Nigerian Gothic, the Instagram Archivist Immortalising Black Pop Culture

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A Nife Omi by Nigerian Gothic (Daniel Obaweya) for Homecoming x BrownsArtwork by Joy Matashi

As Daniel Obaweya aka Nigerian Gothic collaborates with Lagos-based Homecoming festival – this year running digitally with Browns – he talks to Vincent Desmond about his Instagram account, which documents Black pop cultural history and its influence

“I started the account in 2018,” says Daniel Obaweya, a prolific image researcher and digital archivist who runs the Instagram account @nigeriangothic. “I have always been creative and into art, fashion and culture but it was always a struggle expressing myself and the Nigerian creative scene is extremely political; it’s all about who you know and not necessarily about talent or vision. So instead of playing the game, I decided to create Nigerian Gothic.”

With a focus on the work of Black photographers and Black subjects, most often from the 90s and early 2000s, the photos and videos Obaweya posts attempt to immortalise important and iconic moments of Black pop cultural history, as well as tracing the influence of Black people on contemporary culture at large. A scroll through @nigeriangothic reveals diverse images of Black creatives, models, artists: a video featuring Alek Wek walking down the runway for Tommy Hilfiger in 2000, a photo of Pure Hell, the first Black punk band from the 70s, and Destiny’s Child shot for The Face magazine in 2001 are some examples of what you might expect to find on the account.

Obaweya is also part of a small number of Nigerian creatives who will be taking part in this year’s Homecoming festival – usually held in Lagos, this year it is making its return in a digital format seeing organisers Grace Ladoja and Alex Sossah work in partnership with London-based retailer Browns. For the festival, Obaweya has worked alongside the artist Joy Matashi to create a number of collages that explore beach culture in Africa, which will feature in a zine titled Ni Agbaye alongside the work of writer Ozzy Etomi, illustrator Moses Adesanya, photographer Ruth Ossai, and several other Nigerian creatives.

“Growing up in Lagos, I was introduced to the beach really early and it’s kind of became a second home because I didn’t live far from it and we always walked our dogs there and just went there to chill,” Obaweya says of the basis of the project. “I found that some older African photographers, like Malick Sidibé, have referenced beach culture, and now a lot of newer, younger photogaphers are doing the same.”

With the images, he hopes that people will get an understanding of the role beaches play in African social communities continent-wide. “I’m not exactly focusing only on Lagos beaches, but African beaches and the culture behind them. The beaches are a social hub and are extremely important not only socially but economically because of the tourism they bring. My friend and artist Joy Matashi helped me bring my vision to life and she did an amazing job. I picked images for the collages that showed the style and feeling of a beach day in Africa.”

Working with the festival is a long way from where Obaweya started, when he began posting on @nigeriangothic for just two friends. “I mean, there was no reaction for the longest time,” he says. “At a point I was posting for myself and my friends Mojoyin and Charles because they were my only followers at the time, but I kept going and posting the images I loved and people saw it and it resonated with them.” Now, he has over 3,000 followers, who follow for Obaweya’s ability to find images and shoots that people have either forgotten about or had no idea even existed. As for where they come from: “Google Images, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, eBay ... Everywhere!”

With over 2,500 posts – all sourced and selected by Obaweya – it’s difficult for him to pick a favourite photograph. “This is such a loaded question because I can talk about this for hours, images are my drug,” he says. “I’m currently obsessed with Jamil GS’ work. There’s just something about his images that speak to me, I feel the passion he puts into them and they are all extremely relevant and important now.”

Explore the digital Homecoming festival on Browns here, which is presented alongside a Homecoming x Browns collection. A panel talk – Homecoming and Browns Present: Can Africa Generate The Re-Birth Of Streetwear? featuring Virgil Abloh, Ciesay, Homecoming organisers Grace Ladoja MBE and Alex Sossah, and more – will take place on August 28 2020, book your spot here.