See inside Wales Bonner’s world, shot by an era-defining photographer


This story was originally published in iD’s The Earthrise Issue. Summer 368, 2022. Order a copy here.

Fashion designer and artist Grace Wales Bonner’s work has a poetic continuity.Everything from her fashion presentations and publications to her exhibitions A new dream time At the 2018 Serpentine Gallery – present in a single burst of languages ​​bound between the same two covers.

Together they form an abstract geography, a journey across the Indian Ocean in the 16th century, a collar or sleeve of a painting, a work by Gary Fisher or Ben Okli, and the sounds of a walk in southeast London. increase. They drift to the same sea with each other. This is a form of storytelling that collects material from everywhere in the trade winds.

For her SS22 presentation Volta JazzGrace turned to the Bobo-Dioulasso music and culture of the post-revolutionary Bobo-Dioulasso, the largest commercial city in Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta) in the 1960s and 1970s. Specifically, it is the work of the band Volta Jazz and the photographer Sanlé Sory, who recorded the nocturnal nature of their scene. For this collection, Grace envisioned poetic fiction that interacted with the artistic and cultural freedoms of the era. One took the rhythm of Volta Jazz and was animated by Welsh Bonner’s eight years of research and the black diaspora’s quest for art and culture.

Grace and I sat down to discuss her origins when iD published a selection of archived photographs with a newly commissioned portrait from the Sory of the Welsh Bonner SS22 collection. Volta Jazz The role of sound in presentations, collaboration, and her practice.

A flared person pointing in front of a floor with a thin pattern.

** So I asked some of our common friends what to ask you for today’s conversation. Everyone had the same reaction – they wanted to know: what has Grace read recently?
** This year I am serious about reading the Vedas. Reading everything is like my goal. Upanishads, then Dhammapada, Rigveda. It has become a kind of everyday habit, it’s great. Recently, there was a show at MoMA about post-independence architecture in India, so I got the catalog. It was very exciting.

** Recently, I’ve read a lot of artist and poet Etel Adnan. What I’m reading often sneaks into my work, whether I’m writing something, working in a movie, or the two are completely unrelated. Do you think this will happen to you when you are working? Did that happen at all while working on Volta Jazz?
** The collection was guided by music as an entry point. More abstractly, I’m always interested in the aesthetics of sound, trying to figure out how something sounds or how it feels, or how to transform it into clothing. increase. I’m interested in recordings, photo archives about what people look like and what we wore around the sound. That’s why I found Volta Jazz’s work interesting because it could be a record that expresses the sound of the times, or an aesthetic translation of it.

Red shorts, vest, trainer person in front of the clay wall.

** The photo contains traces of rhythm. This is not just a visual deposit, but a particular cut or drape can be a trace of the music that was being played when it happened.
**yes. I often use photo records to understand the sound. So a person like Terry Adkins has a lot of potential in what is created and gives me a sense of sound, which is very inspiring to me. I think I’m always interested in artists who have magical potential in what they create. So I think it revolved around how to perceive style and beauty through photo archives. Think about the style that appears in a more unconscious place. Also, I just look back on the image that is part of my subconscious or has built an understanding of style.

** I am impressed with the immediacy of this collection. It’s as if we’ve been doing research with you for years, and now it’s very specific wherever you took us in your work. But you can read it.
** I was working on this collection last year and I think I felt a little free. What I’ve done so far has made me feel free and playful, and I don’t have to do the same as before. What I’ve done is already showing the idea, so there are more possibilities and spaces to move forward in other ways. I think my idea is more future-oriented at this point.

Collage of 70's fashion boys.

** What you are saying is that in a particular film director, all films are part of the same fictional world, even if they are different stories, even if these characters do not move horizontally. During the movie that makes me think about how it seems to happen. I think so about Welsh Bonner. For those of us who have followed the brand and its stories and disciplines, I feel more and more part of the world. I started to register how the engagement with Lovers Rock, which I feel is linked to the work of Ben Okri and Ishmael Reed, and how the engagement with Volta Jazz continues. Did you first come across music and photography at Volta Jazz?
** I think it’s a photo. I first noticed Sory’s work, which recorded fashion and style, and then worked closely with him to make friends with someone who was a big music collector and record collector. Since Sory’s cousin was the founder of Volta Jazz, Sory naturally began to record music and nightlife. He got to know photography, but he also got to know the connection between photography and sound. I also think I’m really interested in archiving practices and handling archived music. The idea is to build an archive, a library or an institution. It was a bit of a clash with the particular interests I have.

