At her young age, Amarachi Nwosu has already made such a powerful impact on creative scenes worldwide. The Nigerian creator has used her platform to tell the various stories of black people both at home and in the diaspora. Pulse sits down with Amarachi to discuss it all from Nigeria’s creative renaissance to using visual storytelling to create diverse narratives.
Amarachi Nwosu is a Nigerian-American photographer, filmmaker, writer and producer currently living in Tokyo, Japan. She is the founder of Melanin Unscripted and under her platform she has produced and directed films like “Black In Tokyo” which explores the experiences of black people living in Japan’s capital.
As a writer and visual artist, Amarachi is dedicated to telling unique stories and her work has been featured on platforms like Vogue magazine, Huffington Post and Highsnobiety.
Amarachi is currently working on some documentary projects and plans to curate exhibits and hold various workshops throughout the year.
Pulse sat down with her to discuss her recent trip to Lagos and share her thoughts on the city becoming the new cultural capital of the world.
Amarachi’s platform, Melanin Unscripted, was initially created to ‘uncover complex identities that are not generally projected in mainstream media’. She told us why she was moved to create the platform in the first place, “I started Melanin Unscripted mainly out of frustration because I didn’t see enough representation of the content I felt that could push boundaries. When I would see content on platforms covering people of colour, they would rarely if ever be created by people of colour and that puzzled me. If you don’t have a diverse team behind the scenes it’s very difficult to create an authentic and conscious story in front because diverse perspectives create diverse narratives.
I wanted Melanin Unscripted to cover the unscripted and real life perspectives of people around the world and inspire them regardless of the Melanin they were born into. I wanted to show them that they did not have to accept the script they were given by mainstream media or society, but could instead be unscripted and shape their own reality.”
In order to show the reality of black people living the world over, Amarachi had to take herself out of her comfort zone and go to the most unlikely of places so she could tell their story. I wondered what inspired her to do so and what she made of her experience so far, “Tokyo is one of the most innovative and influential cities in the world when it comes to fashion, technology and design yet a lot of people have little knowledge on the foreign experience there because of its homogeneous population and narrative.
I didn’t see any unique and inspiring stories or films on black travellers in Asia when doing research, so I wanted to fill that gap and create something that could connect to people of all walks of life and show them the value of getting outside of their comfort zone.
The goal was to directly allow people to see that despite their race, religion or background that they too can travel to a foreign country and still embody the best version of themself. Every moment of filming was memorable because most of the people in the film we’re friends and it felt natural. I learnt so much from the interviews and the whole experience allowed me to grow as a individual and a filmmaker.”
Being Black in Tokyo
We wondering how living in such a city had informed how she self-identified and what impact the environment had, had on her and how she viewed herself as a black women. She explained that, “There is no one definition or experience of being black. Black can mean African, Caribbean, Afro-latinx, African American and even Asian. Blackness is complex, but the media often makes it one-dimensional which can create prejudice and misunderstanding in foreign spaces where blackness isn’t always understood. However, it takes black people who are willing to tell their own stories to truly uncover what it means to be black.
I can only speak from my own experience of being both West African and America, which was unique because when i was at home I was hyper aware of my Nigerian heritage but when i stepped out of my house I became only “black” which did not truly express the complexity of my identity and what blackness meant to me. So ultimately, everyone has their own definition and experience of what blackness means.”
The Language of Fashion
Tokyo is one of the style capitals of the world. The fast-paced, highly innovative city has given way to a unique view of what fashion can be and is one of the most aesthetically eclectic places one can live. I began to wonder about Amarachi’s approach to style and whether living in Tokyo had influenced it.
From her Instagram, Amarachi’s effortless style is evident. A delicate mix of vintage finds, designer pieces and streetwear, I wanted to find out more about her approach to it all. ”I’m a cosy girl all the way so I love wearing sneakers with outfits that can fit under feminine and masculine. I don’t create borders for myself so I’m open to experimenting which is something that has evolved since living in Japan.
Here people take a lot more risks with fashion and comfort always comes first. Whereas in Lagos women are expected to embody the “glam” culture, here not so much. Living here has allowed me to be comfortable with my style and focus less on what everybody else is doing.”
Speaking of Lagos, Amarachi recently covered Arise Fashion Week and Homecoming during one of the most exciting Easter breaks that the city has ever seen. From chronicling the backstage activities of the BBK crew and capturing the essence of the Lagos music scene to snapping international supermodel Imaan Hammam in-between shows in her hotel suite, Amarachi made it all happen.
I wondered when her passion for photography first begun and how she fed it then and ever since., “My love for visual storytelling and production started with going on trips with my family and wanting to bring back memories to show my friends, because i recognised early that travelling was a privilege and i wanted to use my privilege to bring joy and perspective to people. Later this developed into film-making and photography as a career. It wasn’t until I was 20 when i started to take things seriously. That is when I realised i could turn my passion into a career.”
Amarachi’s photos of Imaan recently landed in Vogue magazine. It was yet another defining moment for the Lagos fashion scene which has grown exponentially over the last few years and is garnering a whole lot of well-deserved attention from the international industry. I wondered what Amarachi’s thoughts were on the shift towards Nigeria’s creative pursuits and how we could maximise on the exposure.
“I think the fashion industry in Nigeria has come a long way. I’m in love with brands like Maki-oh and Orange Culture and even Nigerian designers of the Diaspora like Tinie Tempah and his brand What We Wear. I think that more visibility and community is coming within the industry, however I think there has to be more organisation and recognition of artist in Nigeria as a whole. Fashion is a billion dollar industry around the world, If we could hone our skills and learn to monetise our creativity to the world as a whole, I think that’s when we will truly see a shift! Also, we need a Vogue Africa ASAP.”
When asked to name some of her favourite designers, she said, “Maki Oh, Bayo of Orange Culture, Tinie Tempah of What We Wear, Jibril of Wekafore, Soulz of Places + Faces. Honestly there are so many talented designers, but these are off the top of my head.”
Lagos: The New Frontier
Naomi Campbell’s recent visit to take part in Arise Fashion Week was exemplary of how the world of fashion is turning its eyes towards the continent. Naomi spent a week in Lagos taking in all the sights and sounds and of course, continuing her philanthropic efforts. As Amarachi fondly reminisces on her trip to Lagos, she recounts her most memorable moment. “It would have to be shadowing Naomi Campbell and documenting her visit to the “Dream Catchers” estate in mainland for Vogue Arabia. Dream Catchers are a dance crew and orphanage in Lagos who are truly shaping the lives of talented young people and giving them a platform. We see Naomi as a supermodel all the time, but what I witnessed was Naomi the philanthropist who was not afraid to be vulnerable and show genuine love. It reminded me that we can all make an impact in our community once we recognise our power to spread love.
As a creative who has worked all over the world, I’m curious to know about Amarachi’s thoughts on the burgeoning creative scene in Lagos and how she feels we can capitalise on it to become a leading force in the industry. She replied, “There is no doubt that Nigeria is in the midst of a creative renaissance. I love that we are starting to take our power back and shape the African narrative. For so long Western media got it wrong, but now with social media and access to information, we are recognising the importance of spreading our own messages and using our skills to push it further. I love what is happening and I can’t wait to see it evolve.
I think Africa in general is the new frontier, but I believe Lagos is leading the way. From Musicians, Directors, Photographers to designers, most of the most creative kids I know are Nigerian.
There is a hustle in us that is undeniable and this is only the beginning.”