Metal in Botswana, Stella Jean, and the emanation of joy

Daniele Tamagni

Daniele Tamagni (40) is an Italian photographer, based in Milan. His background is in art history, but a couple of years ago he turned to dedicate himself completely to photography. Over the past few years he has begun to document African communities worldwide, from Africa itself to Peckham in London, undertaking specific projects focusing on culture, religion, music, fashion and art. Tamagni is best known for his Gentlemen of Bacongo series, published in book form in 2009, which shows glorious portraits of sapeurs in the Bacongo suburb of Brazzaville in The Congo. He won a prize in the Arts and Entertainment Stories category in the World Press Photo Contest in 2011 and he’s also the winner of the International Center for Photography 2010 Infinity Award in fashion applied arts photography. His work has been exhibited worldwide and is become part of private and pub¬lic institutions and museum permanent collections among them; Lacma Los Angeles and Mocp Chi¬cago. Tamagni has continued to explore street style trends and the aesthetic of transformation in dif¬ferent contexts. This is evident in his latest books ‘Fashion Tribes / Global Style Battles’ published by Abrams /La Decouverte and Mtindo Rebranding Africa by Skira. Furthermore, Tamagni was a jury member for fashion fest in 2010 in De Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam with theme Sapeurs 


The fashion fest is all about awareness. What does awareness means to you? 
Awareness of each own identity; it means the personality expressed by each individual through the style.
And international fashion subcultures via documentary and staged photos - heavy metal rockers in Botswana, hipsters in Johannesburg, dandies in the Congo, female wrestlers in Bolivia, ‘bling bling’ youth in Cuba, punks in Burma, and models in Senegal.
What do you find inspiring in photography, fashion, art and design?
The creativity of people expressed through photography, fashion, art and design is often related.  What inspires me most is the attention to the changing of the society.  For example, during the 1990s, a heavy metal scene established itself in Botswana, uniting two seemingly incompatible spheres – Africa and heavy metal. This so-called Afrometals movement mixes classical elements of the international heavy metal scene – such as metal, black leather, and Metallica and Iron Maiden t-shirts – with western symbols and elements from Botswana’s tradition. 
         Fascinated by this mixture I wanted to portray the members of this movement in my Afrometals series. While some of them posed for the camera, others gave a direct insight into their lives: the photos showed them at concerts and amidst the Gabarone nightlife, enjoying drinks, beautiful clothes and music, revealing their apparent exoticism to a western eye. Given that the metal scene is mostly white in its countries of origin, it is hard for Europeans and North Americans to imagine that a movement dedicated to this music and lifestyle has emerged in Africa. However, the Afrometals do not simply copy the heavy metal lifestyle, but enrich it with many other facets. In my portraits I aimed to capture the depiction of a common ground, while simultaneously challenging viewing patterns and western expectations about youth culture in Botswana.
Which fashion designer you find inspiring?
Stella Jean, I think is really innovative. She is a Rome based fashion label with a cultural métissage of Italian-Haitian heritage. She is a special élan distinguishes young emerging fashion designer born in Rome of Caribbean origin, who brings to fashion lessons learned from her unique background.
What countries were most special for you to travel to? 
I would actually name three cities instead: London, Johannesburg and Nairobi. It’s where I’ve learned a lot about diversity in a multicultural context, and where I’ve explored emerging different street style trends. These cities showed me the beauty of transformation in different contexts. 
Can you tell us something about your latest work? 
In my photography I always try to be respectful of its subjects and cutting edge in its content. I dig into marginal street cultures and try to link up with the drop-outs; the ‘lost’ peoples, who look for identity and respect. My last book ‘Fashion Tribes’ is about identity and diversity in different cultural and geographical areas. For this book I tracked down and recorded some of the most surprising and colorful international fashion subcultures.  And I can tell you there’s a whole world out there away from the stomping of Adidas Superstars, artfully shorn jean hems and bare ankles on the cobbles of Columbia Road.
Each image in the book emanates joy – in life, in celebrating individualism and in being unafraid of being yourself, albeit within a defined subculture of others like you. That’s what makes the huge series feel so special, and forms a celebratory testament to fashion’s capacity for fun, wherever you are in the world.