The designer commissioned the Senegalese-Italian model to document her SS22 collection, Volta Jazz, on the streets of Ghana's capital
With her SS22 collection Volta Jazz, designer Grace Wales Bonner paid tribute to the nightlife of Burkina Faso and 70s West African studio portraiture. Debuted off schedule a little after London Fashion Week, the collection was led by relaxed tailoring and slim-cut printed tracksuits that struck a balance between contemporary and something a little more nostalgic. It’s apt, then, that when she and Malick Bodian found themselves working on separate projects in Accra, Ghana, in December 2021, she invited the Senegalese-Italian model and photographer to capture it.
“I was really excited to be able to work together and extend an idea of representation through this collaboration,” says Wales Bonner, who met Bodian through IB Kamara, with the latter invited to style the campaign. “I’ve admired Malick’s photography for a long time, and known IB since our days at Central Saint Martins, so it felt like a long time coming.” A profound talent both behind and in front of the camera, Bodian – who fronts the Dazed Spring 2022 cover – has starred in campaigns for the likes of Louis Vuitton, Bottega Veneta, and Dior, while shooting for Vogue, Odda, and GQ.
The result of Wales Bonner and Bodian’s first collaboration is an array of warm-toned, cinematic photographs capturing the collection and its setting at their finest: on local models in shaded repose, as well as amid Accra’s infamous traffic, with the clothes’ geometric prints, mixed textiles, and easygoing silhouettes on full, majestic display. The offering itself was named after the band Volta Jazz, which was famously photographed by legendary Burkinabé artist Ibrahima Sanlé Sory in the 70s. Having begun his photographic career in Upper Volta (now known as Burkina Faso) in the 60s – when the country gained independence after over 60 years of French colonisation – Sanlé Sory’s work captures and epitomises the cultural golden age that ensued.
Volta Jazz’s music was an “essential starting point” for Wales Bonner’s design process, while portraiture as a medium informed the clothing’s suave silhouettes. Through Bodian’s lens, those inspirations came full circle. “The intention was to make it real, and it was. While we were shooting, we realised that the clothes were in the right place with the right people,” Bodian says. Though the two started brainstorming by exchanging references from films and local photography icons, it became clear upon heading outside that “everything we needed was there,” he says. “The streets of Accra and local talents fitted Grace’s clothes perfectly.”
Wales Bonner has never heeded to the incessant churn of digital content, so it comes as no surprise that Bodian’s photos were captured with print in mind. For her, print “forces a different level of engagement” in its permanence and tangibility, and “allows for a more holistic experience of the material.” In a similar vein to her previous print projects, including curating the 22nd issue of A Magazine Curated By, print serves as a natural extension of her focus on archive and library building. “My approach is quite methodical,” says Wales Bonner, hinting that Bodian’s campaign could be the start of a continued collaboration. “I feel the work we are all doing is creating history and it’s important to maintain a record of that.”