Photography by
Photography by Ruth Ginika Ossai

Nigerian Identity. Beautiful. Effortless. Powerful.

Ruth Ginika Ossai grew up in Eastern Nigeria and is currently based in West Yorkshire. She takes on the identity of a photographer and an Igbo/Yorkshire warrior, assuming this identity as a part of her dual heritage.

Examining Ruth’s work, one can see the warrior in her coming to the foreground. In her practice, she aims to celebrate African beauty, question Western standards of beauty and represent and empower Nigerians and Africans wherever they may be geographically situated. A variety of faces and styles embody Ruth’s message and the viewer is drawn to her sitters. Men in cowboy hats, women wearing chainmail bodysuits tastefully styled with red patent boots and women in traditional Igbo attire is the visual sustenance that Ruth feeds her audience.

“I’m really infatuated by the way in which photography can tell stories, capture and empower black identity and culture. Especially Nigerian identity, which is so beautiful, effortless and powerful. This is something I have been surrounded by and capturing all my life. My photography is not a response to anything particular but I am a strong advocate of photographers who are embedded in the context in which ideas are produced, participating in the contextualising of their images. It becomes very problematic when Nigerians — and other Africans — cannot tell their own stories: it becomes too often incomplete, inaccurate and stereotyped. This narrative has needed changing for too long. My work is also honestly partly a reflection of myself; I love and never stop thinking about West Africa, whether I’m home or away.”

Ruth’s images speak to her adoration of the photographic lens and the powerful ability it contains to speak about and create narratives. Ruth’s ocular eye does not only capture black identity and culture but her innate sensitivity and candid hand acts as a tool of empowerment. Acting as a participant within this narrative, photographers like Ruth are contextualizing her own culture in a way that she wishes it to be seen. As Ruth states, it is of the utmost importance that people tell their own stories and when it happens differently often inaccurate depiction takes place and room is created for the breading of stereotypes. A self-reflective photographer, Ruth’s images are not only striking but their vividness and candid feel adds to the authenticity of the captured moment and the photograph as an object becomes more than that; it becomes a feeling.

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