“This is a magazine for anyone who wants to engage with, be inspired by or learn about the abundant energy coming from visual arts, fashion and cultural communities inspired by the spirit of Africa,” says Helen Jennings, the editorial director of Nataal. Established as a digital platform in 2015 and growing to include exhibitions and now its debut print magazine, the Afrocentric showcase champions the artists who are shaping new global narratives around the continent, via fashion shoots, long-form writing and visual essays.
Packed with some of the continent’s most inspiring voices, the magazine presents visual explorations of some of the most pressing ideas resonating across Africa, including Afrofuturism, a desire to create new identities and strong ideas around representation. “With so much history erased by the scars of colonialism and in the case of South Africa, apartheid, young photographers are interested in reimagining the past to create a bold future,” says Helen of some of the themes currently bubbling up among Nataal’s contributors. “And as is true worldwide, woman photographers are embracing the female gaze free from patriarchy and sensitive to notions of beauty and the body.”
The debut issue features an enviable list of contributors, from musicians Young Fathers and Petite Noir and artist Yinka Shonibare to a whole host of ground-breaking photographers including Viviane Sassen, Kyle Weeks, Adama Jalloh, Kadara Enyeasi, Lakin Ogunbanwo and Rudi Geyser. “We want to bring creatives together to make special and uplifting work that you won’t see anywhere else,” Helen tells It’s Nice That. “Of course these artists are not in a bubble – they are being embraced by the global creative industry who are now, finally, waking up to their vast talents and challenging perspectives.”
The magazine also features a back section dedicated to an all-female line-up from New African Photography III, the third showcase of emerging talent that Nataal has co-curated at Red Hook Labs in Brooklyn. In there you’ll find projects from Fatoumata Diabaté, Alice Mann, Ronan McKenzie, Ruth Ossai and many more. “Our starting point is always positive and inclusive storytelling,” Helen tells It’s Nice That. “We want to collaborate with the fresh generation of thinkers and doers who embrace a multi-disciplinary, cross-cultural approach to shining a bright and glorious light on the continent and its diaspora in the very broadest sense.”
Launching with two covers, the first is a soft, warm portrait of New York-based Senegalese model Mame Thiane Camera shot by photographer Julia Noni on a trip back to Dakar and styled by Naomi Miller. “Mame’s natural beauty and laidback attitude makes her this issue’s muse,” says Helen. Quite different in attitude, the alternative cover was conceived by hair artist Cyndia Harvey and features musicians Jay Jay, Olabasi, La Timpa and Klein styled (by Nell Kalonji) as afropunks. It was shot by photographer Kristin-Lee Moolman.
With such vivid content, the team didn’t want the print magazine’s design to overpower the photography, instead choosing a direction that evolved Nataal’s digital aesthetic into a physical form. Nataal commissioned British Standard Type to draw a bespoke display typeface with an “idiosyncratic and vernacular personality” and spaced it awkwardly “to give a sense of dynamism and tension on the pages,” explains Helen. “It’s been a very natural progression and gradual growth,” she adds. “We’ve been thrilled to be able to provide a space for these vital new voices and reassured that such a space is much needed.”