kenzo | gidi gidi bu ugwu eze

April 11, 2017

words by: Vane Karolle

Parisian label KENZO has cherry picked two Nigerian artists - “Igbo/Yorkshire warrior” photographer Ruth Ossai and director Akinola Davies Jr. - for a new campaign called Gidi gidi bu ugwu eze - translated as Unity Is Strength.

In a peculiar body of work, even for Kenzo, artists Ossai and Davies Jr celebrate Nigerian youth in showcasing the brand's Summer 2017 collection. Shot in Nsukka, Enugu state, one of the most prominent Igbo communities in Nigeria and one of Ossai's dual heritages, the images showcase the rites, rituals and ceremonies of the Nsukka youth. There's a spotlight on hair and pageantry. Director Davies calls the project a celebration of “young black Nigerian bodies (by) capturing them celebrating Igbo culture and traditions, showing that beauty is always present when there is a commitment to the celebration of culture.” 

'Gidi gidi bu ugwu eze' sees a cast from the school, church and markets of Ossai’s own village in Nsukka. It's important to the duo that Nigerian be people be able to tell their own stories. “It becomes very problematic when Nigerians — and other Africans — cannot tell their own stories: it becomes too often incomplete, inaccurate and stereotyped. This narrative has needed changing for too long now. My work is also honestly partly a reflection of myself; I love and never stop thinking about West Africa, whether I’m home or away,” Ossai explained in an interview with It’s Nice That. 

The visuals feature IRL members of the Nsukka seen atop Okadas {motorcycles}, women in pageant sashes and floral bouquets, coiffed in varying kiko styles {threaded hairdos}. For Davies, “It’s about the nuances of beauty in relation to their own community.”

The visuals are the beginning of a number of works; part of a larger project the brand is calling KENZO Folio; a quarterly publication. “Ruth’s work...makes me proud to be African and it’s important to see black women lead the way on documenting our cultures and communities.” Davies says of his collaboration with Ossai. It's display of why it is important to “show a commitment to redefining and celebrating culture, to showing the textures of a community in celebration of itself." 

Kenzo will be  hosting a pop-up exhibition – one in Paris at 27 Boulevard de la Madeleine and one in London on Bruton Street in Mayfair – celebrating the arrival of Folio #1 with an exhibit of Ossai’s pictures. The KENZO folio includes a film by Akinola Davis, to be revealed on April 27, with the exhibit lasting until May 10th. 

Images c/o Kenzo


irector: Akinola Davies Jr
Photographer: Ruth Ginika Ossai
Stylist: Ibrahim Kamara
Make up: Afrolion
Hair: Angela Ogdu & Oluchi Jacinta
DOP: Victor Ojevkwe
Producers: Julie Vergez & Wale Davies

Main cast: Chikwelu Ezegwu, Chiwetalu Ezegwu, EzuLovette Chimaza, Chioma Nnadi, EzeEbube Peace, Uroko Akunne, Eze Blessing Chinenye, Eberechukwu Ngozi

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