David Sanya’s [@DavidSanyaa] photography explores Lagosian identity, politics and history

David Sanya’s [@DavidSanyaa] photography explores Lagosian identity, politics and history

Photography had always been a hobby for Lagos-born multimedia artist David Sanya. However, following a turbulent relationship with his creativity during the pandemic, he has fully committed to the medium, creating beautiful and tender work harmonically blending his subjects with their surroundings. 

Sanya spoke to GUAP about his series The Tranquility, the influence of his upbringing on his art, and what he’s currently working on.

Photography by David Sanya

GUAP: How did The Tranquility series come to be?

DAVID: During Covid-19, my grandad passed away, and I had to embark on a journey to Nigeria. This followed a period where I’d been confined in my room for months, and I felt like my bed was an anchor slowly restraining me from creative freedom. It was almost as if I was lost at sea with no direction. 

The Tranquillity series was a search for freedom, peace, and quietness away from all the chaos at the time but also a metaphor for Nigeria and the issues she’s too oblivious to see.

GUAP: What’s the inspiration behind it?

DAVID: A lot of my influence came from my upbringing, being born and raised in Lagos, but also influences from old romantic paintings and Nigerian colonial history. I center frame characters facing off against vastness, awe, and terror; to some extent, it is a constant reminder of our innate encounter with the vast aspects of nature and a sublime visual meeting with our powerlessness at the hands of the oppressor.

While my photographs may be perceived as beautiful on the surface, the ideas and concepts behind them confront the horrors of the past. The ugliness becomes awry, and we understand why these characters are where they are and why they’ve made those choices. Fragments of identity may never be complete. We are slivers of our true selves, and what we allow people to see depends on societal norms. Still, this ever-changing complexity varies, and we face this unique encounter of the individual unknown.

Photography by David Sanya

GUAP: Is there a particular work that stands out to you?

DAVID: Araga The Rükenfigur (pictured above) is probably my favorite image from the first batch of the series because each of my photographs talks about various issues about modern-day Nigeria and Africa, but this one talks about independent Nigeria.

If we say we are independent, we lie to ourselves because we depend independently on the oppressors.

GUAP: What have you got coming up next?

DAVID: I am currently on a Hiatus after returning from a research trip to Nigeria to do part II of The Tranquillity series, which is in its post-production stages. But I am looking to release prints soon!

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