Anyone who is familiar with Daniel Obasi’s art would know that they are distinctly subversive and usually non-conformist. His 2017 photo essay The Illegal Project utilised the medium of photography as way to talk about sexuality and gender and strip both subjects of the taboos associated with them. He’s been building this kind of complex, interrogatory body of work, from Evenings IV which explores soft, vulnerable masculine youth to Niru, which skewers towards girlhood and feminist empowerment.
“I want it to live on, inspiring people to believe in themselves and create more awareness of the issues surrounding gender and sexuality, especially in Africa.” Obasi says in a 2017 interview with i-D, speaking on his art.
An Alien in Town, the 22-year-old’s latest short, is a luxurious marriage between fashion and Afrofuturism, an interesting take on the worn-out sci-fi trope of alien invasions. It’s arty and moody, its design almost Lovecraftian. The five-minute short opens with a female-presenting, blue-skinned alien in a vast, sun-baked land, establishing that she’s arrived in unfamiliar territory. Soon the camera quick-cuts to a couple on a motorcycle approaching. The sky darkens. The couple find the alien on her back; they find her strange, not from town, an outsider. They take her home.
Obasi pushes this human-alien interplay as a strong cultural metaphor for marginalised, sexual minorities, and other persons in Nigeria whose existence are in a constant state of scrutiny. By comparison, An Alien in Town comes across as the most thrusting. Fashion facilitates the film’s take on individuality – we see prints, biker jackets, helmet, garden gloves, beads and jewellery. The closing credit reveals Tokyo James and Abiola Olusola the designers on the project, and the styling follows a quirky shtick that has pervaded Obasi’s previous fashion films. You can watch the short below.
This is the first major international collaboration between Obasi and an international brand with as much clout as Vlisco. Vlisco also partnered with film makers and designers in Ghana and South Africa, as they rolled out a new campaign. We wil wait to see if the reaction to this film encourages them to invest more in the arts in Africa.