Kristin-Lee Moolman
& IB Kamara

2026
April 19
— May 12, 2017

 

Freedom is no fear” - on Kristin-Lee Moolman & IB Kamara
Agnes Grefberg Braunerhielm

The clothes are the thing – the look is the thing – in IB Kamara’s and Kristin-Lee Moolman’s work. And this is despite the fact, or maybe because of the fact, that the clothes actually are “nothing”. Kamara and Moolman sourced the clothes and accessories the men in the photos are wearing from skips and local thrift shops. These are not clothes a designer created with an eye to making relevant fashion. Still, to me the outfits connote the exact idea Kamara and Moolman want them to signify: the future. “2026” is a dream about a utopia ten years on, a utopia where male sexuality, and especially black male sexuality, is free and open to other definitions. These works tell you a story about a world where norms, ideals and prejudice about black masculinity aren’t a prison fenced in by racism and colonialism. This utopia is expressed through and on the body. 

“2026 is escapism,” Kamara explains, “It’s all the things I long to be, it’s the black man I aspire to be: expressive, confident, not holding back, regardless of sexual orientation, gender or race.”

And just as the men in the photos are from a space-time that isn’t here (yet), the clothes they are wearing are not treated as though they carry any collective memory, either. The look is post-gender. The purpose of the fashion is not to distinguish a man from a woman, or create an androgynous style; rather it intends to dissolve gender altogether to form a more true idea of masculinity.

Kamara explains his point of view best himself: “Because I often clash with fashion’s conventions, it evokes an awareness of my consciousness.” The clash which these works subject us to create a catharsis in our gaze. It is fashion at its most urgent – demanding that the eye remodel the inner, never-asked-for workings of the brain and how we perceive each other, presenting another reality – one that rejects the immanent constructions of this world. Which is one definition of art.




The men portrayed in “2026” are good friends of Moolman. And though not many of them define themselves as anything other than straight, there is an innately queer sensibility to the photos. If asked to define queer, I would paraphrase fashion scholars Adam Geczy and Vicki Karaminas and say it is a feeling like being expelled from paradise, wandering the earth looking for a backdoor somewhere that is open. Passing through the door, you realize how falsely we create this world, and you feel an urgency to recreate it, falsely afresh. The words of Oscar Wilde come to mind: “To be natural … is such a difficult pose to keep up.” Instead, queerness and more specifically queer fashion rejects “the natural” to find “a truth that is a matter of style” (Wilde again).

But to be queer is also to be broken. Because society does not talk to you, or about you. Society talks about heterosexuality, and it wants you to conform to it to make you a well-adapted individual. Queer identity on the other hand is about diversity and difference, and it sets out to eradicate the forced hetero-homo binary.

In the Japanese art of Kintsugi, or Kintsukuroi, you repair broken pottery by filling the cracks and fractures with gold.  This is what “2026” does to the inevitably broken queer soul. Or at least to mine. I find there the gold that mends the future of being human.

Nina Simone once said: “Freedom is no fear!” “2026” is a place of no fear, photographed in a land just recently plagued by fear. And the bridge between no fear and freedom must be imagination, because to imagine a new future is fearlessly creating one.

 
 

Where are the images of brown people living joyfully?
Nafisa Kaptownwala

When the movie Lion came out, I hadn’t even heard of it until Oscar night. It’s funny that as a South Asian person I hadn’t even heard of a movie that supposedly centred on an Indian person’s experience. Being considerably desperate to see more such images in mainstream media, I was confused why none of my peers had brought it up to me. Naturally, after finding out about it, after watching Jimmy Kimmel lift eight year old Sunny Pawar above his head like a pet, I needed to know what was really happening in this movie. After the first few scenes, like clockwork I say to myself, Cue the poverty, cue the images of brown suffering, cue the exaggerated sense of optimism, overwhelming the reality of these characters’ experiences. Not only was I not surprised, I was disappointed. Images of brown suffering wrapped up in a feel-good Hollywood package is not new. It’s old, it’s played. Where are the images of brown people living joyfully?

