Seven-piece photographic series by emerging art director king nandi

Collaboration is an amazing avenue to explore ideas and elevate one’s work while working with fellow creators. One such undertaking is a portrait photographic series led by photographer and art director Nandipha Khemese aka KingNandi shot over a span of 2 months with more than 20 models represented by the continent’s most reputable and progressive agencies such as MyFriendNed and Lampost. Nandi was able to put together a seven piece project to form what is now known as, #ProjectKisasa which stands for Project Humanity. Read on to explore the visual feast further

“Throughout this project we explore themes such as Power and Corruption, Gender-based Violence, Creators block, Vulnerability, Sexuality among other topics alike. Kisasa meaning Humanity , is a collection of real-life experiences translated into beautiful imagery and story-telling from an artistic stand-point of KingNandi’s visions. Soon after drafting myriad of ideas onto pen and paper she assembled a team of all black women representing groups, and has managed to compose a powerful story that sets the tone for change that is much needed. KingNandi tackles the topic of the ongoing Gender-Based Violence and Femicide pandemic in South Africa as well as the rest of the world. As part of the fight against such tragedies, it is important that we call on everyone to reflect and realise that this is not an individual fight. As the saying goes “it takes a village…”, and her use of young adults as her subject choice, plays into the urgent need to educate adolescents about the issue of consent and rape culture which ultimately determines how we behave as we transition into adulthood.
” – Assante Chiweshe, Project Co-ordinator

Kisasa – The Initiation is an introduction to the project which showcases an array of flamboyant high-end fashion pieces. The pieces are heavy in texture and colour thereby creating a royal and pristine setting. Shot at the top of Soweto’s mountainous attractions, in this instalment, Nandi touches on the topic of masculinity by posing a male model in a purple dress and makeup, running away from societal standards. Furthermore, she depicts a young couple holding hands, thereby symbolising strength, unity and compromise.

Uchi means Naked in Swahili and for this particular look, Nandi wanted to depict the balance between masculine and feminine energy when naked and draped in beautiful jewellery and body paint. She wanted this to be the next part of the series after Kisasa to showcase the transition of the models going from wearing fine jewellery and clothing to being in nothing but velvet cloths, exposing large parts of their bodies. Usually, the two are put at opposite ends of the spectrum but once the idea of clothing or societal standards of how one should behave are stripped away, we are able to see how both masculinity and femininity co-exist harmoniously. The deep rich colours bring a sense of elegance and sensuality to the table.

Banana Republic represents the strength that women have had to put on despite the alarming incidents that have been happening to women and children where GBV is concerned. Nandi wanted to depict this the best way she knew how by again, making use of symbolism. In the scene we see the male counterpart ‘shoving’ his masculinity down the female counterpart’s throat where she, in return, is in resistance. On the other hand, we experience the potential of black love and how, when nurtured and taken seriously, it can be healthy and bring our community together. There is undeniable chemistry, between the two models, that lingers across the images which in turn created a beautiful scene.

As an individual, have you ever felt like you had been classed but knew you were more than what people had perceived you to be? Well, Frames illustrates this particular scenario by using literal frames to convey a larger message to everyone who is currently trying to break out of the societal labels. In this case, we are redefining masculinity as the models are seen to be wearing gold makeup and some have various hairstyles that aren’t usually classed as manly e.g long hair. This along many other elements within this particular set portrays black men outside of the usual stereotype of being hard or aggressive. Nandi manages to capture them in a soft light where they come together to realise that labels don’t define anyone. It is about breaking free from what we already are and know – to extending our minds further than what is fed to us by pop culture and media.

KAMP with a ‘K’ (usually spelt “Camp”), the four letter word describes the come up of queer culture mixed with ironic kitschiness in the fashion industry. Everyone thinks that they can be “Kamp” but that’s not always the case. King Nandi certainly felt the need to bring the flamboyant and enthusiastic style into her third instalment of Project Kisasa. Her idea stemmed from a creative block during 2020. We were all forced to stay indoors to avoid the COVID-19 virus and this took a toll on everyone’s mental health, including the photographer herself. The black and white montage represents the struggles of being creative but having nothing in mind that you want to create. There is a strong theme of stagnation and lack of self that swiftly transitions into an explosion of colour and inspiration. This plays into the theme of Camp which explores exaggerated, esoteric or “out there” behaviour. Shot in the My Friend Ned Jozi studio, we captured the true essence of camp right where it all started for the in- house Photography Artist. Elements of liberation and lightness are exalted in the loud makeup, mismatched coloured outfits and outlandish poses. This makes the entire experience even more electrifying.

POLO symbolises perfectionism and how flawed it is. Nandi has battled with this and has openly spoken about how detrimental it can be for creatives trying to make it in this industry. After years of experience, she feels as if vulnerability has the ability to stop a perfectionist from proceeding with brand new ideas, making it almost impossible to make anything at all. Trying to stick to the status quo but still create something ground-breaking in this industry can be tricky sometimes. This set explores the pressures of being an artist who is fixated on how clean and pristine an image needs to be before being considered and accepted. She tries to convey this by having the models dressed in all white bodysuits as well as having them in uniform/ constrained poses throughout this instalment.

DOA means ‘spots’ in Swahili. Nandi addresses the importance of having animals around to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, and encourage exercise. Despite her allergy to particularly dogs and cats, she enjoys being around animals and nature to reduce daily stress and anxiety.Shot beautifully at a fine local restaurant, Glory, located in Norwood , Johannesburg. Nandi focuses on the interaction of the models and the gentle giants, Sebastian and Frank while capturing the serene and alluring space at the restaurant.

Team Credits:

Created by KingNandi Khemese (@kingnandi)
Photographed & Art Direction by KingNandi Khemese
Creative Direction by Keketso Nthibane (@karabostudios_official)
Project Coordinator & Photography assistant Assante Chiweshe (@kahlo.greed
Assistant to creative director Lesedi Mathe (@lesedi_mathe)
Videography by Tshepiso Makoni (@tshepiigraphy)
Editors KingNandi Khemese, Assante Chiweshe, Tshepiso Makoni

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