Stephanie Nnamani, also known as Teff Theory, is a self-taught Nigerian visual artist and writer who uses her work to redefine the cultural memory of African identity. In 2009, Stephanie launched her creative journey when she began creating intimate self-portraiture that served as an emotional and spiritual portrayal of her ever-evolving, colorful, and layered identity as an African woman. Since then, her career as a creative has grown into working as an editorial and documentary photographer whose images continue to showcase a modern and eclectic version of African identity.
Stephanie grew up in Enugu, Nigeria, then with her family, she emigrated to the United Kingdom and finally, to the United States. Being a first-generation immigrant plays a huge role in how she defines herself in her photography, as well as how she communicates her personal narrative. Stephanie began taking self-portraits as a means to document her presence, the way she lives and how she constantly grows as a multifaceted woman in America, using her photography to assert and further empower her own existence as an African woman. In her work, Stephanie explores her own personal identity, representation, and self-expression and, in the process, speaks to the cultural depiction of African people.
In her work, Stephanie artfully captures the various personalities of African identity and reconstructs how they are considered in Western society. Her images are striking and eye-catching, thanks to her use of color as a way to visually communicate personal and cultural narratives. To Stephanie, color serves as a means to express both history and emotion. Her attention to detail, along with a careful eye for aesthetics, carefully communicate raw emotion and a deep sense of spirituality derived from her own personal experiences.
Stephanie has been recognized by the American Illustration and American Photography awards for her work entitled “The Black Victorian” (2017), which addresses the lack of representation of Black women in the Victorian era. She has also been commissioned by Getty Images to showcase her work, “Coronation of The Kin” (2018), a visual depiction of the contrasting ideas of unity within African families.
In this episode of ‘My Folklore’, we sat down with Stephanie Nnamani in her studio to learn more about her work, her creative inspirations, and the projects she is currently working on. Find the video and excerpts from our interview below.
“My sister once described me as a visual architect, which I really love because it is just beautiful. I like the idea of building things and creating things from scratch and breathing life into them.”
“I enjoy stories that expand the ability to translate culture for yourself and the reason being; I come from a culture that is very much traditional and conservative in terms of how it teaches us to present ourselves and to exist in the world.”
“What attracts me to self-portraits is the ability to essentially give birth to yourself in the process and also embrace the different versions of yourself as they come. For me, I think the practice of self-portraits has this tradition of being very staged and you have to be able to create a story when in most moments you are the story.”
“Being able to tell stories that allow me to be loud and to be present and to be felt, not just seen because I feel like that is such a misuse of energy. It is very important to me in terms of, not just how I tell my own story but how I capture an individual.”
“This is the first moment in history where we are the ones with the cameras in our hands, even a selfie from someone, that is agency; for someone like me knowing what it means to tell my own story.”
“I am working on a project where I am translating some of my graphic art into actual paintings and it is a really beautiful practice to just better fine-tune my eye to the colors that I gravitate towards.”