To be called an Osu is to be deemed inferior, not worthy of respect nor regard, to be ostracised, to be neglected in matters that directly or indirectly affect you, to be voiceless.
The Osu system is an ancient Igbo traditional system. According to Wikipedia, the origin of the Osu caste system can be traced back to the era when the Igbo city-states were managed by the laws of the earth. The deity, known as Ala, provided rules that must be obeyed by the people so that the nation would be blessed to prosper in the territory given to them by Chukwu, the Supreme God. Offenders who were found guilty of great abominations were sent out of the community so as to avoid the anger of the Deity, and to prevent the spread of abomination amongst themselves. These outcasts were identified as Osu.
In these contemporary times, to be different from the social normal is to be an Osu. To be sepia in this black and white, rigid world is to be cast aside. These photographs represent my belief that everyone should have the chance or better still the right to express themselves whichever way they choose. With these photographs I try to tell the story in my own way, because I know what it feels like to be ostracised, I know what it feels like to be different, and I want people like me to feel seen, I want when people see these images they get a glimpse into what it feels like to be Osu, and that they keep pushing to have a voice even when they’re being silenced.
Rachel Seidu is a Nigerian-Ghanaian photographer working out of Benin City, Nigeria. With family and roots in her hometown of Lagos, Seidu has been practicing photography professionally for the past two years and is currently also a student. As a true creative, while photography is currently her main mode of expression, what’s most striking about her photography work is her “up close and personal” capturing of her subjects. Most of her work is captured in black and white and often showcases the usage of double exposure editing.