Kadara Enyeasi joins Nataal for New African Photography II at Red Hook Labs, Brooklyn
As Nataal’s New African Photography II exhibition at Brooklyn’s Red Hook Labs approaches, we introduce each artist on the line-up. Kadara Enyeasi is a young Nigerian artist who studied architecture before turning his talents to creating images that span fashion, art, and portraiture. His photography plays with form, space and perspective and often looks at the body in relation to the urban environment. Enyeasi has exhibited at the Africa Centre in London, Bozar Festival in Brussels, La Triennale expo in Milan, Odessa/Batumi Photo days in Ukraine and A White Space in Lagos. He is also a 2017 participant in the Arthouse Foundation residency programme.
Describe your upbringing.
I have always lived in Lagos. I had a protected life and was a loner most times at school. I was in my own world reading books. In secondary school I noticed my interest in art and music but architecture was recommended to me. I recognised the subject had a philosophical side and wasn’t just about mathematics and engineering. I enjoyed studying it at the University of Lagos very much and graduated in 2015.
How did you discover photography?
My father gave me a camera when I was in junior secondary school and I started off by shooting my sister who wanted to be a model and needed images for a portfolio. After that I shot friends, classmates and social gatherings. Then I read about a photographer who took self-portraits as a means of studying other people so I tried it. I took intimate portraits of myself for a long time. For four years my room was my studio.
What did you learn through self-portraiture?
At first I was interested in using it to see myself, and how I interacted with the world. I’d adopt various poses that I might subconsciously exhibit in public, whether to appear flamboyant or a recluse. It was about trying to understand myself and why I am how I am. Most of the work from this period, 2010-2014, I called Human Encounters, and then I broke that down into smaller studies.
How has your work progressed recently?
I have been doing more social documentary work looking at architecture from a cultural perspective in Lagos. I’m looking at the way people interact on the street and how they gesture to one another. I’ve also travelled to Kaduna and contrasted that with Lagos. It’s different. Lagos is creative hub where people put on a show in the way they talk, dress and live, whereas in other parts of the country, people are just themselves. In addition to that I’ve been working on collage. I enjoy juxtaposing images, colours and text. And I continue to take fashion commissions with brands in Nigeria and Ghana. Fashion comes easily to me because I like form, silhouette, line and perspective.
How do you get in the mood to work?
I often I listen to different genres of music and whatever mood I get from the artist will come out in the image. It might be a soulful rock sound from Brian Eno or Asa. I also use Instagram to check out people’s work and discover new talented, self-taught photographers.
What have been some of your proudest moments to date?
Exhibiting my self-portraits with Nataal at Red Hook Labs has to be one of them. I’m not always so happy about the kind of feedback I receive when I put on a show in Lagos but when my work travels outside the shores of Nigeria people seem to appreciate the ideas I’m working with better.
What are you working on now and next?
I’m at the African Artists’ Foundation learning the ropes as a curator. I’m showing my collages at Foam 3H in Amsterdam in May, a collaborative exhibition between AAF and Foam, alongside Bob Muchiri Njenga and Osborne Macharia. I’m also working on a book and taking up painting seriously.
Nataal: New African Photography II runs from 4-14 May at Red Hook Labs, 133 Imlay St, Brooklyn, New York, open 10am-6pm daily