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About the Photographer
United Kingdom, b. 1988
Ngadi Smart documents Black sensuality and culture with a particular aim to show, “as many representations of African people, and what it means to be African.” The protagonists in her The Queens of Babi series are a young, gold-flecked drag performer affectionately known as “Britney Spears” and rhinestone-adorned associate “Baba.” These two locally award-wining, stunning figures are based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, and complement Smart’s wider photography portfolio. Smart frequently stages photographs in settings as diverse as natural greenery, private enclaves, and lush beaches. Describing her two Queens of Babi, Smart stated: “Both have ambitions that reach beyond drag. Britney wants to be a model and an actress, be an international drag queen, have her own life and freedom to do what she wants, and most importantly, be proud of the life she leads. Baba would like to own a fashion company, start a family, and work in the entertainment industry. Regular desires, that would normally be attainable to any person whose gender and identity would be deemed ‘acceptable’ to carry these out within society’s confines.” Smart lives in Abidjan and London, and her family heritage is of Sierra Leone. In addition to natural settings, she is known for photographs and portraiture taken in bustling cities and public streets, with a keen eye on fashion and style. Her work has been included in exhibitions at Yale University, New Haven, CT; Photoville Festival, Brooklyn, NY; and the Queer Festival Heidelberg, among many others.