Daniel Obasi is a believer in the power of Instagram. The multi-talented creative -- who has shot portraits for the New York Times and Billboard, and styled fashion editorials for Vogue Portugal and Dazed -- has long used the platform as a way to connect with like-minded talents from the worlds of art and fashion.
Last year, it connected him with his most famous collaborator yet. "I got a DM from (Kwasi Fordjour), the creative director for Beyoncé, saying he would be interested in having me on this project that's coming up," Obasi recounted over the phone from Lagos. "Then he said, 'Oh, it's for Bey,' and I was like, 'I'm sorry, what?'"
The undisclosed Beyoncé project would turn out to be the "Black Is King" visual album, her critically reclaimed companion to last year's "The Lion King" remake. Pitched by the singer as a celebration of "the breadth and beauty of Black ancestry," the star-studded production features an eclectic mix of African performers and creatives, and those from the diaspora, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.
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At first, Obasi had assumed Fordjour wanted him to assist with the research process. Instead, he was enlisted to work with a team of Nigerian creatives to help style talent for the scenes set in Lagos. "We got on the phone literally the next day... Next thing I knew we were shooting and I was styling, and then the video came out," he said. "Only when the credits came on was I like 'OK, this really did happen.'"
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Looking at the 25-year-old's previous personal projects, "Black Is King" -- an Afrofuturist vision of a world where Blackness is celebrated and African creators and their traditions are foregrounded -- was a fitting commission. For the last three years, Obasi has used fashion, as well as photography and film, to similar ends.
In shorts like "An Alien In Town" and "Udara," as well as photo series like "Lagos Futurism," he combines the traditional, the contemporary and the imaginary to create a Nigeria freed from the political and social limitations of reality. Dark skin, afro hair and beautiful garments (often by local designers) abound, and the diversity of gender and sexuality is embraced.
A fixture of Lagos' booming cultural scene, Obasi relished the opportunity to work with other Nigerian talents brought in to bring Beyoncé's vision to life, including Afrobeats superstars Mr Eazi and Tiwa Savage (both of whom he shot for Billboard's June 2020 issue), and designers Emmy Kasbit, Lanre Da Silva and Tola Adegbite of Turfah, who he'd collaborated with in the past.
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"This project was just a bringing together of people who I love, people who I respect, people who are my friends, people whose work I've grown up with as an artist. It was just great to be like, "You too? Oh, wow! Oh my god. Yes!'" he said.
Speaking to CNN, Obasi shared his thoughts on community, fashion and the limitless possibilities of the imagination.
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