Amarachi Nnoli- Archiving Igbo Joy

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Amarachi Nnoli (b. 2000, Enugu, Nigeria) is a Nigerian photographer and photojournalist living and working in Lagos. Her work centres the conversation around the erasure and the need for proper documentation. Amarachi’s photography embodies a dual nature, blending conceptual and documentary styles, capturing both the imagination and reality of her subjects. Her sociopolitical work as an Igbo photographer is dedicated to archiving the customs and traditions of the Igbo people amidst globalisation and the encroachment of Western ideals taking on the role of a cultural custodian. Through photography, Amarachi aims to preserve and showcase the mundane/ordinary lives of the Igbo people and the richness of Igbo heritage while acknowledging the challenges of erasure that the modern era poses. 

This past year, 2023, she has dedicated her time to documenting burial rites, birthday celebrations and Christmas in the village, done in the way of the Igbo people as part of this lifelong project. Amarachi holds a Bachelor of English and Literature from the University of Benin, graduating in 2021. Her artistic journey has seen her take part in a group exhibition in Illinois, Chicago, Zaragoza Spain, and upcoming in the +234 Art Fair in Lagos, Nigeria.. She is also a proud member of Black Women Photographers, contributing her distinct artistic perspective to their directory of black women photographers worldwide.

PROJECT SYNOPSIS 

For decades now, the people of the Eastern part of Nigeria – a tribe known as Igbo – have suffered a silent yet loud, fast yet gradual form of erasure. Some of the factors that contribute to these are globalisation/westernisation, the economic climate of the country, migration in search of greener pastures, tribalism, and even the past civil war. These factors, while opening us up to a range of possibilities, have caused us to water down our language, our culture, integrate other religions into our traditional practices and demonise a system that saw us through centuries of peace and a near perfect cultural heritage to be proud of.

Faced with the inevitable challenge of change, how else to halt this slow erasure in its tracks than to document vicariously the things that make us who we are? 

In 2022, I had the opportunity to be on assignment with Afro Urban Society. During my time with the group, we toured the 5 Igbo states in Eastern Nigeria – one of which I am from – documenting the manifestations of grief in the culture through music and dance. We talked to traditionalists in different communities, ate indigenous foods, heard different variations/dialects of the Igbo language, learnt dances, and most importantly documented our findings. This journey opened up a yearning to learn more about my people which in turn led me to find that there is a huge decline.

As an Igbo photojournalist dedicated to archiving the joys, customs and traditions of my people amidst globalisation and the encroachment of Western ideals, I take on the role of a cultural custodian. Through my photography, I aim to preserve and showcase the richness of Igbo heritage while acknowledging the challenges of the modern era. 

This past year, 2023, I dedicated my time to documenting burial rites done in the way of the Igbo people as part of this lifelong project. This archival project titled, “Archiving Igbo Joy”, seeks to celebrate the beauty in the mundane lives of the Igbo people and the depth of this Igbo culture while serving as a platform to critique aspects that require evolution.

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