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"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.

"Carefree Timewalker." Photo by Mikael Owunna.

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Photo by A Kid Named Trav

Hair By Susy and OkayAfrica Present 'Lady,' a Celebration of Women, Hair and Individuality

We speak with hair artist Susy Oludele about her coffee table book "Lady," ahead of its upcoming exhibit at Okay Space.

Lady is the upcoming coffee book by Brooklyn-based celebrity hairstylist and owner of Hair by Susy, Susy Oludele—also known as African Creature—that will celebrate black hair in all of its beautiful complexity.

The Nigerian-American hair artist was inspired by the Fela Kuti classic by the same name when she envisioned the project—reclaiming the title as a symbol for unbridled artistic expression and bold, feminine energy. Within its pages, you'll find stunning curated images and storytelling that offer a medley of visual inspiration.

Digital copies of the book are available now for pre-order and physical copies of Lady will be available on November 8th (Susy's Birthday!), followed by an interactive exhibit at Okay Space on November 10. The event will explore African hair in the workplace with the critical goal of "empowering, inspiring, and engaging a diverse audience in the importance of representation, identity, and individuality." You can RSVP for the event here.

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Anatii. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Medicine For The Soul: Anatii Finds His Sound on His Soothing New Album ‘Iyeza’

Iyeza is the sound of a day turning into a gorgeous twilight.

Iyeza is a masterpiece. It's music for the soul, with Anatii providing an intensely healing listen, which is fitting, considering the album title literally means "medicine" or "anti-dote."

The album contains percussion, chants, guitars, bass lines and melodies associated with an array of sounds. There are elements of everything from gospel, maskandi and mbhaqanga to hints of Afropop and hip-hop. Anatii follows the path taken by South African artist such as Mashayabhuqe KaMamba, Sjava, Mlindo The Vocalist and Bongeziwe Mabandla in fusing elements of traditional South African music with newer sounds.

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Black Twitter's Reactions To Meghan Markle & Prince Harry's #RoyalBaby Announcement Are Too Funny

Congrats are in order, but first to Black Twitter for continuing to hold it down with the jokes.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, the Duchess and Duke of Sussex, have been the internet's brief moment of mindless, happy news since they became engaged, then married earlier this year.

Kensington Palace took to Twitter again this morning to announce that the couple will be expecting their first bundle of joy next spring.

Since the LA-native and former star of Suits made her way into the royal family, Black Twitter has had no shame sharing their hilarious thoughts and commentary, and the pregnancy announcement has been no different.

Have a laugh and take a look at some of our favorite reactions from them below.

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