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Joy: An International Women's Day Celebration

International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8 to highlight and celebrate the achievements of women all over the world. To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, I am spotlighting the women in my life through portraits using joy as a focus.

According to The Oxford dictionary, joy is “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness” and as an artist, my work is mostly inspired by joy. I am able to be my best self and create when I am joyful. I love to document people being joyful, feeling joyful, being calm and confident in their own bodies and overall just having a great time. 

Often times during International women’s month, women are mostly spoken about in terms of strength, perseverance and other similar adjectives and the purpose of this project is to show women in another light other than being strong and enduring. 

For this project, I made studio portraits of my mom, my sister, my cousins, my aunts, my friends and my friend’s moms. I also documented the different relationships between these women; friendship, sisterhood, mother-daughter. During these sessions, we spoke about what joy means to them and their answers are shared in this project.

Joy to me is ease, it’s the feeling I get when I dress up and feel beautiful, it is reading a really amazing book, it is time spent with my friends and my loved ones; Joy to me is listening to the sound of waves at the beach, it is time spent with myself and my hobbies; Joy is a work free day spent doing whatever I choose to do. Joy to me is creating beautiful and excellent work, it is embracing myself wholly and celebrating myself.

What does joy mean to you?


Photographer: Aisha Ife

These women are wearing their own clothes and jewellery and my only prompt to them was to show up looking beautiful and feeling comfortable.

The participants and their relationships to me:
Adekemi and Ibukun Goriola – my mom and my sister.
Ariyike, Oluwaseeto and Titi – my friends.
Enoabasi – my friend.
Olufunke and Oluwatobiloba Ogunwomoju – My friend’s mom and my friend.
Kamnelechukwu – my friend.
Rafi – my friend.
Adeola – my maternal aunt.
Oluwatoyin Sadiq and Omowunmi King – my friend’s mom and her sister.
Laide – my friend.
Temitope and Damilare – my cousins.
Muyibat Goriola – my paternal aunt.

Adekemi and Ibukun

“Joy to me is peace of mind, it is reading a really interesting book, it is moments of solitude spent watching my favourite movies on youtube. I love caring for my family and I feel a lot of joy when my children and husband are happy. I also feel very joyful when I have money and I make a lot of sales in my shop!” – Adekemi

“Joy means a lot of things to me, one of them is being at peace with myself, being at peace with everything that concerns me; my mental health and my emotional state of mind etc. Joy to me is listening to good music and creating a full dance concert in my head. Joy to me is being around my dog and wondering why he adores me so much. Joy to me is being in love and being loved right back with the perfect amount of energy. Joy is being around my family and feeling safe.” – Ibukun

Ariyike, Oluwaseeto, Titi (Friends)

“Joy for me is a choice. I make a conscious choice to hold on to the hope that better days are coming. My joy comes from an assurance that there’s more to whatever I am feeling in the moment and I choose to create my own joy. Reading my bible gives me joy, reading books gives me joy, eating good food gives me joy.” – Ariyike

“Joy to me is doing good work, making myself proud, looking back and acknowledging my growth. It is quality time and belly laughs with the people I love. It is finding and buying something I’ve always wanted, it is dancing (very badly) to my favourite songs. Joy is what I feel in God’s presence.” – Oluwaseeto

“To me, Joy is a fruit of the spirit and I’m fully reliant on God’s promise to me that I have joy. To feel joyful, I pray and I rely on God. I rely on the assurance that God has given me that my efforts on earth are not in vain.

Joy is also spending time with the people I have chosen to love and binge watching my favourite shows; Avatar: The last airbender and Brooklyn 99.” – Titi



“Joy is when there’s a feeling of calm in my core. That feeling is akin to when one is flying and the plane gets to that sweet spot that the engines don’t need to work overtime and there’s just gliding, no turbulence. The cabin is quiet save for the almost silent hum, and for a moment it feels as though the flight is stationary.
When there’s joy, that’s how I feel except it’s more grounded and like it’s seeping out of my pores.

