The Return: An Ode to Nigerian Women
For Nigerian-British photographer Chidinma S. Chuku preserving the ties between herself and home and empowering women have been paramount themes throughout her work. During her return to her motherland, she was convinced in the idea that her next series must marry these worlds together. Complimenting and portraying the inward beauty and charismatic identity of the modern Nigerian woman in strong pigments of amber, magenta, teal and marigold. The vivid colours beside our deep skin conveyed the power and femininity we retain.
Model Ifeoma B. Nwobu (@ifbnw) and Jumoke Azeez (@jumoke_azeez), both sitting pretty in Orange Culture at the Lex Ash Studio in Surulere, Lagos.
In this story: Hair & Styling, Ifeoma Amadi (@siainstyle); makeup, Iamdodos (@dartistebydodos). Photographed by Chidinma Sylvia Chuku (@chidinma.chuku), Lagos Nigeria
In recent years, Nigeria has captivated the entire world with its richness in music and fashion. Nigerians come from rich cultures where pride is the essence, and now more than ever Nigerian women are exceeding beyond the limits unwantedly placed on us in a whitewashed world. Possessing courage and creativity, we have continuously proven to be innovative. Resilience is an attribute that runs through our veins and amazes the life around us. The life that has always treated black women as if we were less than. There is so much trauma and pain we consume and for that reason it is incredibly important for us to have stories that celebrate us.
This photo series is an exploration and a celebration of the modern Nigerian woman. In the words of Fela Kuti, “my music is an attraction to inform people”, Chidinma sees the same for her images. Her photography is an attraction to inform the world that Nigerian women are here, are divine, are pioneering and are occupying space. You can see that already happening with stories like Feminist Coalition. Formed in July 2020, by founding members Damilola Odufuwa and Odunayo Eweniyi, a group of Nigerian feminists have actively championed equality for Nigerian women in society. Taking on a brave and vital role during the height of the End SARS movement in October, the women-led group set up support systems for Nigerian protesters. For Nigerian women in the diaspora these actions are exactly the motivation and inspiration we need to work on our progression around the world. They are also the actions that need to be acknowledged and honoured by everyone everywhere.
Along with recognising this, Chidinma also appreciates the power of images and the effect it has on us as human beings, representation matters, Nigerian women are worthy of love and respect. One of the exciting parts of this photo story for her is the opportunity to create a visual story that contributes to the narrative that celebrates and empowers Nigerian women all over the world. In 10 years’, time from now, she wants the life experiences of the future generations of Nigerian women in the world to be a more pleasant and celebrated one.
Repeatedly, Nigerian women have been at the forefront of movements for change. One major historical moment was in 1929, when the Woman’s War took place in Nigeria. Igbo women in the south-eastern region of the country successfully lead and started non-violent protests to receive a written assurance that the British administration would not tax women. The three leaders behind this movement were called Ikonnia, Nwannedia and Nwugo - with 10,000 people beside them and Nwanyeruwa (a woman who played a major role in keeping the protests peaceful), the Women’s War inspired many more significant protests, such as the Tax Protests in 1938, Oil Mill Protests in the 1940s, and the Tax revolt in 1956. Continuously, Nigerian women have demonstrated the power that they hold to guard their people’s rights.
Words by Ijeoma Chuku