I was with Trevor and a few others , literally in a situation at Kigali Airport, Rwanda when the Instagram story happened. (you know, where @instagram featured his IG as a traveling photographer and stylist, advocating for African fashion and Culture)
So that was a moment. upon a moment. so to speak.
Since then, a few other things have happened, including a insta-take-down aka removal of post which doesn’t follow community guidelines (that being a video of a Himba woman in a traditional look, mostly her hairstyle including a bit of bare breasts )
Now that the dust has kinda settled, we get to chat about what some of this means …
Here’s our convo.
>>>>Plus some cool images in the gallery from the latest Superga SS17 campaign where he curated, styled and starred.
How did the ‘take down’ bring a new perspective (for you) ?
For me it was about ..the use of one set of standards for a very diverse world , and also added to that Instagram should be able to review images and videos that may be deemed offensive or inappropriate with a more localized perspective, especially because Insta is supported on the daily .
The biggest thing is just when cultural appropriation happens, it’s always a debate no one wants to enter. When you appreciate culture then its censored…
…on Broadening and Expanding ..
One moment you celebrated as a photographer and style maven, capturing African fashion and culture on the (IG) platform showing a certain type of Africa and then when you show another aspect or face of African culture ..that is not deemed to be appropriate. So there’s this gatekeeper … and yet African Culture is so broad .
So if you going to appreciate someone who is talking about African Culture on your platform then you should appreciate that in its entirety.
That’s exactly it.. .. like what I got from that is ‘we like you…but not like that’ …like we love the Africa you show…but not that one…
And it comes down to the fact that it’s a woman’s bare breast with nipple …
Our conversation turns to the different lens through which breasts are seen ..in one case super sexualized /forbidden and in another a symbol of natural woman / free to be.
What I found poetic is how the Himba woman wear the cosmetic mixture of butterfat and ochre pigment all over as a body covering and you can’t even see where the nipple starts and ends … and with that its not like done in an exhibitionist way.
…On the beauty of discovering that as a photographer you can share and archive culture that may or may not be around in the future…
For me it’s about .. like for the longest time my work has lived online and I made a point of making a conscious decision to start shooting stuff that can outlive the internet and the whole hype and trend of likes and followers . That’s why I shoot culture as I see it now and keeping it for history books, museums and galleries and places where culture will be preserved.
Because what happens online today is part of pop culture ..like having synthetic dreads one day and the next something else.. it comes and goes unlike a Himba woman’s locs …which represent an expression of authenticity , something of cultural heritage that remains steadfast throughout many seasons, and really I was trying to complement that idea … especially when such stuff can coexist with modern life..
Authenticity is so powerful right now. The more we learn about others the more we have to stay grounded in who we are…but at the same time have flexibility to expand ourselves, our thoughts and beliefs.
..on appreciation and greater awareness
The most interesting thing for me … was the conversation in the comment bar(for the video taken down) where everyone, no matter who or what, was on the same thread, just showing basic appreciation.
Also the other thing besides culture, that it brought light to is patriarchy and misogyny.
In a modern world there are still oppressive rules about (female) nipples… like if I had a great six pack and great body and posted a selfie.. it would be about the likes …compared to if you posted something similar it wouldn’t last 5 seconds. And on top of that how you as a woman would be viewed for something like that .
So that whole free the nipple cause is a real thing.
The world is changing and whilst it may not be a fight that can be won over right now, today.. it’s about the ‘conscientizing’ that is taking place as we move towards more and more people opening themselves…
What is the one thing that people do not know about you?
I always have so much anxiety whether a big or small job, I’m always super nervous.. And people think I’m so calm. And silly things happen. It’s like I lose my mind.
Like today, I was running late. And then next thing I’m out of the car, I have everything and I want to lock. I’m in a rush. I start looking all over for the keys, and there’s nothing…can’t find the keys…
Because it takes us back to Rwanda where something else (kinda funny/not funny) happened.
And final final words.
“Withstand oppression by staying true to who you are.”
P.S Thankfully afterwards the keys were found.
Take a look in the gallery at some images from the Trevor Stuurman x Superga SS17 campaign
Photo Credit: Andile Buka
Art direction/Styling: Trevor Stuurman