As written by Ekow Barnes, in this Black History Month, Manju Journal tells a story of black identity in today’s Africa; the fragments of this identity and history shared across the continent, yet far from homogenous.
The global art and culture platform has collaborated with Burberry to brandish rich truths of the individual and the collective in Africa, an enduring antiphon to the parody of motifs that western society ascribes to blackness.
Heeding inspiration from prolific photographers, Kwame Brathwaite & Philip Kwame Apagya, who have both respectively contributed to the empowerment of black beauty, movement and style, the photo series by their creative contemporaries Kwabena Sekyi Appiah-Nti, Ghanaian-Belgian photographer, Kusi Kubi, Ghanaian creative director and stylist and Richmond Orlando Mensah, Ghanaian art director and founder of Manju Journal, is a sincere celebration and homage to black culture.
Kwabena’s visceral approach is one of veracity, and void of othering, personal integrity and power are visualised in each image, a leap from the impassive rigidity of archaic depictions of blackness.
Together and One initiates a new narrative of cultural and national pride, one that further considers the collaged and harsh realities of everyday life. Each image stands alone and within the collection, foregrounding and questioning the differing dynamics of class, wealth, mental health, education, motherhood and unity.
Grandiose regality is juxtaposed with the harshness of the teeming boneshaker, this transportation detracting from the luxe facade of fashion and instead exposing the hardships of accessing socio-economic stability for individuals. The prideful gaze of a carer rests alongside the child’s wistful look to the future as visions of beauty breathe quotidian melancholy.
Photographed by: Kwabena Sekyi Appiah-Nti
Interrogating the absence of critical conversation, action and resources, the educator teaches students the importance of mental health, a notion that is readily overlooked, both within Africa and throughout the diaspora. The students then move to demonstrate unity and strength in their bowed stance, and exhibit the power and gravity of community.
Together and One portrays the entangled ideals of Africa, and Ghana, a country that while perhaps advancing more gradually than its neighbours, shows that at times the best progress can be slow progress. The congratulatory call is sung, ‘Aben wa ha!’ and for Kusi means, ‘life is good, life is ready, life is cooked, life is served,’ a frank reminder that the quest for prosperity is a process, it is proven not promised.
Manju Journal is a global art and culture platform dedicated to young creative talents through contemporary African fashion, music, photography, and society.
Manju Journal was founded in 2015 by Richmond Orlando Mensah.