At carnival, each band moves like a flock of birds. Outfitted in clothes from Nigerian designers or made from upcycled materials, these dancers and musicians transmit the rhythm of Calabar, home of Nigeria’s biggest carnival.
For multi-disciplinary artist Daniel Obasi, the energy at carnival feels transcendent. At Nigeria’s biggest carnival in Calabar, performers sashay through the streets, adorned in flamboyant costumes, vibrant body paint, and ethereal wings, everyone moving in effortless rhythm. Each band is an assembly of bright colors, personalities, creativity, and craftsmanship, reminding the Nigerian artist of a flock of birds.
With this project, Obasi set about to capture a dream. “The Way of the Birds,” Obasi said, is a whimsical story inspired by the beauty of carnival culture and the freedom and power that carnival performers exude. He took carnival from the streets to more intimate settings—the bar, the bedroom—to showcase how deeply embedded the celebration is in the community. Aside from Tobi Momoh, all the models in the shoot were from Calabar. Most of them are dancers in actual carnival bands. The costumes took their inspiration from Calabar, the landscape, and from birds themselves, mimicking their flow and their gradient colors.
Shot for Atmos Magazine Volume 8: Rhythm, these photos encapsulate the kind of art Obasi aims to deliver: an exploration of Afrocentric concepts in a way that expands how the rest of the world talks about the African continent.
This article first appeared in Atmos Volume 08: Rhythm with the headline “The Way of the Birds.”
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Nature is an elaborate orchestra of interconnectedness, in which timing is everything.