Ancient Whispers tells the story of an imagined encounter between a young, modern woman and her archetypal female African ancestor. A photographic narrative about the young woman’s journey to self-discovery, it is filled with uncertainty and mystery but ends with the creation of a meaningful link to a powerful, enlightening past.
At the beginning of the journey, the young woman is lost—unclear about her life choices and how to find the strength to make and follow them. She is vulnerable yet curious. Ancient Whispers transports her into a psychological realm, one I’ve attempted to make non-physical by keeping the images’ environments as minimal as possible while still retaining a feeling of powerful forces at work. In that realm, my protagonist meets an ancient, pre-Colonial queen: a strong, fearless, confident woman who is comfortable with her identity and fulfilled by her own accomplishments. Though their respective worlds could not be more distant in time or place, as the narrative progresses the younger woman is inspired by her ancestor’s example, and embraces her fearless and confident spirit. This in turn gives her a roadmap with which to navigate her own future.
I relied heavily on gesture to advance the narrative. I chose not to use facial expressions for this purpose, in order to keep the story from being too much about individual identity. The gestures are intended to symbolize such feelings and experiences as uncertainty, discovery, amazement, and revelation.
In creating this project, I was inspired by a word from the Akan tribe of Ghana, Sankofa. It means, “Go back and fetch it,” and has a highly metaphorical significance to the Akan tribe. It expresses the importance of returning to one’s “roots” to learn important life lessons that can be applied to one’s own future. I also drew a lot of ideas from my own childhood as a multicultural African, including the stories and fables my father used to tell my siblings and I. As I’ve recently watched my father pen his own memoirs, I’ve hoped that someday I too can tell my stories and experiences to those who come after me. In fact, I would like this narrative to serve as an inspiration not just to people of African ancestry but to anyone struggling with his or her own identity and destiny—an encouragement to them to take a look back and glean wisdom from those who have come before us.
Direction & Photography Crystal-Anne
Poetry written for Ancient Whispers by Obii Ifejika