Art & Culture / Beauty

Derrick Kakembo’s Black History Month Cultural Guide

Fresh off the back of his month-long takeover, the photographer and creative director gives us the lowdown on some of his favourite music, literature and cinema picks.

Last October, when photographer and creative director Derrick Kakembo took over our VERO account with a beauty story inspired by Black proms and beauty queens, it turned out to be one of our favourite stories of the year. 

We knew we wanted to work with Derrick again, so we invited him back for a special US Black History Month Takeover. So, over the past four weeks, Derrick has debuted a sci-fi-themed, intergalactic beauty story inspired by Star Trek’s Nyota Uhura to our VERO followers. Full of sparkling makeup and strong silhouettes, it’s a reminder that sometimes the stratosphere, not the sky, is the limit.  Alongside his images, Derrick has also been sharing some of his favourite books, films and music exploring the Black experience. 

As he now signs off, we caught up with Derrick to delve deeper into his inspirations and to hear the full details of his Black History Month cultural guide. 


Great to speak to you again Derrick! To begin, what were your inspirations for your Black History Month beauty story? 

Futuristic or sci-fi. I came across this fictional character called Nyota Uhura from StarTek. The original actress Nichelle Nichols is the ultimate epitome of beauty and elegance and must have meant so much to people that grew up watching her on-screen every week.  That inspired me to create a universe with these intricate characters.


For Black History Month you’ve curated a cultural guide for our VERO followers, let’s start with the cinematic portion. What films by Black directors or films exploring Blackness have been particularly influential for your creative practice?

She’s Gotta Have it by Spike Lee, Boyz n the Hood by John Singleton, Lemonade by Beyoncé, Get Out by Jordan Peele, Moonlight by Barry Jenkins, Omo Daada by Tomisin Adepeju, We Love Moses by Dionne Edwards, Atlantics by Mati Diop, Girlhood by Céline Sciamma, Tsotsi by Gavin Hood, Osuofia In London, starring Nkem Owoh and directed by Kinglsey Ogoro, and Rafiki by Wanuri Kahiu. Also, director Koby Adom. He is my friend, a naturally talented storyteller and every now and then gives me great gems. Watch out for his name.

Now let’s hit the books! What books by Black authors would you recommend our readers check out?

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, this book is genius, a very intriguing and interesting exploration of equality. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, which is filled with great, unique stories and characters. A Piece of Cake: A Memoir by Cupcake Brown, a heart-wrenching true story. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-lodge, an insightful, well researched and educative read. Black Privilege by Charlemagne Tha God. A good memoir and great inspiration for learning to embrace your identity and voice. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, an existentialist and fascinating take on visibility in America.


Finally, what albums or songs by Black musicians have been particularly important to you?

For songs: “Tuliyambala Engule” by Bobi Wine, “Namagembe” by Madox Ssemanda Sematimba, “Talkin the Hardest” by Giggs, “Vulindlela” by Brenda Fassie and “Nfunda n’Omubi” by Joanita Kawalya & Afrigo Band.

For albums: J Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive, Kendrick Lamar’s  Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, Jay-Z’s The Black Album and also 4:44, Beyoncé’s I Am… Sasha Fierce and 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ 


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26 February 2021