To feel joy, I listen to the sound of people existing, I talk to my mother and eldest sister, I spend time alone reading a book or listening to music, I go out or eat good food with my friends, I have sleepovers with my friends and I dance.”

Olufunke and Oluwatobiloba

“I feel joyful when I see my daughter doing well. Her graduation from the university was a very joyful day for me and it is one of my most memorable moments yet. Joy is having money and counting money, I feel joyful when I have money and I’m able to take care of my needs.” – Olufunke

“Joy is the satisfaction I get from doing a good job. It is also making people happy, especially my friends, and family. Joy is also eating really good food!” – Oluwatobiloba


“I think that joy for me is being able to embrace the duality of what it means to be a human being. It is holding space for our capacity to feel sadness while still looking out for the bright spots that exist both within and outside us.

To feel joy, I dance, I make playlists and videos. I go into nature to remind myself that I belong in this world and that I matter. I also spend time with people who love me and I cook.”


“Joy to me is when I’m being shown that I matter. I am usually happy when i’m in the midst of friends and family.
It’s realising that these people choose me and are showing me in in different ways that they will go to the moon and back to show me that they are for me.

I enjoy good food to feel joy. I just decide to cook one meal I have been looking at on the internet and serve myself properly and eat with wine or juice.”


“Joy simply means “Peace Of Mind “ to me. Joy is a natural feeling that gives me contentment once I’m at peace with everyone around me. So I surround myself with people that are supportive and not those that will deprive me of my joy. I feel joyful when I stay in touch or hang out with family and my friends.”

Oluwatoyin and Omowunmi (Sisters)

“Joy to me is love. It comes from within, it comes from doing what I love. I derive joy from doing God’s work. I’m a Sunday school teacher and I get a lot of joy from imparting knowledge to the children and spending time with them.” – Oluwatoyin

“Joy means a lot to me, when you have joy, you’ll shine and glow. Joy to me is also seeing my children and my loved ones happy.” – Omowunmi


“I would say from a completely honest place that joy for me is ease. It may seem cliche, but it signifies the kind of life I envision for myself. With ease in my life, I can show love to myself and to my loved ones. When I am at ease, I am at my best. Mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically. One of my biggest goals in life is to be able to access everything that I need and want with ease.

To feel joy, sometimes it’s as simple as launching Netflix or buying myself a present. Other times, it may be picking up the phone to speak with my sisters. Completing a task also brings me joy on occasion. Recently, I returned to Qur’an memorisation classes and it has frankly been one of the best decisions I have made in a while. It brings me a lot of joy.”

Temitope and Damilare (Sisters)

“God is joy to me! He is joy Himself. Thinking of how He came through for me at my darkest days gives me unspeakable joy.
My kids give me joy, their presence, their tiny feet, their innocent smiles and tiniest voices waking me up everyday to the call of motherhood.
Dancing gives me joy! Rendering a helping hand gives me joy! Brightening up another person’s day gives me joy! Providing answers to my kids’ curiosity gives me joy! (I feel like a Superwoman)” – Temitope

“Joy to me is when I have peace of mind, good health and when my aspirations are fulfilled. My passion for my work gives me a lot of joy. I feel joyful when I achieve my goals, when my clients love the cakes I bake. My kids give me a lot of joy, I feel joyful when they perform well at school and I feel joyful by spending time with them.” – Damilare

Muyibat Goriola

Inú mi má ń dùn bí n bá ti rí àwọn ọ̀rẹ́ mi, àwọn ọmọ mi àti gbogbo àwọn olólùfẹ́ mi. Ó má ń jẹ́ nnkan ìdùnnú fún mi tí àwọn ọmọ mi bá ń ṣoríire àti àwọn ọmọ àwọn ẹ̀gbọ́n àti àbúrò mi.

I’m happy when I see my friends, my children and my loved ones. It makes me happy to see my children succeed as well as my siblings’ children.”

Adeola and Adekemi (Sisters)