My grandfather was given the name ‘Dada' due to his knotted hair at birth, as is the norm in Yoruba culture. As a young man in colonial Nigeria, acceptance into the police force meant he had to shave his knotted hair which had grown into dreadlocks. This was the only option presented to him. In defiance and remembrance, my grandfather decided to drop his last name, Arogundade, making his first name, Dada, his new family name. A peculiar choice representing a grand embodiment of a part of himself that was stripped away to conform to a police force established to consolidate colonial authority.
70 years later, the negative reactions to dreadlocked people in Nigerian society remain pervasive as wearers are considered radical and ungovernable, often targeted by law enforcement. Now, many people, particularly artists, intentionally wear this hairstyle. Not only as an expression of individuality but also sometimes as a form of protest against societal restrictions on freedom of expression.
The word Dada appears across several cultures, bearing varying meanings. Most prominent in the western world is the concept of Dada as an art movement which was formed during the First World War in Zurich. The movement promoted leftist anti-war and anti- bourgeois ideals. The type of art created was characterised by its mockery of materialism and nationalism. Across its many meanings, the word Dada has come to carry a spirit of freedom of expression and radicalism to me. DADA Magazine was created with the goal of embodying this.
The idea to start the publication came to me last year on a flight back to London after DADA Gallery had shown at an art fair. It had been a successful fair with all the usual trimmings that most in the art world have come to be familiar with - the frenzied networking, cocktail events and of course, sales. However, this time, it just didn't feel enough for me. I felt there was space to do more, particularly for Black artists, and started thinking about ways to keep the conversation going outside of specific events and shows.
The key question was: "Outside of a about's four walls, how do we ensure that the practices of Black artists are engaged in a space of quiet contemplation?" This felt a pertinent question, considering the short-term frenzy that often accompanies the careers of Black artists the instant they are deemed 'hot'. DADA Magazine was created as a direct response to this.
With a focus on emerging contemporary Black artists living and working both in Africa and its diaspora, the intention is to bridge the gap between visual art and youth culture, acting as a compass for a new generation of art enthusiasts. The publication seeks to be a resource and an inspiration for anyone interested in Black artists. Young people particularly often feel that there is no space for them in the art world. The hope is that this publication demystifies the world of visual art and creates a community for Black artists, writers and contributors alike to thrive.
In Issue 1, we speak to Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, who discusses his safe spaces and routines in his new found home of New York City. Bunmi Agusto, Anya Paintsil and Cameron Ugbodu reflect on the symbolism of Afro hair in their work. In a special interview with iconic Ghanaian photographer James Barnor, he discusses his journey and speaks directly to the next generation of Black photographers. In The Superstar Artist, we present Samson Bakare and his life size sculptures. Bunmi Agusto presents an essay on the introduction to her world, 'Within'. In Painting a Dream, Daniel Obasi creates a series of self styled and photographed self portraits in symbolising a new chapter in his evolution as an artist. We feature the growth and development of the graffiti scene in Dakar as well as a joyful snapshot of community during Eid as shot by Djibril Drame. We speak to collector Temi Adeniji in an honest and educative interview detailing her entry into collecting. We spend an afternoon with Slawn discussing his alternative path into the art world. By personifying the spirit of Dada in each of these features, amongst others, DADA Magazine seeks to bring to the forefront individuals and collectives who are pushing boundaries in their own extraordinary ways.
I say a huge thank you to the incredible community of friends, artists and collectors that have provided support along the way. I say a special thank you to the patrons that have made this first edition possible. I am beyond grateful.