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Nigerian photographer, writer, and filmmaker, Wami Aluko’s practice explores mythology, biology, and mysticism. A graduate of Philosophy from the University of Edinburgh, Aluko’s visceral images — exhibited in Europe, Africa and the US, and appearing in publications including Atmos, Vogue Italia, and Wallpaper* — evocatively blur the lines between the physical and spiritual. In an exclusive photo series, accompanied by an essay penned by the artist, Aluko introduces us to her latest project, Ouida: Songs of the Sea.

Ouida is a magical realist series exploring the relationship men and women of African descent have to the water, and how their spiritual beliefs and ancestral traditions influence and shape it. From this, I introduce a self imagined deity of the sea named Ouida, portraying her and her community’s stories through myth inspired imagery.

Mythmaking became an integral part of my practice as I discovered that myths were vessels for our most precious environmental teachings. Sophie Strand eloquently wrote: “Blinkered by Eurocentric epistemologies, it is easy to forget that for most of human history we have been asking questions of our ecosystems and receiving accurate data in return… In many cases, Indigenous folklore and myths precede science in their precise documentation of ecological phenomena.”

I was inspired to investigate the sacred knowledge of the water by one of my favourite books, Siddhartha by Herman Hesse; particularly by the character the ferryman — a simple man who loved and lived by the lessons of the river at which he worked. I find water fascinating, and am intrigued by the instinctive kinship we feel with it. We are drawn to, scared of, and fascinated by water — the great and vast unknown.                 

I began my journey in Grand Cayman, one of the three Cayman Islands sandwiched between Cuba and Jamaica, with a mysterious history and mystical waters. Today, it is primarily populated by Jamaicans, Cubans, Filipinos, US/European expats, and Caymanians. A fraction of locals are the descendants of the Africans — who were uprooted from their lands and transported here by sea after the Europeans discovered this Caribbean island — and the Europeans who they mixed with.

Water has a huge presence within African rituals and folk stories, as many of our spirits had to pass through the water to move, communicate, heal, purify, enact revenge, or get home. I became more conscious of how water was everywhere, in between us, below us, inside us. It is an entity without borders, one that allows itself to take many forms and dance freely with and through them — one that connects us all. The waters also opened me up to the mystery, to the dance with the unknown that one must face in order to create, evolve, and transform.


Muses: Ethel Tawe, Gaby Chrisson, Nasaria Suckoo Chollette, Arielle François, Rosmery Ocana Solis, the Atlantic Sea

Cotton hat, red and black two piece and masquerade doll by I A M I S I G O

Palm bikini by Pearl Holmes

Yellow sea fan bikini by Gab Bois

Images and words by Wami Aluko

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