Adetona Omokanye is a visual storyteller based between Lagos, Nigeria, and Toronto, Canada. Over the past 5 years, his approach to photography is shaped by observations of happenings in his immediate environment.
This body of work interrogates how belief systems, tradition, and culture shape the way people dress. “Spiritually Fashionable” brings the couture of Egúngún a fancifully masked figure at the heart of the traditional religion and culture of the Yorùbá people of West Africa into sharp relief in a way that is critical and innovative. While most people think of the Egúngún only in extraordinary, spiritual terms as the object of Yorùbá ancestor reverence, Omokanye juxtaposes it with regular African models provoking his audience to visualize the ‘masquerade’ as a fashion spectacle. Thinking of the Egúngún in this way forces us to critically re-evaluate our definitions of what constitutes indigenous fashion, native fabric, traditional style and local attire. It also compels us to consider the reality and mechanics of this kind of ‘esoteric fashion’ that is reserved for only a closed group. The series demonstrates how elements of culture, such as traditional religious practices and dominant notions of beauty, grooming, and embellishment, influence fashion styles.