daniel obasi



Art director, stylist and recently photographer Daniel Obasi grew up in the eastern part of Nigeria and spent most of his life in Lagos, Nigeria. Shuffling between a fulltime job and his studies, the 23-year-old talent is currently in his final year at the University of Lagos Nigeria.

How did you start your adventure being an artist?
I would say I’m rather a student than an artist, because it all started as a learning experience and it still is. In fact, I had no idea what to do with my life but I did know I had a certain way of looking at things and thinking about them. I remember being an obsessive bookworm when I grew up. Together with some friends I saved money, and during the holidays I ran to the post office to buy a bunch of books. My favourite books were magical, adventurous books, because they bring to me another world and open my imagination.

After a couple of years I got my first holiday job before university as a graphic artist. Here I learned how to use colours without making a mess of their designs. After that, I fell in love with fashion when I was in my first year of University, during an internship at stylist Funmi Fagbemi. She taught me a lot about context and I was intrigued by her androgynous look. I went back to the bookworm in me, explored visual concepts, research and form my vision on society and learn more how to tell my stories better in a beautiful and ethereal way. I became a stylist and art director, whose work has always been quirky, often bent out of shape and offering a new perception on what I think the society could be. I saw how subjects like masculinity, sexuality, politics and personal experiences affect society. Recently, I dove into photography, to help create a stronger and more consistent ideology on my work.
What characterizes your photography?
To me, art should be about emotions. I would like to describe my style as emotional, unconscious and very rich in expressions. There’s beauty in the persons’ mind being absent and present at the same time.
How does your creative process look like?
At first, I get inspiration from God. After that, the streets are the perfect mood board for me, since I’m a very observant person.
Can you tell something about the project “The Illegal Project Part 001”?
Oxosi, a magazine featuring the new African design culture, contracted me to put this project together. The project ‘The Illegal project part 001’ explores sexuality, gender fluidity and non-conformity and is possibly a form of activism. In Nigeria, same-sex acts are criminalized due to the Same-Sex marriage Prohibition Act, signed in 2014. Same-sex marriage, cohabiting relationships or sexual acts are forbidden and people who act on it risk imprisonment, violence or death.

To me this project means freedom, a silent prayer for change. It’s about the ideology I have tried to question especially in an African society and it reminded me of Nina Simon’s words: “What is my role as an artist if not to reflect the times”.
In what way does ‘The Illegal Project part 001’ help the Nigerian LGBTQ community?
It may not have a direct impact, but I really hope it inspires and let the hope for better days stay alive.
Whose work do you admire and why?
The works I mostly admire are the ones from Viviane Sassen, Harley Weir and Solange. When Viviane Sassen followed me on Instagram a few weeks ago, my heart stopped a bit. I’m highly inspired by the forms, structures and effortlessness of Viviane’s work, the exotic and strangeness of Harley weir’s and the colour and ethereal feel that Solange’s work brings to music and fashion.
Are you currently working on a new project?
Yes, we’re going to release a short fashion film from the Illegal project and I’m preparing for an exhibition later this year. Currently, I’m also working on my website where people can order exclusive prints of my work. The website will be launched soon.
What’s your dream?
My dream has always been to make films, to take storytelling beyond the point it is today and to build a conscious truth on African narratives. Furthermore, I think my plans so far already started playing out, but I would love to do a global tour with my work. That would definitely be a dream come true.
Interview by Nine van der Wal