Cover image photographed by: Tatenda Chidora | Stylist: Nao Serati | Model: Neo Africa | Photographer Assistant: Nevile Dikgomo 

Big Sky Country

“In Africa you have space… there is a profound sense of space here, space and sky.” 
– Thabo Mbeki 

For our third issue of The African Edit, we look up to the vast skies of Africa for our inspiration. On this continent of big skies and wide-open spaces, our imagination takes flight. The far-off horizon calls to us, reminding us of our individuality and potential. This is a land of innovation and creativity, complexity and diversity, framed by two latitudes and a tapestry of histories, united under one sky.

In this issue, we celebrate the boldness, vastness and vibrance of Africa. This inspires our imagination and ignites our creativity. Between the dust and the expansive sky above, we find shared stories that unite our many differences.

This is Africa, the continent of big skies and bigger possibilities.

Jodie Ennik

Lampost Productions
Photographer: Caleb Nii Odartey Aryee | Model: Kingsley Obeng | Stylist: Officialnkc | Assistant: Jeremy Joseph

A photo essay inspired by our African skies.
On this continent, the sky stretches beyond the horizon, an expansive, ever-changing backdrop against which creativity takes flight. Fifteen photographers share stories inspired by the sky. Gravity loses its hold for an instance in Antonia Steyn and Paul Samuels’ images. For Kristin Lee Moolman, the pastel blue of midsummer tinges and twists gender tropes. Hanro Havenga shows us the world through blue-tinted glasses, Liezl Zwarts and Carla Uys turn to shadow to amplify the light, and Andile Phewa and Carla Vermaak play with elevation to shift our view. Caleb Nii Odartey Aryee finds compositional harmony at the line between the heavens and earth. Carlos Idun-Tawiah captures the shimmering liminal space where earth and sea meet. Across the open sky, Ross Garrett traces birds in flight. Rich Mnisi and Nao Serati are up on cloud nine, while Nick van Renen takes us down into the dust to look up at the sky. Tatenda Chidora lets the sky be his backdrop, and Lesedi Mothoagae is inspired by the voluminous form of clouds.
For all image credits, please click here.          

Lampost photographer Tatenda Chidora talks to Alix-Rose Cowie about studying light patterns, how running aids his practice, and finding an endless backdrop in Brits for his Big Sky Country shoot with stylist Nao Serati.
Lampost photographer Tatenda Chidora wakes up every single morning when the Pretoria sunrise spills into his sixth-floor apartment and over his bed. “If I’m really tired I try to sleep a little bit more but the sun will already be wrapping around me so it’s time to get up,” he says. He’s inspired by the African horizon; a line painted wide across the view from his apartment windows, and a constant for him growing up in Zimbabwe where the sun rises and sets vividly. “The horizon really gives me the sense that there is a tomorrow,” he says. “When the sun is rising it says, 'Okay we can fight through today and when the sun goes down it’s time to rest; whatever you didn’t conquer today you can conquer tomorrow.' ”

Tatenda came of age in a small town called Gweru which continues to have an influence on his photography. “It’s a very intimate town, you can really get to know who people are, you engage with people,” he says. “I try not to just photograph people, I try to connect with them and find out more about them.” It’s for this reason that he loves portraiture. “I try to connect with the soul, to bring out what’s inside,” he says. He often scouts his subjects on the street, winning people over with his uplifting nature.

He discovered photography through his mother’s stash of magazines. “I used to cut out images, the ones I thought looked good, and I’d stick them in a book, sort of like a visual diary,” he says. “I’d tell [my mom] it was for a school project because she was always complaining about me cutting her magazines.” He didn’t know that photography was something you could study but he did know that somehow he wanted to produce images like the ones he had collected. 

Through photography, Tatenda responds to an innate urge to capture the way light falls onto a subject: a natural landscape, a building, a face. “There is nothing curated about the sun falling onto a place. It’s just as natural as it can be. That draws me in,” he says. One of Tatenda’s favourite things to do is to watch light and how it interacts with things, how it behaves. Through running, usually at sunrise or towards sunset, he has come to better understand light patterns and what time of the hour the light is good. Out on the road, with his sneakers pounding the asphalt, he notices images everywhere that will agonisingly never become photographs because he doesn’t have any way to capture them. He sometimes finds his locations this way too. “I’d love to run a marathon on every continent because that’s one of the easiest ways one can experience a place and [get a sense of] its energy in 4 or 5 hours,” he says. In South Africa, he’s run the Comrades multiple times. “Running is my ‘woosah’ moment,” he says, referencing Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys. He brings this calm and focused energy to every set he’s on. 

