Engal Sama

art direction, music videos, photos, cover art
In collaboration with Novart, Skale.

After the fire

The story of the people who have not written the history books, who have not built empires, and who have not aspired to lord over others is our history. To some extent, the nature of these times is that for this tale to be told, each of us have to make a commitment to it, to both write, speak and learn about the crevices and shadows in which the “winners” did not invade, and in which we live. This story of survival, of just getting by, is the story of the life of the vast (as in over 90%) majority of the people throughout time, throughout modern civilization. Survival is the only possibility when participation means what it does today.

La Ciguapa

“This is a Takeover: Researching Remix” Dutch Design Week (2019)
photos and installation funded by Stimuerlingsfonds

photos. Sydney Rahimtoola
photo mural design. Malik Saïb-Mezghiche
installation. Philip Astanova


*ongoing publication

written, developed by: Sydney Rahimtoola
documentation by: Sydney Rahimtoola
design: Malik Saïb-Mezghiche

In UNDO, Sydney Rahimtoola identifies the dilemmas present in the representation of black and brown people (POC) in photography. These dilemmas are a “primitive” visual language present in our imagination concerning POC, hindering our experience with reading visual content. “Primitive” identifiers in images have historically been used to harmfully categorize, thus marginalize black and brown people. Sydney Rahimtoola go in depth with how and why these “primitive” identifiers were birthed, and how it remains in our consciousness, using the colonial past as evidence. Most importantly, Sydney Rahimtoola reflect how black and brown artists use their creative agency to reclaim and re-narrate these identifiers.
The key elements to demonstrate these points is formulated with an in-depth analysis to J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere’s Hairstyles archive. Through this archive, Sydney Rahimtoola conclude how J.D. ‘Okhai uses photography to maintain agency and ownership to his country’s hair culture in Nigeria, and the urgency for us as an audience to hold ourselves accountable from identifying his content with primitive identifiers.
Keeping hair as the focus point, Sydney Rahimtoola continue to apply how black and brown artists today resist these stereotyped implications using image and black folklore as tools of reclamation. These tools deal with how POC signify and communicate using hair, and how this means resistance and necessity for the sake of their self expression and identity. It includes: Black Twitter, “ratchet” culture, memes, and black queer culture.

The design took its shape as a series of colorful, gradient backgrounds matched with research texts co-existing alongside an visual archive from online of hair styles, memes, and video stills.


*ongoing collaboration
publication design for Leyla-Nour Benouniche's graduation thesis.