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.

"Carefree Timewalker." Photo by Mikael Owunna.

News
Image via TONL.

Uganda Has Lost Millions of Internet Users as a Result of Its Controversial Social Media Tax

The infamous tax is effectually driving Ugandans off the internet.

The number of internet users in Uganda has declined significantly since the implementation of the highly-criticized tax on social media, which went into effect in July of last year.

While the government claimed that the tax would assist in raising government revenue and help "maintain the security of the country and extend electricity so that you people can enjoy more of social media, more often, more frequently," said Uganda's Finance Minister Matia Kasaija at the time. President Museveni also suggested that the tax would help "curb gossip" online.

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Cover art for Riky Rick's "You and I"

The 14 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Riky Rick, Mr Eazi, Moonchild Sanelly, Burna Boy, Blinky Bill, Niniola and more.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our Best Music of the Week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow OkayAfrica on Spotify and Apple Music to get immediate updates every week and read about some of our selections ahead.

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Literature
Image courtesy of Doubleday.

Oyinkan Braithwaite's 'My Sister the Serial Killer' Is the Lagos-Set Novel Rocking the Crime Thriller Genre

We speak with the Nigerian author about the success of her debut novel, and breaking the boundaries of "African Lit."

"I have always been drawn to dark topics," says Oyinkan Braithwaite, the 30-year-old Nigerian author behind the critical darling of a novel My Sister, the Serial Killer.

Her declaration helps explain the subject and title of her debut novel, which tells the story of Ayoola, a young woman who has developed a not-so-healthy habit of murdering her boyfriends, leaving her older sister, the book's protagonist, Korede to clean up her mess. You may have noticed it's ubiquitous cover—which features a young black woman wearing a headwrap, casually looking on as a knife-wielding hands is reflected in her sunglasses—on your timeline or at your local store. The internationally-released, Nigerian-made novel sits confidently on retail shelves previously reserved for mass-market thrillers.

The dark and humorous, Lagos-set novel is extreme—but not just because of all the murdering that happens. It also examines the extreme nature of the many things that can push people to the edge. For the sisters, it's: intergenerational trauma, abuse, the prevalence of a culture that rewards beauty above all else, as well as having to battle with their own personal shortcomings—just to name a few.

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