Ngadi Smart's beguiling illustrations are used to demonstrate the many ways we each self-identify

C40: CITIES, The Future We Want campaign

Illustrator and visual artist Ngadi Smart is Sierra Leonean by birth, and now spends her time between London and Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.

Smart's work primarily focuses on illustration and photography; with her themes, subjects and aesthetic informed mostly by her globetrotting background. She studied art and design in the UK, at OCAD University in Canada, and in Côte d'Ivoire and Tunisia—which she says has inspired her to "cultivate a strong interest in a broad spectrum of cultures and subcultures".

It's also given her a heightened passion for "connecting with people from all over the world", she says, which is evident in the sensitive way she draws people. Her faces and bodies are both unique and form a sort of every person by frequently eschewing signifiers of age, gender, race and class.

This approach all ties into her broader concerns and interest with how people choose to self-identify. Often, she examines this through the lens of fashion; and more recently she has also been "documenting Black sensuality from an African lens and point of view, always aiming to show as many representations of African people, and what it means to be African," she says.

Her practice mixes self-inited projects with commissioned work, such as editorial illustrations for The Atlantic, the Pentagram partner-founded climate initiative Do The Green Thing and photography for Gay Times Magazine, British Journal of Photography's Female in Focus E-guide (April 2019 issue) and Atmos Magazine. She has also photographed a series for the second edition of Nice Magazine (which is a Young African Photographers' collaborative magazine spearheaded by Photographer Flurina Rothenberger) on the social constructions surrounding African male and female identities.

An ongoing self-initiated project that combines the photography, illustration and fashion sides of her practice is The EyeMuse Project. Drawing from her experiences around the world, the global project aims to provide first-hand documentation of the aesthetic trends and the broader culture of a city, as well as the lifestyles of those who inhabit it, through the subject's intimate setting of choice. Through the subject's intimate setting of choice. Smart says this demonstrates her "lifelong obsession with documenting everything around her".

I went to prison, my brother went to jail. illustration for The Atlantic.

I went to prison, my brother went to jail. illustration for The Atlantic.

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