I’m thirsty enough to indulge in a movie like Lion because I’m desperate to see images of people who exist in the world like me. People of colour, queer, femme, beautiful, with a plurality of feelings and stories. After watching Lion, I understand why most of my peers looked past yet another painful iteration of brown existence.It’s exhausting.




I’m tired of seeing our stories retold for white audiences, diluted to fit the same narratives defined by white folks. But I’m mostly tired of explaining my existence to basic ass people on a day to day basis because they never have to absorb images and stories of people that look like me. I can’t even imagine how much easier existing would be if I didn’t have to constantly explain myself in order for people to undo preconceived perceptions of my existence. Not all brown women are strong, some of us have been hurt, some of us carry that hurt with us every day, we may never overcome it, and you should not expect a Slumdog Millionaire feel-good conclusion at the end of the story.

I was initially extremely drawn to IB Kamara’s styling because I see him gasping, similarly to myself, to see a plurality of Black and Brown existences. Kamara’s work creates this Octavia Butleresque apocalyptic future where queer Black and Brown bodies can fearlessly be themselves. The images construct this invaluable fantasy where whiteness no longer limits our expression of self, and we can be whatever our truest fantasy of self is. These fantasies are our survival. Seeing healthy images of queer Black and Brown bodies, it feels like we can finally breathe. Images of carefree Black and Brownness encourage hope in a world that’s made to make us feel feared.

 
 

Away from the Eurocentric
Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

Black people aren’t normally associated with glamour. Our world isn’t accentuated by crushed red velvet and pearl earrings. Black men don’t get to be feminine. Their masculinity is too fragile for a virginal white dress, too caustic for a hip-thrust stance, a jaunty pink hat, a slim-fitting satin glove. Black people come from a world of fire and barbed wire; of hanging out on street corners with our trousers slung low, eyes tight – looking at you hard because the judgement upon us by the white man was already passed long ago and has thrown whole generations into disarray.

These were my first thoughts when looking at the collaborative work of IB Kamara and Kristin-Lee Moolman, 2026. Kamara is a talented, flamboyant stylist and art director who takes pleasure in sourcing items of clothing from markets in his native Sierra Leone, while Moolman is a photographer who grew up in a “backwards Afrikaans town” in South Africa and has been challenging the conventionality of her erstwhile surroundings ever since.

The premise of 2026 is simple: imagine what fashion for black men could look like in ten years. What the pair have produced is an almost utopian vision – a future where the conversations we’re having around black masculinity at the moment have lead to a new kind of exploration and gender fluidity, but also where we haven’t forgotten our past. As reflected in the carefully chosen backdrops throughout Johannesburg, life for black people is still as gritty, raw and dangerous as it ever was in a post-Apartheid state.




Both Kamara and Moolman are caught up in what some fashion magazines have deemed the New African movement. Although this term homogenises the diverse continent, it is clear that black people the world over are using the internet to find spaces away from Eurocentric (Western) constraints in a brand new way. We are no longer happy with the depictions of us seen in the mainstream media – so often either vulnerable and poor, or as angry, aggressive predators and so are creating our own visuals. Like their forefathers and contemporaries in documenting black dandyism – think Malik Sidibé, Colin Jones, Hassan Hajjaj – the pair’s work has already made waves in popular culture.

What I hope happens with these pictures is that people soak them up, don’t view them as a novelty, but also don’t view them too seriously. No-one can predict the future, and it’s likely it will take longer than 10 years for black men to discard the chains they’ve been shackled to since the 16th century when the idea of black people being beastly and dumb arguably first began to marinate in the Western world. That there is a real, tangible movement happening both on and offline in urban centres such as London (where Kamara studied at Central Saint Martins art school and where 2026 was first exhibited as part of group show Utopian Voices Here & Now at Somerset House) and Johannesburg, should be celebrated in and of itself. We are slowly beginning to connect the disparate threads of the African diaspora, like the cloths and fabrics drawn together for Kamara’s collection.