A story of a spirit breaking out into its full self, by sisters Yagazie and Akwaeke Emezi

We’ve always found it easier to stay behind the rubber mask: with the click of plates falling over our face, the latex snug and climbing up our throat, raw silk rustling from thigh to ankle. It was important for people not to see us - we were a confusion protected by a chest plate. There was no air for us, no rain. We felt the sun’s heat only as it soaked through, causing a slick sweat underneath. The black held us together, keeping darkness close to our skin. We knew the light would hurt; it always has.

But these days, the hiding helps no one. Even those who are used to the armour don’t always survive it. We thought about this and decided to sprawl into a translucent new skin, to find freedom in a full self. It was painful; it scalded through us, and we collapsed. Births are always like this. In that moment, we realised - being deliberately alive is one of the hardest things to do. But since the decision had already been made, we lay there; drenched in tender green, aflame at being seen. The sun dragged into orange and moss gathered on our face and we were, at last, unleashed.

Photography and art direction: Yagazie Emezi
Story Akwaeke Emezi
Fashion Jeffrey Gonzales
Model Darnell Thomas
Grooming Genica Lee

Published on 06/06/2017