PHOTOGRAPHY: One Magical Day in JHB with Grace Bukunmi.

South Africa Is The Future: a “political statement on African fashion sensibilities”.

On the hunt for the forefront of the African creative revolution, LA and NYC based multi-media creative Grace Bukunmi found herself in Johannesburg, South Africa. Teaming up with photographer Sinqobile Sibiya (Mind on Matter) and a team of creatives and models she began to explore the “exaltation of African identities, textures, ingenuity, and creativity”. What came together was a “political statement on African fashion sensibilities” called South Africa Is The Future. Here, Sinqobile speaks to her about the project, as well as her experience of the scene in SA.

The Story

I feel very positive about the photographs and the collaboration of new and old friends. I’m really pleased that I was able to use different photo mediums and witness the uniqueness of the each medium. I made genuinely lifelong friends from this shoot so that is super important to me. I think this shoot is just the beginning of a great story for all the folks involved and I envision many great ripples from this one occurrence.

“Every aspect of it is perfect in its own form.”

Julienne is one of my first collaborators and an incredibly talented designer and seamstress. Without her guidance and designs, the shoot would have been very different. We had talented hands touching the style that greatly executed the vision. Everyone brought their own personal style and notes but overall Julienne’s pieces was fundamental in the story line. Our lovely hair stylist Beezy brought really great ornaments as well as Erem, all efforts coming together for a spectacular production.

There are some styling and light notes that I could adjust in hindsight but that would devoid the image of its original beauty which lies in the art of the collaboration itself. I’m grateful for every piece of the images that came from that collaborative effort, so there’s nothing I would have changed in that sense. For this, because collaboration was top priority, every aspect of it is perfect in its own form.

“I prefer to create my own world, rather than dictate how others should operate their world.”

I’m not one to overemphasize location because I’m typically more enthralled with creating a world around my subjects. However, I always follow in the spirit of serendipity and I’m usually led to the best solution in that manner. 

Every creative that I’ve ever met that had a voice, that had a reason for being, for working, has influenced me.

Behind the Scenes

Tell us more about yourself and how you got into photography.

I remember finding one of Alexander McQueen’s books and pouring over the details of his inspiration, work and design. That moment defined my interest in fashion in addition to my biological attraction. Growing up in a westernized African Pentecostal household my daily being was a case study in the social-political parameter of fashion.

“The main priority is as always to create as much as possible.”

As an adult I sought out fashion in every form. At some point I realized that I prefer to execute imagery, and capture portraits and people; create my own world, rather than dictate how others should operate their world.

I began communicating more frequently with designers to capture their collection themes then began testing on models I would discover on Instagram and sometimes on the street. Fortunately it led me to being published in fashion publications and afforded me the opportunity to continue my passion.

What’s 2020 looking like for you?

2020 is a vision. 2020 is achieving all the goals/dreams with  pure, intentional focus and drive. I dream of collaborating with as many legendary people as possible and the main priority is as always to create as much as possible.

What concepts would you like to be working on?

I’m aiming for more luxury, Avant Garde fashion photography work because its a place where I would love to share my voice and ideas within. I also love doing commercial work because that is also a space that needs more minority voices and viewpoints.

3 Tips

What do you take with when you travel?

My cameras- one suitcase is just cameras and of course gotta have a couple ‘fits. A really good book that I probably will not have time to read and a journal, to write or at least be inspired to document and remember my ideas. Also, always, a couple different fragrances, I love to smell good.

What’s your favourite camera to use and why?

All my favorite cameras I do not own haha. Honestly, I think the Cannon 5D mark 4 was a major upgrade in my life last year and it’s been great for digital imaging. I use the Mamiya rz67 for the medium format portion of my work and that was a dream to be able to utilize,  thanks to Film Objektiv. I also had my 35mm trusty Olympus camera that I think could be my favourite camera, due to its ease and portability. It gets me really close to my subjects without being invasive.

How detail oriented are you? And why?

I’m supremely detail oriented but doesn’t mean I’m super organized. I can be detail-oriented to a fault, that it can hinder my organization and my promptness. However, for my work, its been extremely helpfully honing my eye towards specificity. Its grown from my experience with clients, publications, chats with other artists and my general will to portray my version of the world as precisely as possible.


Creative Direction: @bukunmigrace
Photography: @mindonmatter
Styling: @avecjulienne
Makeup: @thegmni
Hair: @beezybraidsza_
Models: @filah_lah_lah ; @tamaramoeng & @twiggymoli , @nadinecerffx

Interview by Sinqobile Sibiya: Instagram / website

Bukunmi Grace is a fashion photographer, creative director, stylist and contributor having worked for publications such as High Snobiety, Vogue, Teen Vogue, Popsugar, Complex, Galore, AfroPunk, NY Times and The Cut. For more of her work check out her official: website / instagram / twitter

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