Based in Lagos, Nigeria, A Whitespace Creative Agency is in the business of “creating narratives for a new vision of contemporary Africa”. It was set up in 2014 by Papa Omotayo after he “saw the need for creatives to have a platform and organisation that aimed to push new ideas being developed by a new generation of visual artists,” says Omotayo.
“We sought to bring young dynamic creatives and pair them with local and international brands and organisations,” he continues, “whilst also developing personal projects and programmes that focused on art and culture as a currency and catalyst for change within the city of Lagos.”
AWCA works with local and international brands and NGOs, creating lookbooks, campaigns, editorials, documentaries and films; it also works on projects presenting the cream of Lagos’ talent overseas. AWCA’s collaboration with Amaka Osakwe of Maki Oh won Best New Director at the Fashion Film Festival in Milan in 2016, for example; in 2016 AWCA took up a ten-day residency in London, showcasing some of its creatives, giving photographer Kadara Enyeasi a solo show, and running a series of workshops and expos. This year, they’re planning to do the same in New York.
AWCA also runs an agency, AWCA Creatives, which grew organically out of the parent company’s work but which now represents six photographers and one stylist. All the photographers are of Nigerian heritage and most, though not all, are based in the country; aged from 19 to 41 years of age, “some travel to further their education and work experience” says Omotayo, and all of them work internationally. They make work that is hip, sexy, and fun – the antithesis of the image of Africa so often portrayed in the West.
“That’s always been our goal,” says Omotayo. “We started simply from providing a platform in way of concept space to give a voice to a new generation, to where we are now, an agency – working with local and global brand ensuring we are telling and creating stories that resonate both locally and globally.
“AWCA Creatives started informally in 2013 under A Whitespace Creative Agency and has grown in its own space since, ” he adds. “The current formal structure of AWCA-Creatives launched in 2016, to showcase the visual talent, stories and new contemporary narratives from the continent.”
There is Kadara Enyeasi, for example, who has exhibited his work in Brussels, Milan, and the Ukraine, as well as in the London show, and who was included in the group exhibitions African Photography II at Red Hook Labs Brooklyn, New York and Foam X African Artists’ Foundation at the Foam Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam. Or there is Yagazie Emezi, who took part in the World Press Photo Masterclass, West Africa last year, and who has been commissioned by Al-Jazeera, Vogue, New York Times, and Refinery29.
Or there is William Ukoh, aka Willyverse, who is now based in Toronto, and who has been featured in i-D magazine, and shown his work in Nataal’s New African Photography Exhibition at Red Hook Labs, Brooklyn New York, and at the Lagos Photo Festival in 2015.
“There is so much energy, experimentation and self-actualisation going on in Nigeria and the continent,” says Omotayo. “Add this to a savvy young urban population that are global in thinking but uncompromising in defining their own cultural spaces. The possibilities speak for themselves.”