Present And Forgotten - An Amalgamation of Igbo Culture.

Predating the introduction of Christianity in Igboland, same-sex marriages could take place as a result of the death of a husband where no child was produced. The woman could choose a wife and go through normal traditional marriage rites. To have children, they could freely choose a man and the child(ren) would bear the name of the woman-husband. In other cases, a single wealthy woman could choose a wife and sometimes, more than one. In our story, the women still have just themselves, at ease in their home and confident in their identity.

In this body of work, I incorporated the art of Uli. A popular traditional art form, Uli drawing was predominately practiced by Igbo women who used it to decorate their bodies for events and also used it to create murals on the walls of their homes. In the form of dye collected from specific trees, Uli designs can at times, be abstract while other designs represent aspects of daily life from animals, nature and home accessories. With the entry of Western religion and forceful colonial powers, the practice was deemed as ‘primitive’. Women were encourage not to draw Uli designs on their bodies, but rather, on cloth. As result, this led to a sharp and steady decline of the art form.

I chose a setting that I knew well. I wanted a space that wasn’t too rural and wasn’t too modern. A space that felt familiar - which went well with the Igbo practices highlighted to show that these traditions aren’t just something that happened ‘a long time ago’. Uli is still practiced. Same-sex marriages in Igboland exist. I thought of my village compound in Old Umuahia, the cool concrete verandah and the muted colors. I imagined the women at home, and myself, an invited guest.

The stance of the couple is intended to be unfriendly. There is a lasting impact of colonial gaze from when the camera at a time, a new technological wonder, was accessible by a few able to create ‘fantastic landscapes’ and illustrations of ‘tribe’ - able and powerful enough to construct ideas and stereotypes of a place, of people. You have seen the old postcards. And they are indeed fantastic, taking us to a time before we could and with great impact, turn the cameras on ourselves more truthfully. But as I stared at those old images, I saw the often furrowed brows, the angry eyes. There are records of foreign ethnographers capturing ‘specimens’ to photograph, of individuals and families being summoned and posed. Could they say no? Did they want any part of it? We have not forgotten. In this story, I am once again, an invited guest. The stare of the couple is meant to challenge and acknowledge. They say, - You are here because WE ALLOW it.

It was important for me to produce more than a lookbook. As I take more steps into fashion photography, I am less interested in creating works that are brightly digestible for the fashion industry and more interested in creating works that are truthful and layered.  - the works created are an amalgamation of Igbo culture, present and forgotten.

A lookbook for Vlisco & Co


Gozel Green

Fruche Official


Gift Robert

Chisom Ilozumba

Uli Artist:

Sophia Oragudosi


A Whitespace Creative Agency

Some reading references:

The Igbos and Their Traditions, Bertram I.N. Osuagwu 

Male Daughters, Female Husbands. Gender and Sex in an African Society, Ifi Amadiume

Female Husbands in Igboland: Southeast Nigeria, Kenneth Nwoko

Historical Images of the Igbo, their Neighbours and Beyond, Ukpuru

Tradition of Same Gender Marriage in Igboland, Leo Igwe

Same Sex Marriage in Nigeria: A Philosophical Analysis, Dr. Jospeh Onuche

Colonialism, Consciousness and the Camera, Ranger Terence 

Photography in Colonial Discourse: the Making of 'the other' in Southern Africa, Brent Harris

Using Format