A few years back, Tatenda was on a job somewhere near Brits in the North West Province of South Africa along a road with no name. The emptiness of the landscape and the granite rock formations left an impression on him. He dropped a pin onto the map on his phone so he could return for a shoot of his own. When he received the brief for Big Sky Country he knew it was time. 

Tatenda worked together with fashion designer and Lampost stylist Nao Serati for Big Sky Country. Both looked skywards in response to the brief; Tatenda was inspired by warm sunlight falling on dark skin against an endless blue sky, while Nao’s styling inspires a visual of what might lie beyond our blue atmosphere. Giant fabric flowers, see-through trousers, duct tape and glitter are striking against the natural landscape. A metallic silver space blanket is used as a prop to reflect the warm winter sunlight nearing golden hour at the edge of the world. It’s only the electricity pylons made tiny by distance in one of the shots that bring it back down to Earth. 
Zooming back into focus on his part of the globe, Tatenda is inspired immensely by Africa. He lives in a microcosm of the continent in a community of Congolese, Nigerians, Zimbabweans, and South Africans, and he’s encouraged by this diversity. He’s had the opportunity to travel to Kenya, Ethiopia, and Congo. “I’m so pro-Africa,” he says. “I think [African creatives] will be the trendsetters for the whole world. And not out of creative pressure, but just because of who we are.”   

Tatenda Chidora's Sun Is Rising | Photographer: Tatenda Chidora | Videographer: Tushya Naidoo | Editor: Jacob Classens | Stylist: Nao Serati | Model: Neo Africa | Photographer Assistant: Nevile Dikgomo

Sinitta Akello & Maganga Mwagogo turn the Nairobi sunset into a performance.
The Nairobi Sunset - A Performance | Photographer: Maganga Mwagogo | Choreographer & Model: Derrick Wambugu | Creative Director & Makeup Artist: Sinitta Akello | Retoucher: JP Hannekom

"In my work I usually aim to shift the focus towards an African narrative. I grew up in various different parts of the continent and therefore have connections across it. When I received the Big Sky Country brief, I drew my inspiration from a place I call home, Kenya. 

If I were to describe our sunrises and sunsets as sounds I would use bells to describe the sunrise; subtle, sweet and delicate as the sun greets us with its warmth. The sunset, ever epic, would be trumpets. An almost royal calling or introduction: 'Pay attention to me as I create my final performance of the day!'

The sunset to me is comparable to a performance that deserves a standing ovation! Every day is different and every day is unique. My inspiration was derived from the colours of the Kenyan sunset; beautiful warm colours that dance across the sky. Paintings of the sky were my first inspiration. I explored different painting techniques and eventually settled on marbling – oil-based paint and thinners floating on water. 

I’m more and more exploring the idea of gender fluidity. In most languages the sun is presented as masculine and, in some, feminine. The idea of a grand African head wrap representing a sun goddess worn by our performer, Derrick, and beautifully captured by Maganga, pushed the ideas around gender fluidity through a dance of the setting sun."

– Sinitta Akello
Where the earth and sky meet in that liminal zone on the horizon, a portal opens and sets loose vagabond spirits to roam deserted city streets in the dead of night. Part figures from folklore, part interdimensional travellers, these are the Nightcrawlers, sent to haunt our world. By Layla Leiman.

Lampost photographer, Hanro Havenga, is the creative director and photographer behind this series. His work more typically falls into street style/documentary photography, favouring spontaneity and minimal to no lighting. While this series with its surreal effects seems like a radical departure for him, the magical realism can be understood as a lens to explore marginal figures, which are a recurring theme in his work. Hanro broke onto the scene with his photographs of bands and banal scenes from everyday life in the West Rand of Johannesburg. In these images he captured something of the weirdness and wildness of being alive. Hanro still shoots bands alongside brand and editorial campaigns, and the original spirit of defiance has never left his work.

