Yagazie Emezi is a Nigerian artist and self-taught photojournalist focused on stories surrounding African women and their health, sexuality, education and human rights. Having worked extensively across Africa, Yagazie also covers stories on identity and culture, social justice, climate change and migration.
Her art practice uses photography and sculpture to construct visual critiques of Nigeria’s socio-political state and the roles media play in it, pulling from history and current events.
She began her journey in 2015 and has since worked with Al-Jazeera, New York Times, Newsweek, Inc. Magazine, TIME, The Guardian, Washington Post, National Geographic, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Weather Channel and several not-for-profit organizations. After ten months in Monrovia, Liberia (2017) documenting the impact of education for girls in at-risk communities, Yagazie returned to her ongoing project Re-learning Bodies which explores how trauma survivors, outside the narrative of violence and abuse, adapt to their new bodies while marking the absence of an effusive culture around body positivity as a noteworthy cultural phenomenon. Through 2018 – 2019, Yagazie documented patrols at sea through Liberia, Gabon and Namibia with the non-profit Sea Shepherd, recording government efforts to protect marine wildlife from Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) activities.
In November of 2018, she received a grant from the U.S Consulate General in Lagos for her photo-series addressing the reality of sexual violence against women and the vulnerable young in Nigeria. In 2019, she became the first black African woman to photograph for National Geographic Magazine and is a National Geographic Explorer Grantee. Yagazie was among the 2019 inaugural artists selected for Kehinde Wiley’s art residency at Black Rock, Senegal and is a 2019 nominee to the prestigious Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. She is a contributor to Everyday Africa and a member of its advisory board.
Statement Yagazie Emezi
During the pandemic, did you feel disconnected or isolated in your city? At the start of the pandemic, there was a moment of release. In early March of 2020, I was at the height of getting my work year started with talks lined up in different cities and pending stories to pitch and cover. I was taking in as much as I could and could feel myself getting overwhelmed by my own expectations and that of others. When the lock-down was announced in Nigeria and as the rest of the world slowly shut down, I was relieved to have an excuse to rest. I was also very blessed and lucky to be in position to take a long break without any significant stress. ‚Adjusting to the new normal‘, ‚these our crazy times‘, echoed in emails on both sides. Delayed responses were perfectly acceptable. And for the first time ever, I was no longer a traveler which meant I could focus on finding an apartment and move on from the bedroom a close friend had granted me during my galavanting days. With a new space and an unfamiliar sense of stability, I relished the isolation. A few months later, protests started popping up. The Nigerian youth were gathering to take a stand against police brutality and it was happening in my background. How could I ignore it? How could I not feel the frustration and the injustice that my neighbors, friends and community faced? Despite all the covid protocols, I joined the masses. It was exhilarating to be part of a movement so monumental that it scared our government. The city became alive again. Protestors rose up in various cities across the country. People organized themselves and marched, chanting all day, blocking major traffic routes, fists from those sitting in traffic rose up in solidarity, old men and women marveled at this new energy that they hadn’t seen in decades. The youth fed and protected one another during those weeks. We were together. When the Nigerian government attacked defenseless civilians, we were still together. Some running for their lives, some desperately trying to get ambulances to the scene, others frozen in shock, watching from their homes. While the physical protests were halted by bullets, it was a movement that brought us all out of our isolation, that brought us together in Lagos and in othe cities.