Photographer and art director Daniel Obasi takes a leap of faith with the “Illegal” project, revealing a contemporary disposition of the modern-day youth of Lagos, societal forbiddance, and gender fluidity.
“We are sin, sorrows, grace, and rage.” There is an extant world many of us mistrust and reject. What if we’re deprived of a dynamic reality in doing so? What if you could “feel genderless and just be yourself”? Photographer Daniel Obasi reveals the unfamiliar realm of restricted territory and identity in Lagos, Nigeria, a city thriving with vitality and cultural expression. Daniel’s project shows us a revolutionary uprising of the next generation of Nigeria’s youth, headlining the shift in self- identification.
Daniel’s film portrays a confused and quiet youth, facing possible rejection and entrapment within their own habituated community. Conformity seems inescapable. Daniel films the forbiddance felt in Nigeria’s cultural restrictions, appointed conducts within family, politics, and religious customs, through the eyes of the youth. Art and fashion are developing drastically in Nigeria, yet everyone is assigned a guise to fit into societal norms, rejecting transformation. The brilliance of Daniel’s photo journal is not the depiction of the reverse imitation of both characters, but the shadowing of one’s multiple layers of each other, showing no partiality. It’s an interesting embodiment in intimacy.
“We hide in the shadows in fear of the reflection of who we are,” said an anonymous 24-year-old, afraid of the response.
Daniel tells us fashion is undefined in Nigeria, with Western influences that shaped Nigeria’s cultural history. The only traces of Nigerian tradition are elements like the red beads, textile motifs, and hairstyles used in the film. The film challenges us to change sincerely, accepting ourselves and expressing ourselves, capturing life through photographs, as Nina Simone said, “How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?” The future is now.
“I believe it’s gradually changing and these stereotypes will soon be a thing of the past. It’s beautiful to see how passionate young Africans are about changing the world and the steps we’re already taking to do it,” Daniel concludes.
Words: Aparna Nethaji
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