“I want to show the different methods to be a black or African person”

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A new commission payment by WaterAid and 1854 will see Ngadi Smart explore Freetown’s complex water provide problems and what it’s teenagers are doing about it.  

Engaged with photography, design and illustration in equal calculate for the past several years, Ngadi Smart describes her work as an exploration into black sexuality and the “different ways it means to be a black or African person. ” All of Smart’s work speaks a simple truth: Dark people need to be seen in all of their multiplicity.    

Even though of Sierra Leonean traditions, Smart was born in London. She currently divides her time between London and Cote d’Ivoire but has also counted Toronto and Tunisia amongst others as her home. It’s safe to say that she gets lived in more continents compared to most people of her age. This nomadic background, which has given her an “openness” to different cultures and people, greatly influences her work on Africa diasporic identity today.

© Ngadi Sensible.

It was while being back again “on The Continent” – as she refers to The african continent – that Smart “really started to create work a lot more related to [her]”. Turning the camera figuratively inward on herself, she began to use the lens as a space for reclamation. “Sexuality, especially women’s sexuality, and LGBTQ issues aren’t discussed enough in West The african continent. These are topics that need to be talked about, ” she says. The photographer has since had her work featured in a number of prestigious publications, which includes Vogue Italia, Atmos Mag, and I. D Magazine.

Since someone who is already immersed in the neighborhood, Smart makes work from within. “I would rather someone who will be African and on the country talk about it than somebody who isn’t, ” is usually how she sees this. This positionality allows her to capture both the struggles and the resilience of her subjects while also improving awareness and, more importantly, pride around queer and LGBTQ+ communities.

© Ngadi Smart.

Smart’s images are both emblems of rebellion and acknowledgement of change. Beautiful men and women free from both the male, heteronormative and colonial gaze, are draped in weighty jewelry, pose in lavish outfits and confront the digital camera with painted faces. “I’m very interested in demystifying the Other because we have been subjected to that for centuries, ” Smart feedback. Her work goes some way to demystifying this simply by contributing a new pictorial history, one that is underpinned by both intimacy and defiance.  

The newly-launched WaterAid Climate Commission rate in collaboration with 1854 will give Sensible the time and space to visit her native country associated with Sierra Leone and record the daily struggle over the lack of cleanwater in the funds of Freetown and other provinces. Smart will look at just how increasingly erratic and intense rainfall combined with inadequate town planning and sanitation is definitely polluting water supplies, and exactly what young people are doing to try to discover solutions. The WaterAid Environment Commission was open solely to 1854 Access People, plus any photographers from low to middle-income nations, including those where WaterAid works. Sierra Leone is one of the places. Smart had already developed plans to travel to her native country and connect with her identification n efore the planet was placed under lockdown. Today, with the commission secured, she’ll be able to spend two months about what she excitedly calls the girl “biggest project yet. ” 

© Ngadi Smart.

When questioned what she wishes to attain with the commission, the professional photographer doesn’t hold back: “I want to show the country in a various light. When people think of Sierra Leone, they think of battle but there’s so much more to it. It’s time to change the way we’re portrayed. ” For Smart, the new WaterAid commission will allow her to do just that.   Does the girl feel any pressure in order to portray her subjects in a more honest way? Not so much. “It’s all come full group: I start every project by thinking how I can show this in a different light. Perhaps this changes people’s perceptions or stirs something in someone’s life. Hopefully it reaches someone. ” 

Alice Finney

Alice Finney is an arts plus culture Editor and Author, based in Berlin. A graduate student of the Central School of Ballet and Sussex University or college, she specialises in writing about dance, design and popular culture. She has written designed for titles including SLEEK Publication, INDIE Magazine, Mixmag, gal-dem, HuffPost UK, and Dezeen.

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