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KENZO ‘GIDI GIDI BỤ UGWU EZE’ Ruth Ossai Akinola Davies
Still from KENZO ‘GIDI GIDI BỤ UGWU EZE’Photography Ruth Ossai

Exclusive: Kenzo’s new project celebrates Nigerian youth

Akinola Davies and Ruth Ossai have collaborated with the fashion house for new visuals shot in Nsukka, one of the Igbo communities of Nigeria – here’s your first look at the project

Kenzo have been making fashion films with the best of the best for a long time now – from Her’s Spike Jonze to, most recently, Lemonade director Kahlil Joseph. For their latest project, debuting exclusively here on Dazed, the brand has teamed up with director Akinola Davies and “Igbo/Yorkshire warrior” photographer, Ruth Ossai. The film drops soon (and is amazing) but check these beautiful photographs now. 

Shot in Nsukka, one of the Igbo communities of Nigeria (where the Igbo half of Ossai’s Igbo/Yorkshire dual heritage hails from), these images showcase the various rites, rituals and ceremonies involved with being young in this society – from hair to beauty pageants. These definitely aren’t the perfectly coiffed Miss Universe affairs, though – rather what Davies was keen to reiterate as 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.” 

With all the models cast from the school, church and markets of Ossai’s own village in Nsukka, this was what the pair wanted to be “an inclusive pageant created by a community devoted to its own growth.” Pictured with pageant sashes and floral bouquets whilst getting their hair done or atop motorcycles (all while dressed in Kenzo’s SS17 collection), these visuals featuring IRL members of this tribe are a refreshing example of Nigerians telling their own stories. For Davies, “It’s about the nuances of beauty in relation to their own community.”

Part of a bigger project the brand is calling their KENZO folio series, these photos are only the beginning of a number of works that, in this case, will form a portrait of what it means to be young in Nigeria right now. For Davies, collaborating with Ossai was essential to this: “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.” An exercise in how important it is to “show a commitment to redefining and celebrating culture, showing the textures of a community in celebration of itself,” this particular collaboration between Ruth Ossai and Akinola Davies is an emphasis on how “your community is (also) your extended family,” our strength coming from “utilising one another and trusting each other’s process.” 

KENZO folio includes film and photography which will be on display in the house’s flagship store from 27th April to 10th May. See the gallery above for your first taste of this series.