black identity by Hanna Carney October 21, 2021
Nadine Ijewere is a London-born photographer who explores Jamaican aesthetics and Black identity through her work. She studied at the London College of Fashion, where she recognized how Western culture tended to dominate and oppress non-Western cultures and fashions.
Her studies along with her own experiences with her Nigerian-Jamaican parentage propelled her to highlight Black and mixed-race models and concepts in her work.
Kulture Hub wants to celebrate her recent projects: Tallawah, Nadine Ijewere: Beautiful Disruption, and her photo book Our Own Selves. Through fashion and photography, Ijewere is celebrating Black and Jamaican identities and showing us how art can challenge societal norms.
In 2020, Nadine Ijewere collaborated with the experimental hairstylist Jawara Wauchope to create Tallawah. This project examines the beauty in Jamaican communities and their “creative roots,” as written in the British Journal of Photography.
Ijewere and Wauchope first realized that they share Jamaican heritage when they met shooting a cover for British Vogue. Together, they conceptualized and created “an ode to the Jamaican diaspora’s distinct aesthetic,” Kemi Alemoru writes in Vogue. The series was shot in Jamaica and London, producing a collection of images with both glamourous detail and resonant solemnity. Ijewere tells Vogue,
“Tallawah means ‘be strong and fearless. These are strong women, some with their own stories of struggle, but the way that they hold themselves, the way they express themselves is so inspiring.Nadine Ijewere
Tallawah celebrates the strength and beauty in Jamaican women, and Ijewere channels that inspiration into her photography for us to recognize.
Just 28 years old, Ijewere’s successes have already left a significant mark on the history of photography. In March 2021, she became the first Black woman to shoot a cover for American Vogue.
Three years prior, she became the first woman of color to shoot a British Vogue cover. In 2020, she won the Infinity Award from New York’s International Center of Photography. It is clear that Ijewere has a lot to celebrate, which brings us to her new exhibition, “Nadine Ijewere: Beautiful Disruption.”
The pieces in “Beautiful Disruption” act as an abstract timeline of Ijewere’s photography career from 2017 until 2020. It includes about 80 images and three films. You can find this exhibition is on display at C/O Berlin’s Amerika Haus.
“Nadine Ijewere: Beautiful Disruption” is an important piece of work for two main reasons. First, Nadine Ijewere’s name is in the title as it should be. This exhibition is consciously celebrating the accomplishments of a young, Black, Nigerian-Jamaican woman.
She deserves this recognition, no doubt. Especially considering how the accomplishments of Black women are often understated and underappreciated.
Second, comes the “Beautiful Disruption” aspect of the project. Her work is questioning our current beauty standards, creating room for Black people, who are often left out of white, Western beauty standards. Ijewere tells Vogue,
I photograph beautiful Black people. Beautiful Black families. Beautiful people of color from many different backgrounds. My work has been penetrating an industry which for so long has shut us out. This to me, is a beautiful disruption.Nadine Ijewere
In collaboration with Prestel was able to release her first photo book this year and we couldn’t be more proud. In an interview with Teeth Magazine, she spoke on celebrating the beauty of the black identity.
“In terms of the photographs, I wanted to include projects I have loved working on, projects that for me celebrated beauty and identity and displayed the underlying themes of my work best.”– Nadine Ijewere for Teeth Magazine
To get the Our Own Selves photo book (click here).
At a time when Black Lives Matter is at the forefront of our minds, and Jamaica is demanding the reparations they deserve from their colonizers, Ijewere’s work couldn’t be more relevant.
Her pieces are unwavering in their elegance and obduracy. She is reminding us of the beauty and strength in diverse Black identities. Ijewere tells the British Journal of Photography,
There are so many beautiful people — I want my work to be a celebration of this. We are diverse, and that should be reflected.Nadine Ijewere
To learn more about Nadine Ijewere, you can visit her website, follow her on Instagram, or view her profile on the CLM Agency website.