For our Big Sky Country issue, Hanro collaborated with Lampost makeup artist
Orli Meiri as art director to bring this series to life. Together with the spooky costumes created by stylist Ketu Meso, a large part of the narrative power of these images comes from the relationship between the Nightcrawler and the landscape they’re pictured in – empty, eerie, just them and the illuminated big sky. Nocturnal interlopers, out on the prowl. Are they looking for trouble or a good time?
Where did the idea for the “Nightcrawlers” series originate? What are these Nightcrawlers and which abyss have they crept from?
I wanted to put a spin on the theme Big Sky Country, as at first it reminded me of a country song title. And then I thought, "what’s our version of country/cowboys/legends/myths?" I thought about what happens on the horizon, the centre line where the sky meets the ocean, both being vast portions of something we don’t fully understand. But where they meet something happens; there’s a balance, a rebirth of the two worlds colliding. These Nightcrawlers are entities of the night, a gift from Mother Africa.
Understanding light, and by extension colour, is fundamental for a photographer. How did you play with natural and artificial lighting in this series to create the haunting, surreal effects?
Funny thing is I haven’t really used this particular method since my first year at college. This involves shooting with a low shutter speed (a couple of seconds) to pick up light streaks in the time the sensor is exposed. This merged with a frozen image at a higher shutter speed (e.g. 1/50th of a second) made for a great mix of the two. I only used the available light on the locations we shot at. Available light mostly being a lamp-post and surrounding area fall-off, with the exception of using a headlamp as a fill-in light.
Tell us more about these “Nightcrawlers”. Are they looking for trouble or a good time?
I’d say a little bit of both, as these are god-like beings that can occupy any and all corners of the sky above or the earth below. They exist by their own set of unique rules and regulations for astral travelling vigilantism, born from the idea of merging African folklore and our relatively new obsession with what deep dark space is capable of creating. The Nightcrawlers characters were inspired by African myths/tales such as “The Spirits of the Kikuyu”, “The Human Eating Tree of Madagascar” and “The Lovedu Rain Queen”, to name a few.
African myths continue to form an integral part of culture as they give an idea of where everything came from, what happened after and what might happen in the future. The myths are so intertwined with reality that it is usually hard to even separate the two.
Do you feel like you need to define your aesthetic as a photographer or are you more open to exploring different styles?
My fundamental style has always come from street style/documentary-type photography. I think I became a photographer because of the rules governing this genre, which is that there aren't a lot of rules and regulations when it comes to shooting from a place of spontaneity. When it comes to stylised photography I think it is important to have a unique aesthetic, but just as important to have an understanding of styles which will enable you to replicate certain looks and feels.
Nightcrawlers | Creative Direction & Photography by: Hanro Havenga | Art Direction: Orli Meiri | Model: Thapelo Mofokeng | Costume Design & Styling: Ketu Meso | Lighting Assistant: Marius Hattingh

"Chasing the Light" - a short film by Lampost videographer, Ed Blignaut.
Cinematographer & Editor: Ed Blignaut | Music: Flying Lotus, Zodiac Shit

By Lampost's cultural futurist, Annegret Affolderbach.
Top left: Jodie Ennik | Top right: Mutua Matheka | Bottom left: Otto Eric | Bottom middle: Prince Gyasi | All other images: Annegret Affolderbach
Cultural futurist Annegret Affolderbach shares glimpses into some of her favourite experiences gathered whilst immersing herself in the local cultures of four of our "Big Sky Countries". Her empathetic and intuitive approach to understanding life, people and places, broadens our horizons with insights into the rich cultures of our kindred Africans.

light up the skies // Gold Coast . Ghana 

Picture-stories of local jokes, symbolisms and wisdoms of proverbs adorn Asafo flags with bright appliqués that light up African skies. Stitched by the hands of the Fante people of Ghana, the colourful flags tell stories of the struggles against colonial oppressors and they carry messages to friends and enemies. Each vibrant flag is a unique aesthetic history lesson that broadens our cultural horizons with insight into Ghana’s past, present and future. 

tasteful horizon // Cape Town . South Africa 

Foraging experiences introducing our taste buds to indigenous ingredients found along South Africa’s dramatic coastline make for artful menus. Drawing inspirations from ingredients picked along these horizons – seaweeds from rock pools, shellfish, edible weeds, flowers, roots and shoots – restaurant Wolfgat and wild food experience Veld and Sea reconnect us to the power of the edible landscapes that surround us. 

urban storms // Nairobi . Kenya 

Matatus are boisterous minibuses, a solid part of Nairobi’s landscape. They steer life embellished with artworks, pimped with fancy interiors, colour and music, and kitted out with flat screens and Wi-Fi. These vibrant rides are in constant competition with each other, boasting unique music playlists to their loyal customers. They often serve as marketing vehicles featuring athletes, musicians, social and political icons, and religious figures. 

hypnotic ocean // Paje . Zanzibar 

In harmony with the tides and currents of the Indian Ocean, women tend seaweed farms in waters that hypnotise in clear shades of blue, ocean green and yellow. As far as the eye can see to the edge of the horizon, female farmers walk in bright kanga shawls meditating, tending and harvesting seaweed crops for the use of candles, soap and medicine. 

Click here to return to the Lampost website.

The African Edit is produced by Lampost Productions.
Contact for comments & collaborations.

Jodie Ennik
Creative Director: Kassie Naidoo
Production: Kathryn Matulovich

Contributing Writers: Alix-Rose CowieLayla Leiman, Annegret Affolderbach
Design: Jeanne-Marie Hickley
Proofreader: Colin von Berg


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