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.

Events
Davido at An OkayAfrica Party. Shot by Elliott Ashby.

This Is What 'An OkayAfrica Party' With Davido Looked Like

In Pictures: Davido and OkayAfrica's NYC release party for A Good Time.

Last Saturday, November 23, we hosted a huge blow out for Davido's brand new album, A Good Time, at Brooklyn venue Schimanski.
The club was packed-out from start to finish as DJ Ecool, DJ Nani, DJ AQ, DJ Mohogany, and Blaq.Pages set the sounds to the night, which also featured live drumming from Soca Warrior Jay and some breakout dance moments. The night was hosted by Young Prince and MC Lolahstic.
Our very special guest, Davido, who stopped by in style and went through some of his massive hits for the crowd. At the night's peak hour, Davido sang "Risky," his latest A Good Time single alongside Popcaan, and "Blow My Mind." He also had an acoustic singalong to "Fall."

Sebastian Mikael, Iman Hannan, Young Paris, Art Comes First and many more were all in attendance.

Check out pictures from very special An OkayAfrica Party with Davido below, shot by Elliott Ashby and Kevain D. Delpesche.

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Photos: How La Sunday Became Abidjan's Favorite Party

Faced with a lack of party options, a group of friends in Côte d'Ivoire sought to revolutionize the way their city turns up.

The opening line of DJ Arafat's hit song "Maman Sery" plays and the people on stage scream it as loudly as the crowd facing them below. Lighted phones are up in the air. Where some strangers embrace one another, others clutch their chests. The setting? A garden in Abidjan's commune of Cocody on a Sunday night.

Sundays in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire had always been reserved for beach trips and family time. All of this changed dramatically in December of 2018 when Fayçal Lazraq, Lionel Obam, Aurore Aoussi, Charles Tanoh-Boutchoue, and Aziz Doumbia, better known as Bain de Foule Creative Studio created La Sunday and it took Abidan by storm.

According to Charles Tanoh-Boutchoue, co-founder of La Sunday, "The idea was to create an alternative event for fun amongst friends." The differentiating factor here was these "friends" weren't just anyone; they were trendsetters at the epicenter of Abidjan's bustling creative scene. Shares from these creatives were instrumental in creating the engagement surrounding La Sunday and its subsequent expansion.

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14 Cultural Events You Can't Miss this December in South Africa

OkayAfrica's guide to must-see events during South Africa's festive season.

South Africans will tell you that December is not just a month, it's an entire lifestyle. From beginning to end, it's about being immersed in a ton of activity with friends and family as well as any new folk you meet along the way. Whether you're looking to turn up to some good music or watch some provocative theater, our guide to just 14 cultural events happening in South Africa this December, has something for everyone.

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Photo by Lana Haroun

From #FeesMustFall to #BlueforSudan: OkayAfrica's Guide to a Decade of African Hashtag Activism

The 2010s saw protest movements across the continent embrace social media in their quest to make change.

The Internet and its persistent, attention-seeking child, Social Media has changed the way we live, think and interact on a daily basis. But as this decade comes to a close, we want to highlight the ways in which people have merged digital technology, social media and ingenuity to fight for change using one of the world's newest and most potent devices—the hashtag.

What used to simply be the "pound sign," the beginning of a tic-tac-toe game or what you'd have to enter when interacting with an automated telephone service, the hashtag has become a vital aspect of the digital sphere operating with both form and function. What began in 2007 as a metadata tag used to categorize and group content on social media, the term 'hashtag' has now grown to refer to memes (#GeraraHere), movements (#AmINext), events (#InsertFriendsWeddingHere) and is often used in everyday conversation ("That situation was hashtag awkward").

The power of the hashtag in the mobility of people and ideas truly came to light during the #ArabSpring, which began one year into the new decade. As Tunisia kicked off a revolution against oppressive regimes that spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook played a crucial role in the development and progress of the movements. The hashtag, however, helped for activists, journalists and supporters of causes. It not only helped to source information quickly, but it also acted as a way to create a motto, a war cry, that could spread farther and faster than protestors own voices and faster than a broadcasted news cycle. As The Guardian wrote in 2016, "At times during 2011, the term Arab Spring became interchangeable with 'Twitter uprising' or 'Facebook revolution,' as global media tried to make sense of what was going on."

From there, the hashtag grew to be omnipresent in modern society. It has given us global news, as well as strong comedic relief and continues to play a crucial role in our lives. As the decade comes to a close, here are some of the most impactful hashtags from Africans and for Africans that used the medium well.

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