Nataal magazine’s focus on African fashion and culture is long overdue
Features > Nataal magazine’s focus on African fashion…

Trying to create equality in the media world, global media brand and print magazine Nataal incorporates diversity both in front of and behind the camera. “Promoting young African talent—this is at the core of what we do.”

Despite Sub-saharan Africa’s apparel and footwear market reportedly being worth $31 billion, the continent has traditionally been excluded from the global fashion world—especially when it comes to luxury goods. Recognizing a new creative dynamism coming out of Africa—not just in fashion, but in photography, art and music, too—the three founders of Nataal, creative director Sara Hemming, actor and director Sy Alassane, and editorial director Helen Jennings, made it their mission to no longer accept this state of affairs. Starting first with an editorial website focusing on fashion shoots, long form features, and visual essays, they quickly expanded to hosting cultural events, parties, and talks in major cities across the world. In 2018, they branched into print with their first annual magazine, which is due to be released later this month.

Freunde-von-Freunden-Nataal-75A8610-1
Baloji by Kristin-Lee Moolman

“We feel it’s important to have ‘real life’ moments that brings our editorial presence alive and to connect with our audience in different locations.”

Why did you decide to launch a print magazine?

We have a love of independent publishing and feel that the talent we work with and feature deserves and needs exposure in a high quality, large format print edition. It’s our way of further celebrating the artists and projects we love. It’s also a natural extension for us; bringing all elements of the brand together.

What was the idea behind the two different covers of your first issue?

With the cover, we wanted to make a clear statement about Nataal being a diverse magazine that is inspired by Africa and not just another women’s fashion magazine.

The female cover features New York-based Senegalese model Mame Thiane Camera in Dakar, shot by Julia Noni and styled by Naomi Miller. And our male cover was conceptualised by Cyndia Harvey, shot by Kristin-Lee Moolman, and styled by Nell Kalonji, and conjures up the young punks of London. Side by side they are very different stylistically, but both exude the same confidence and integrity, which we love. For issue two we have done the same—one male cover, one female cover.

Issue 1
Issue 2

What’s special about the African scene?

Over the past decade Africa’s creative industries have truly begun to shine and the world is finally sitting up and taking notice. There’s just something so vital about what is happening there and an immense energy and originality coming through that will shape all of our futures. Nataal’s starting point is always positive and inclusive storytelling around those artists who are moving this culture forward. We want to collaborate with the fresh generation of thinkers and doers who embrace a cross-cultural approach and we want to bring creatives together to make special and uplifting work that you won’t see anywhere else.

How do the events you host affect the rest of your content?

We feel it’s important to have ‘real life’ moments that brings our editorial presence alive and to connect with our audience in different locations. In Joburg we co-hosted a party with Haig Club at The Artivist, which brought together the city’s creative crowd for live music from Blinky Bill and Manthe Ribane and a Nataal photography exhibition. We also just partnered with the newly opened Africa Center in Harlem for a party that featured our curation of short films, live music from Young Paris and Owo, and an artist’s talk by Victor Ekpuk.

Super Yaya by Joyce Sze Ng
Maki Oh by Micaiah Carter
Intersections by Rudi Geyser
Baff Up by Daniel Obasi

“The talent we work with and feature deserves and needs exposure in a high quality, large format print edition.”

In order to create equality in the media world, we not only have to change the models in a campaign, but also look for diversity among authors, founders, and managers. To what extent are you trying to incorporate diversity not only into the stories, but also into the production?

We collaborate with a wealth of emerging photographers, writers, stylists, and artists on the continent and in the diaspora. We also try to act as a bridge to other opportunities beyond Nataal—this is something our photography exhibitions achieve with some of our participating artists having gone on to great things. Nataal is also an international platform so it’s about a multiplicity of voices and collaborations between talents from all over the world.

Do you have any insider tips?

Head to Lagos in early November when the city is alive with cultural events from ART X Lagos [West Africa’s first international art fair] and Lagos Photo Festival to GTBank Fashion Week. While you’re there visit Alara and Temple Muse for luxury shopping, The New Afrika Shrine to hear Femi Kuti play, and The Jazz Hole to dig for vinyl and books.

What can we expect from your second issue?

The thread that ties many of the stories in issue two together is a spirit of collectivism; the belief that through shared voices, energy, and activism, we all rise. In London, for example, we meet Neneh Cherry, who embodies this mood. The iconic musician has used her three decades in the spotlight to foster an ever-growing community of artists through her style and music, and who continues to inspire successive generations, such as filmmaker Jenn Nkuri, rapper Little Simz and poet Julianknxx, all featured within these pages.

Beyond that, in Lagos photographer Lakin Ogunbanwo lenses some of his fellow Nigerian musicians, designers, and entrepreneurs who are among the cultural vanguard and whose work is putting this megacity on everyone’s radar; in Paris, Art Comes First assemble some of the models and influencers who have joined the duo’s menswear movement; and in Nairobi, director Wanuri Kahiu presents her research into some of the continent’s joyful myths and legends that have influenced her own afrobubblegum storytelling.

Nataal is a new global media brand celebrating contemporary African fashion, music, arts, and society. The second issue of their print magazine is available to buy now.

Text: Charlotte Hölter