** My writing acts as an archive note of what I’m reading. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to accept the idea that the value of what I’m writing lies in the act of putting things close to each other. The disparity of reading that produces some sort of archive or bookshelf. Writing is a way to organize extensive research and bring things that might otherwise be far apart closer to each other.
** I have nothing to do with it. I think I started to realize early on that making clothes and images can instantly convey something very deep or complex that people can feel. This is a very direct and accessible way of communicating. It’s not inviolable. It’s interesting how powerful it is to bring something into the context by communicating through clothing.

A collage of Welsh Bonner and a boy dressed in the 70's.

** Is nostalgia important to you?
** I don’t say nostalgic. But I think I see things in pieces of memory, text, or images. I’m stitching together pieces of memory of the world, and I think they have a lot of fluidity and breadth.

** One of the things that surprised me with the new Sory image shown here was that it wasn’t nostalgic at all. It’s completely modern. He doesn’t go back and try to reconstruct the style or context of the photo. It is shot in color. I found it to make his clothes feel deep and modern. They say something about now. What were these collaborations like?
** I think it’s very exciting the moment you start a conversation through collaboration with various people. You may be interested in the work of the collaborators, but by talking to them, you can present a wider world and more possibilities, and you can see it in different ways. increase. For example, I’m thinking of Ben Okri. Famished Road And this character, Spirit Child, Azaro, and the moment he’s moving through the market. That was what I was really interested in throughout the collection. But then talking to him, he’s very advanced from writing it, and he’s now thinking about something completely different.

A collage of Welsh Bonner and a boy dressed in the 70's.

** Digression is inevitable once you start a conversation.
** Conversations make the job very extensive, and it’s that I’m talking, and that I don’t have the only way to actually see something, and that I have space for diverse perspectives. I think it’s important to me. It challenges the preconceptions I may have and really inspires me. In that sense, I like to get out of my depths and interact with people who really respect my work. It makes me feel that I need to do a better job myself.

So it’s very exciting that Sory was working on this. And I was really fortunate to spend a lot of time on Sory’s archives. There are many unpublished materials, but here are some works I have never seen before. Sory is very practical and excited to work on this project and respond to images and ideas. Wow, I think he’s 79 years old now. What’s very interesting about this collaboration is that he asked me to address how he sees the Welsh Bonner character in his world. He corresponds to the casting and character types that are part of the Welsh Bonner language, which is inspired by his work. I find it very interesting because he shows where the connection between the two worlds is. That dialogue, or that kind of reflection or mirroring based on a particular commonality or commonality.

It creates a unique world, right? Now Sory feels very much part of the same world as the other people you were involved with many years ago. And they form their universe.

A collage of Welsh Bonner and a boy dressed in the 70's.
A photo of a young woman wearing a bandeau top, necklace, glasses and a metal headpiece.
Boy wearing a sleestaks T-shirt
A collage of Welsh Bonner and a boy dressed in the 70's.

Follow iD on Instagram and TikTok for more information on the new issue.


Photo Sunlessory
Models Issouf, Fadil, Fayçal, Cheick, Yacine, Ayouba
Production and Art Direction Esther Hien
Special thanks to Sanlé Sory, Clément Hien and Florent Mazzoleni
All Clothing Welsh Bonner, Trainer Welsh Bonner x Adidas Original

Archived images Sanlé Sory / Volta Photo (Bobo-Dioulasso), Tezeta (Bordeaux)

1’Regardez Moi Attentivement’, 1980 2’La Relève’, 1982
3’Je Suis dans le Coup’, 1980
4 “La Timidite”, 1971
5’Jeunesse Djombolai’, 2002
6 “Home Boy Bobo”, 2004
7’Impavide Fan de Bruce Lee’, 1974



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