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Nigeria's First Superhero: Keziah Jones Is 'Captain Rugged'

Behind the scenes of Nigerian Keziah Jones' video for "Afronewave," the first single of his upcoming 'Captain Rugged,' LP.


Keziah Jones has just launched the teaser video for "Afronewave," the first single off the upcoming Captain Rugged. It's a quick-paced funk track with a touch of afro-psychedelia from Keziah's 6th studio album, to be released November 4 worldwide.

The song and album unveil Keziah's secret alter ego in the form of a Nigerian superhero, born and raised amidst the grit and hustle of Lagos city — one of the continent's most populous and notorious cities.

Captain Rugged is a concept album to be sold along with a graphic novel chronicling Rugged's quixotic adventures thoughout the city. From his birth place in Makoko, the Nigerian slum version of Venice — an illegal water settlement on stilts within the Lagos lagoon — through the hectic bus stations of Obalende. The teaser clip also shows Paris-based, Nigerian-born street artist Native Maqari sketching scenes on-the-go, situating a comic book version of Captain Rugged in his element around the busy city.

The album graphics were the work of renowned Lagos-based painter and photographer Kelechi Amadi-Obi. He captures the journey of Rugged out and about in the busy marketplaces of Lagos — hanging out of public buses and cruising in his Ruggedmobile-rocketship while also revealing to us Rugged's secret penthouse lair atop an abandoned 17 story building in the heart of Lagos Island.

The "Afronewave" music video, dropping soon, was directed by New York-based photographer and filmmaker Andrew Dosunmu, known for his screen work on Restless City and Mother of George winner of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival Cinematography Award. He directed Keziah's video for "Long Distance Love" featuring Nneka in 2009 and has also done videos for Talib Kweli, Common, Maxwell, Angie Stone and Issac Hayes. The official vid for "Afronewave" premieres later on this month so watch this space and head here for a free download of "Afronewave."

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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.

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