Spotlight: Exhibition

Nadine Ijewere explores hair, identity, and her own Jamaican heritage

© Nadine Ijewere.

Shot in Jamaica and London, Ijewere’s collaboration with hair stylist Jawara is the product of a journey of personal discovery

Photographer Nadine Ijewere and hair stylist Jawara Wauchope first met on a cover shoot for British Vogue. “He asked me if I was Jamaican,” Ijewere recalls, “I asked him why, and he said it was my mannerisms, the way I acted, and certain things I was doing”. The pair began to discuss their shared Jamaican heritage —  Ijewere was born and raised in London by Jamaican-Nigerian parents, but had never visited Jamaica, and she was keen to explore this side of her heritage.

Shot in Jamaica and London, Tallawah, a collaboration between Ijewere and Jawara, is a dynamic series of portraits that celebrates the creative roots of both local and global Jamaican communities across generations. In Jamaican Patois, ‘Tallawah’ means strong-willed and fearless: “It felt right for the project because Jamaicans in general are very strong as people. They’re all about expressing who they are and they’re not afraid to do that,” says Ijewere, one of British Journal of Photography’s Ones to Watch in 2017. Presented by Dazed Beauty, an exhibition of the work opens tomorrow at Cob Gallery in London.

From the series Tallawah by Nadine Ijewere and Jawara. © Nadine Ijewere.

“There are so many beautiful people — I want my work to be a celebration of this. We are diverse, and that should be reflected”

From the series Tallawah by Nadine Ijewere and Jawara. © Nadine Ijewere.

For hair stylist Jawara, who was born in New York and raised in Jamaica until the age of 10, Tallawah is an ode to 1990s dancehall culture in Kingston, and to the many women who surrounded him growing up, creatively styling their hair for school, church and dance parties. For Ijewere, the project was an opportunity to connect with her heritage, and reshape her own cultural knowledge of the Carribean, which mostly came from stories told by her mother. It was also about finding out where her certain mannerisms and traits had come from, and when she went to Jamaica, Ijewere identified what Jawara had recognised in her when they first met. “I felt so at home,” she says. 

From the series Tallawah by Nadine Ijewere and Jawara. © Nadine Ijewere.

“Growing up I had two sets of friends. Black friends and white friends,” continues Ijewere. “I never really felt that I had a place, and I didn’t really see anyone who looked like me in fashion imagery. As I got older, it became important for me to explore these sides of who I am.” Now a successful fashion photographer working on commissions for global publications and brands like Vogue, i-D, Dior and Hermes, at the core of all of Ijewere’s photography is the celebration of different types of beauty. “There are so many beautiful people — I want my work to be a celebration of this. We are diverse, and that should be reflected.”

Presented by Dazed Beauty, Tallawah by Nadine Ijewere and Jawara is on display at Cob Gallery in Camden, London, from 23 January until 02 February 2020. 

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