Midlands and currently reside in lovely Oxford, where my university is-though I am a fake Londoner in how often I am there for work.
My parents are from North East Bangladesh making me first generation British. I don’t know how much you’ve heard the term ‘the immigration story’, it’s a term of endearment, children use of their parents who weren’t born in the UK as a reminder to strive for a better life. It’s rather funny when you look back and see how your parents used that with not finishing your vegetables but nowadays, it is clear how much of an effect my roots have had.
Maybe it’s because I’m a woman of colour, I have an ‘outside’ perspective whilst been ‘in’ but the consequences of having my parents migrate were positive such as teaching me to have a strong work ethnic.
Although in any Asian culture, creative paths are not encouraged, which was a struggle especially as the public in general, in my opinion, still lack knowledge to what happens behind a fashion and art magazine- through no fault of their own.
Therefore the struggle was just having to constantly justify and explain what I am trying to achieve but I look at it as a positive – another glass ceiling to break.
I think I naturally am interested in stories of those who have grafted from the bottom and those who have not had certain privileges, a reason I am grateful to my role as it allows me to be the gatekeeper in posting work of or from these individuals, which may have not have been noticed by another title before.
But most importantly I try to reflect and make sure I’m making decisions to make myself happy and not because I owe ‘my community’. You cannot be everything to everyone, so I’m going to do me and if that happens to shatter some roofs, then that’s an added bonus.
I do not think I’ve received any negativity before from the Asian community- or Muslim, which I am. I think what it does is surprise people as it’s part of a career many go into. However, what’s interesting is that people, regardless of their background don’t expect someone who is Muslim, female and from a rich heritage which is still a third world country and a feminist who works in the creative industry such as fashion to exist or be discussing these themes. As if that all does not fit together.
Although I think humans are walking contradictions, I see those factors are utterly streamlined. With the Quran stating to educate yourself daily, how better to publish intellectual content discussing social politics and culture, with fashion being a celebration of stories. It’s true when they say ’empowered women empower women’ therefore having self-love makes me want to do more for those coming up and naturally, young women. Thus it comes full circle.
My inspirations growing can be summed up in two words: Jacqueline Wilson. Until I started to discuss with The Publishing Girls (a sisterhood and
close friends at university) I didn’t realise the diverse stories she told and the seriousness of them. Whether it was on addiction, individuality, divorce, care homes, homelessness, neglect by a mother- I relish in that the girls she created were not flat but oh so very real.
I actually attended her talk at the Oxford Literacy festival in the Sheldonian and of course, I already knew everything she had to say being the ultimate fan and reading all her books (fact of the day: that is over a hundred now) and meeting her exactly a decade ago when I won a competition to be the first to get my hands on Candyfloss.
I was this close to running onto the stage, bearing in mind I was on a high tier thus swooping down with an imaginary cape to just remind her that was me in the bad pink suede blazer and matching hat who fawned over her and brought her chocolates and that she’s great. I’ve rambled too much on this question but no seriously, she’s Queen.
I am throughly inspired by the creatives I luckily get to work and how hard they try in making sure their success does not last for one season.
But everyday, I am inspired by the group of women around me- and the men, who are open minded and make me feel as though ‘thank god were the next generation’.
I adore those conversations exploring all aspects of life and if it should be that way. Shoutout to the American talk show: The Real for uplifting me on happy days and not so happy days and all the days in between.
The future holds exciting themes but I’m also aware of how we are pushing the notions forward in discussing subjects which are not talked about or thought about yet, and how we continue to do this via talks, events and working with the best creatives. We’re building an Empire.