Afropresentism: Black Presence in the Diaspora is an exaltation of Afrodiasporic identities and cultures. The photo series confronts classic Western aristocratic spaces, occupying it with Black aesthetics and freedom of presence through art and fashion. It aligns elements from African histories, present, and futures within a post-colonial lense to critique the precarity of Blackness in the West. It is an unapologetic affirmation of the hybrid identities that have forged over time and space.
‘Afropresentism’ as an ideology is an emerging concept borrowed from Neema Githere, a student in African Studies at Yale University who is spearheading research on Afrodiasporic culture in the digital age. She coins the term as “a digital genre fusing archival, fine art, documentary practices on and through new media, in the expression of an Afrofuturist lived reality.”
Drawing on this framework, the staged celebration is located in London’s Soho district, originally a fashionable district for the elite, and now a major entertainment melting pot in the capital. The styling showcases cross-culturalism, using costume and props that nod to Afrodiasporic festivities.
Taking inspiration from several traditions, movements, artworks, ideologies and aesthetics, the visuals share a commonality of unapologetic multiculturalism and celebration. These include quintessentially European motifs juxtaposed against elements of afrofuturism, Black dandyism, carnival culture, the works of artist Yinka Shonibare, Ghanaian Highlife, Black renaissance, and the Brazilian Baianas de Acaraje. It also pays homage to icons of African photography such as Malick Sidibe and Seydou Keita, whose pioneering works captured Black joy and consciousness.
The African Diaspora has been alienated by a lack of representation and blatant misrepresentation in Western visual culture. In an age where protectionist politics have attempted to erase the layered identities of ethnic minorities, this series mocks the failure to acknowledge not only the presence of the Diaspora but their contributions which have outshone expectation. In this spirit, it plays with Western conceptions of ‘sophistication’ while showcasing a renaissance built on Black joy. It serves as a triggering statement that the Diaspora will be present on equal footing and will celebrate themselves regardless.
The project also uses an accommodative conception of pan-Africanism which does not homogenize or erase individualities. By featuring models and attires from Africa and its diaspora, it celebrates a wide range of lived-experiences while reversing attempts at separating ties across continents in the Caribbean, United States, Europe, Africa, and beyond.
Ultimately, the series advocates Black carefreeness worldwide, to continue the momentum of reclaiming space and depicting our power image within the present.
Creative Direction: Tobi Onabolu
Co-Direction & Photography: Ethel-Ruth Tawe
Fashion Co-Ordination: Morenikeji Ayo-Joseph
Models: Sihine Negede, Sarah Owusu, Kaleke Kolawole, Sarah Nugdulla, Cecilia Aina, Jackie Esono, Neema Githere, Wale Kuponipe, Samuel Nzol, Tano Moussetm Maximus Poumie, Elisha Tawe, Melvin Osadolor, Modou Adams, Nathan Knight