Photos
"The Astral." Photo by Mikael Owunna.

This Photo Series Is a Much-Needed Counter to Violent Images of the Black Body

"Infinite Essence" is Nigerian-American photographer Mikael Owunna's response to the one-dimensional narrative we tend to see of the black body.

This beautiful, thought-provoking photo series affirms what we already know—that the black body is magical, no matter what odds are against us.

Nigerian-American photographer, Mikael Owunna, touched base with OkayAfrica to share his new photo series, Infinite Essence. The series is Owunna's response to America's issue of police brutality, like the murders of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile and Walter Scott, and the viral and violent images of the dead black body we've seen as a result.

"It has become frighteningly routine to turn on the television or log onto Facebook and see a video or image of a black person either dead or dying, like images of Africans dying in the Mediterranean," Owunna says.

"With this series, I work to counter these one-dimensional narratives of the black body as a site of death and destruction with imagery capturing what I see in my friends, family and community—love, joy, and ultimately, magic."

Owunna worked on Infinite Essence for the past year, and says his creative process began with a feeling. As he notes further, it's was a process of trial and error.

"I was beginning to explore my own spirituality and journey and learning about how black, queer and trans people in particular were respected for their magical abilities in many pre-colonial African societies. I was meditating on this idea of magic and how I can capture that in my work, harkening back to the 'Final Fantasy' video games and anime series I grew up on. How could I capture all of this? I did two pretty disastrous test shoots using long exposures and lights, that did nothing for me artistically.

It had none of the feeling I was looking for. So I went back to the drawing board. I pulled up Google image search results of magic in Final Fantasy and kept scrolling and scrolling and staring at images that had that emotional tug, that spiritual capture of magic and transcendence that I so wanted to bring into the work. As I was staring at the works, a voice in my head told me glow in the dark paints, and then from looking at that I found the world of UV photography. As soon as I saw some sample works in that space, I knew that was the direction the project would go and it was all steam ahead."

Shooting this series was the first time Owunna collaborated with makeup artists Karla Grifith-Burns and Davone Goins to bring his vision to life. "It was powerful and inspirational and brought so much structure to my feeling and thought," he says.

Owunna settled on the name of his series after reading about Odinani, the Igbo traditional belief system.

"Seeking to understand the basics of that, I came across brilliant writing by Chinua Achebe wherein he used the phrase 'infinite essence' and that clicked everything around it," he says. "When I can name something, it brings it to life in my head in stunning color."

Click through the slideshow below view Owunna's series, Infinite Essence. Read his artist statement for the project, where he speaks more in depth of Achebe's work on infinite essence here. The series is also on display at Owunna's solo exhibition at Montréal's Never Apart Gallery from today until April 7, 2018.

"The Astral." Photo by Mikael Owunna.

Video
Photo: Sipho the Gift.

Watch Sipho the Gift's New Music Video for 'Hold Up'

The talented South African MC drops a vibrant visual for his latest single.

Sipho the Gift is the budding South African rapper who is known for his bold and thought-provoking lyricism.

He just released the music video for "Hold Up," his groovy new single.

"It's a song about young love and I wanted that to translate through to the visuals by telling a love story," he tells us.

Shot in Cape Town by Jasyn Howes with the help of VideoCartel, this video captures the subtle joys of youth and romance.

Check out Sipho the Gift's new music video for "Hold Up" below.

You can also watch the music video in full over at iTunes.

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News Brief

A Film Based on a Novel by Acclaimed Kenyan Author Ngugi wa Thiong'o Is In the Works

Nollywood director Kunle Afolayan is developing Ngugi's novel "Matigari" with Kenyan and South African filmmakers.

A novel by Kenya's own Ngugi wa Thiong'o is being adapted to a film, Brittle Paper reports.

Nollywood director Kunle Afolayan shared at the Africa Movie Academy Awards that Ngugi's 1987 work, Matigari, is in development with Kenyan and South African filmmakers, who have yet to be revealed.

Keep reading... Show less
Music
Wizkid at Gidi Fest 2018. Photo: Tej/Gidi Culture Festival.

Listen to Wizkid's Catchy New Track 'Gucci Snake' Featuring Slimcase

The highly anticipated track is finally here.

Wizkid has had a huge year, dropping a number of singles and unforgettable features, but he's not done yet.

Today, the Nigerian megastar has dropped the much-talked about single "Gucci Snake" featuring fellow Naija artist Slimcase. Wizkid had been teasing the highly-anticipated song throughout the year and it's finally here for fans to enjoy.

"Gucci Snake," is a catchy jam that sees Wizkid bragging over upbeat production. It's a departure from the mid-tempo vibes of many of his more recent singles like "Fever" and "Master Groove," which he released last month. This one is sure to be on rotation at all the parties as the holidays approach.

Early this month, the artist appeared on two tracks from star producer Metro Boomin's latest album, and according to the producer, we can expect more music from the two of them in the near future, which means we have even more Starboy to look forward to.

For now, listen to "Gucci Snake" below.

Wizkid – Gucci Snake Ft. Slimcase youtu.be


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