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Sin(is)ter, An Editorial Drawing on Inspiration Everywhere From American Pyscho and Shakespeare to Anime and Alexander McQueen

by Josie Reaney

Words struggle to do justice for Maga Halilu, creatively known as ‘magawtf’, a stylist and art director based in Abuja, Nigeria. His projects come across as nothing short of fearless. 

His name is on the rise, and based on this latest editorial, there will be no signs of slowing. A University of Derby graduate with an already fiercely impressive back catalogue, his work has been known to tackle broad social topics, from Nigeria’s wealth disparity (see his ‘Housewives of the Realm’ project) to highly personal works, most notably, ‘Ode to ‘86’, a love letter to his parents. 

His latest work, ‘Sin(is)ter’, presents a captivating narrative following two sisters, one fuelled by love, the other consumed with envy. The foreboding is felt from the start as we get the first glimpse of our Machiavellian sister. She poses in a stylish imitation of Warhol’s iconic Polaroids, the project’s first nod to a niche corner of pop culture. 

Maga draws inspiration from a broad and sometimes surprising range of influences. This is a careful curation executed with confidence. As the visual narrative progresses, we see nods to The Weeknd, American Psycho, anime and Alexander McQueen. This selection is undoubtedly intentional in its pop culture diversity, with Maga harnessing each reference to display this narrative of deception and envy. 

The editorial builds to its Shakespearian-esque betrayal. We see the two sisters face to face, one gifting a rose, the other with a sword behind her back. The stylistic choice here is striking. The sister offering her love stands with earnestness and vulnerability, only in her underwear. In contrast, the reference to the anime character ‘Canary’ hallmarks our villain’s styling, suited and armed with a cool androgyny. 

The editorial moves to the climax of the betrayal, with a direct nod to The Weeknds, In Your Eyes music video. Callous and stylish, the sister holds her gory trophy. 

We watch as the victor embraces her title as a murderess, mirroring Patrick Bateman of American Psycho, clad in white rubber gloves with a cool stare. Her suit nods to the corporate aesthetic immaculately presented in American Psychos’ use of 1980s office style and designer collaborations. Maga certainly has his finger on the pulse here, with fashion currently seeing a resurgence in this trend.

Much like Bateman, this work is as camp as it is sinister. A knowingly stylish malevolence. Maga tells the tale of sisterly betrayal with a fashionable wink. We see this again with Magas’s allusion to Alexander McQueen. The sister smokes a cigarette over the scull, looking nonchalantly into the camera.

Each reference is purposeful. Each photograph is stylistically perfect. This greyscale tale of sisterly betrayal is cold yet fiercely stylish, with Maga projecting a confident artistic vision in his work.

A friend looked over my shoulder as I was browsing the editorial. She raised her eyebrows in admiration and uttered to no one in particular; “God, that’s cool.” 

Though I’ve tried, I’m not sure I can put it better myself. 

Maga’s work is trendy, self-assured, and fun. Of course, serious overtones remain a prominent theme throughout his work, with this editorial being no exception. Still, it is the thought and intention with which he does it that creates such exceptionally layered projects. ‘Sin(is)ter’ is alluring and unafraid (Patrick Bateman, eat your heart out!). Watching Magas’s creative evolution will be exciting wherever it may take him.

Edited by Emily Duff

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