Inspired by Black proms and pageants, the director and photographer unveils a sumptuous new beauty story and answers our burning questions.
With a unique vision and passion for creativity in all its forms, Derrick Kakembo’s work is uncompromising, complex and meaningful. His latest work, a beauty story created as part of his VERO takeover, his no exception. Inspired by director Channing Godfrey Peoples’ critically acclaimed new film Miss Juneteenth (still in cinemas, if you want to catch it) Derrick tells the story of a Black pageant or prom via sumptuous visuals.
We caught up with the multidisciplinary creative to learn more and to ask about his work with Reform The Funk, the photographers who inspire him and his hopes for the future.
What is your creative background?
I’m one of those people that knew from a young age that I was going to have a career in the arts. I was very lucky that my mum never really discouraged it and, throughout my education, I always studied art and design. After university, I assisted different photographers for a while before purely focusing on my own projects. My main practice now is photography and filmmaking though I’m constantly involved and engaged in different types of creative endeavours.
What inspires you as a creative and image-maker?
In my personal work, I love to study, research and explore themes and concepts around the notion and experience of Blackness. This could be anything from creating a portraits series, an editorial shoot, a documentary, a short film or a music video. I feel blessed because I get to work in a multi-disciplinary way to experience or experiment with different ideas across varying mediums. The themes and stories I explore across my work often stay the same.
Tell us about your recent collaborative beauty story with HUNGER and VERO. What was the concept and what were the inspirations that fed into it?
I watched this film in the cinema the other day called Miss Juneteenth, it’s about a former beauty queen preparing her rebellious teenage daughter for the “Miss Juneteenth” pageant. l left feeling inspired and wanted to create an editorial story which touched on the fashion, aesthetics and presentation of Black proms and beauty pageants. I love Black hair, hair is so spiritual in the Black community, so for this beauty shoot, I decided to use that as a starting point. Prom is such a significant event; you get to dress up and celebrate this monumental time in your life. I wanted our characters to be proud, beautiful, regal, expressive and also keen to break the rules of what’s expected. In this universe, our prom, hair is at the centre of extravagance and elegance. People come from far away to witness and be in the presence of these curated showpieces.
Who are the photographers you particularly admire?
So many. I’m often inspired by some of the pioneers like Malicki Sidibe to Viviane Sassen. I also love looking at my fellow peers’ work, people like Campbell Addy, Nadine Ijewere, Christina Ebenezer, Philipp Raheem, Ejatu Shaw, Kim Lang and so on. For example, take my friend Kim Lang, he is such a dope photographer, constantly shooting, he loves photography and it’s inspiring being around that energy. I admire his passion and desire to create new images every day.
Can you tell us more about your work with Reform The Funk?
Of course, Reform The Funk is a platform I created after being frustrated with how mainstream media and outlets were documenting our stories. We wanted to be in charge of how our unique identities, ideas and narratives were being projected, archived and documented. In its essence, the mission was to create a platform that delivers in-depth content and experiences which can serve as a cultural reference for ideas and inspiration.
The atmosphere for people working in the arts is particularly hostile at the moment – what is your advice to young creatives?
To all my young creatives, stay focused and believe in the process. Sometimes it takes a while to get going. It sounds cheesy but you do have to put in the hours, a lot of times you will find yourself going on this wild rollercoaster journey, avoid chasing clout or viral moments, focus on creating work that will resonate with people. Look for fellow creatives that think, look and make work similar to your desired taste. Grow and nurture a network of people from your friend’s group and watch it flourish. And most importantly cherish the process.
Where are you based? What are your favourite spots in your local area?
I’m based in Woolwich, SE18. If you’re ever down in there, check out this Black-owned Somalian chicken shop called Woolwich Grill (also formerly known as RFC), definitely one of my favourite local spots. It’s been going there for more than ten years now. It has a really good community spirit, the manager-owner also runs a Youth Club and scheme called B Young Stars that supports and inspires young people.
How do you unwind?
Playing football on Sunday evenings is my go-to go break away from the creative world and mindset.
What books or films would you recommend?
I would recommend watching a film called Girlhood by Céline Sciamma and Atlantics by Senegalese-French director Mati Diop. Both are amazing unique stories centred around friendship, love and navigating life. In terms of books, I last read Girl, Woman, Other. It’s a great book with interesting characters throughout. Check out Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, if you’re a Nike fan then you will love his journey.
What’s next for you?
Currently, working on personal projects, shooting editorials, and creating and developing interesting films, as well as running Reform The Funk as the Head of Content.
What are your hopes for the future?
To continue creating work that resonates with people. And, also, to be around wonderful individuals who support and push each other to be better storytellers and image-makers.
Want to know more about Derrick’s takeover? Head to VERO
VERO is an authentic social network — no ads, no algorithms, just great content. Go to vero.co to sign up and follow @hungermagazine for more exclusive content and to catch Derrick’s beauty takeover, which runs until 23 October.
16 October 2020