On March 26, 2017, the world will mark the 30th anniversary of the Air Max 1, the shoe that pushed Air Innovation to new heights with its visible Air-cushioning unit. In celebration of the iconic design, a number of revolutionary women from around the globe are sharing their inspiring stories and demonstrating how they merge fashion with art in their daily lives.
Yagazie Emezi is one such women who is breaking boundaries with her documentary-style photography and humanitarian work in Africa. Originally from Aba, Nigeria, Yagazie is currently based in Monrovia, Liberia, working on an education project for girls in at-risk communities in Liberia.
While she has photographed behind the scenes for high-profile events like Lagos Fashion Week, it is her documentary work that shines a light on the ordinary. Her remarkable ability to tell a story through images and capture the common essence of human life – the struggles, the pain, the achievement, the joy – has set her aside as a revolutionary woman on the continent.
Her art speaks on behalf of its subject – the voiceless, the unheard. One of her ongoing projects, Relearning Bodies, is based in West Africa and documents how trauma survivors that are left with significant scarring adapt to their new bodies, as well as the role their socioeconomic class and community plays in this adjustment.
Yagazie tells us more about her career and being selected as a NikeWomen Revolutionair:
What fulfilment does photography give you?
My photography helps me piece things together- people and their emotions, their spaces, their identities. The little pieces I put together are for others to see and gain a bit of insight into a world outside of their own, and to imagine, really imagine lives other than theirs.
How do you feel when you create?
Content. Confident. The world becomes a bit quieter when I am behind my camera. I know what I am doing, what I want. Creating gives me an amazing sense of clarity and it is addictive.
What are your inspiration triggers?
Home. Adulthood often has me looking back to a softer time. I am drawn to these little triggers. It could be a smell, a sound, hand gestures of a stranger, or skin in the sun. I had a long childhood so there is a lot to draw from!
Why did you choose this line of creation and what does it mean to you?
Some people may say that their art found them, but I definitely went hunting for mine. I have always been drawn to stories and faces, but how to express what wasn’t mine was muddling at first. Photography made it all clear. It allows me to interact with people in a way that I couldn’t in any social setting. I really believe that it allows me to be a better version of myself. I listen more, I’m more patient, more open.
Tell us about the journey you took to get to this point in your life?
There was growing up in Nigeria, trying to find my space in the United States, assimilating while holding on to my identity, being a waitress, being homeless, being heartbroken, being a housekeeper and nanny, depression, being curious and being brave- all these moments framed my mindset and led to decisions. There have been a lot of bumps and heavy crashes. While on the journey, I didn’t pay much attention to the steps I was taking, but looking back, I clearly see how they led to where I am now, with more of a journey still ahead.
Being an innovator and creator, what does it mean to work with a brand like Nike?
To be able to work with Nike which is an innovative brand in itself, has me valuing my work and my journey even more. Artists want validation, though we may not often admit it. Some are happy being ghosts, but we want our creations to be seen. Working with Nike has allowed for both, which is important as it plays a powerful role of representation.
Biggest thing you have overcome to get to where you are now?
It is always going to be fear. It has a voice of its own telling me what I can and can’t do and how much smaller my dreams should be. Overcoming that voice is a constant battle that I am still in.
What does confidence mean to you?
Confidence means still taking steady actions despite the doubts.
Describe your style and relationship to sneakers?
In my line of work, comfort is always first, so when I’m on assignment, it’s always old jeans and a t-shirt, but I do like expressing my femininity outside of that. A childhood accident is now taking a toll on my body so sneakers are always a good call for steady comfort.