I write essays that are concerned with identity, culture, personal development, and basically how the three interact and what they reveal about each other, essentially. They intersect unknowingly. Usually when I get an idea, or when I’m obsessed with a certain concept, I try to flesh it out in as many mediums as possible, and I find that certain subjects that I write about are eventually translated in images or vice versa. It’s a major part of my process that my work is very much intertextual where one medium relies on the other. It’s very rare that I can translate an idea that I’m thinking about in just images. It has to come with words, too. I was a writer first before I got into photography.
I wrote an essay when I was in Nigeria and it was titled “Man Is Not A Mirror,”, and it was focused on my experiences being a woman in Nigerian culture and observing how patriarchy is very much pronounced in the culture where I can be with my dad, or any male, and if I step into a room, he’ll be greeted before I am. Or, I will not be greeted at all. The greeting being extended to him is just automatically assumed that it covers me as well. I wrote that in essay format, but I had a chance to explore it in images, recently, and I feel like there are so many ways in which sexism and patriarchy presents itself. I published the essay last year, but I shot the images this year, and I feel like the images will help me push forward the narrative that I’m trying to explore in terms of challenging those structures that are in place and the faults that I find with them.
Those structures are typically challenged in Western cultures. And typically when the topic of feminism, and challenging the patriarchy really started coming to the forefront with the works of author Chimamanda, there wasn’t really any profound or even pronounced conversations coming out of Nigeria that centered on challenging these structures. It’s my own effort of adding to the narratives of women, and persons who have come prior to me, that have tried to challenge these. Being a Nigerian storyteller, and creative in general, telling that story is very necessary because I want to see more conversations that challenge structures. It doesn’t have to come from a woman.
Photography, creativity in general, is a mirror that reflects back the image of the world. To be able to constantly place that in a manner where people have access to being reminded. Sometimes when you’re in the moment you don’t think about the structures that are affecting you. You don’t stop to critically reflect, or even move to the point of challenging it, and creating a diverse image and visual culture reflects what the world actually looks like. It’s not all white folk, and it’s not just their stories, not their history. There’s other peoples that are in the world and it’s important to look into that visual culture and have them be affirmed in their existence, and be affirmed in their contributions and be affirmed in the necessity of their presence.