The Ma'Ati, A New Graphic Novel & Travel Magazine For Travelers From The Diaspora

Globe-trotting journalist Shamira Muhammad launches a hybrid graphic novel and travel magazine for travelers from the African Diaspora.

Launched by a young globe-trotting journalist, The Ma'Ati Magazine offers readers an ambitious digital storytelling experience: one-part graphic novel and one-part travel magazine.

At the center of this hybrid platform lies the Ma'Ati, a mythical nation of nomadic storytellers who were lost to history for several centuries. Founding editor Shamira Muhammad created this magical world as a vehicle to travel around the world one chapter at a time through a protagonist based loosely off of herself and her own excursions. The novel will follow Shamira, a young American woman in the throes of a quarter-life crisis who stumbles onto clues of her family’s mysterious heritage, as she sets out around the world to retrace the footsteps of her ancestors.

Each chapter of The Ma'Ati, which will debut monthly on, is written and set in a different city. So far, Shamira's real-life trips to Jamaica, Cuba, D.C., Alabama, New Orleans and Harlem have inspired the novel's first six chapters and its vibrant illustrations.

Taj Francis and Paul Davey are the Jamaican-born visual artists responsible for the amazing Ma'Ati depictions, while Zimbabwean art collective, WETU, provides web design and development support.

In an op-ed for Afropunk, Muhammad explained her motivation for the project:

"I created the Ma’Ati after several frustrating years of looking for a travel magazine that spoke to the type of explorer that I am. It is hard to find good, travel content that appeals to a young, Black, artsy, urban, ancient, trippy, fantasy loving biker-girl. Having traveled to over ten countries around the world, and living in places like Ghana, France and Egypt, travel and adventure became the ultimate mode of creative expression for me. It made me a better writer and cleverer when it came to critical-thinking, networking, budgeting and living for the moment.

While I was living in Paris as a freelance journalist, I had a growing list of friends asking me for help planning trips overseas. For those coming to Paris, I was happy to help them carve out an itinerary. But for those going elsewhere, I soon found that great website recommendations were hard to come by. My friends wanted to know the best global clubs to hit up. They wanted to know where the cool, weird kids hung out. They wanted to see local street art. They wanted food that looked straight out of Pinterest. And most importantly, they wanted to know which places were 'people of color' friendly.

What I found was that there was no one website for all that. Travel sites were either too boring, too homogenous or too focused on tourism and devoid of authentic, local exchanges. It was frustrating. So I decided to create something that I would want to read and see: one publication composed of two parts. An ongoing, illustrated book series and a cool, little travel webzine: the Ma’Ati, which means 'duality.' In creating this, I knew I would be able to showcase the world in a way deeper than tourism alone allows."

Shamira has hinted that the next chapter of the story might take place at the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum in Accra. Read more about the project and Shamira's plans to expand on Kickstarter, and keep up with the Ma'Ati on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Interview: Terri Is Stepping Out of the Shadows

We talk to the Wizkid-signed artist about the story behind the massive hit "Soco" and his latest Afro Series EP.

Certain afrobeats songs have made in-roads in international markets and paved the way for the genre's ceaselessly-rising widespread recognition. Among these history-defining songs were D'banj's "Oliver Twist," Tekno's "Pana," Davido's "If" & "Fall," Runtown's "Mad Over You," and of course, Wizkid's "Soco." Wizkid released "Soco" under his label imprint, Starboy Entertainment in March 2018, and the song spread like wildfire across Africa and beyond. "Soco" was an Afro-pop wonder delivered at a time when the 'afrobeats to the world' movement was gathering steam, further cementing its electric nature. The Northboi-produced song was co-signed by celebrities across the world like Rihanna, Cardi B, and Paul Pogba and has accrued well over a hundred million streams across streaming platforms worldwide.

"Soco" was not only a trailblazer amongst mid-2010s afrobeats records, it was also the introduction of the first Wizkid-signed artist, Terri. Just weeks before "Soco" was released, Terri was discovered by Wizkid's longtime producer, Mutay, who saw him covering the song "Oshe" on social media.

Before "Soco," Terri Akewe was well on his way to fame. At fifteen, he had performed at street carnivals in his neighbourhood and, one time, was carried all the way home by neighbours after winning a Coca-Cola sponsored singing competition. Before his life-changing meeting with Wizkid, Terri had a seven-track EP ready for release, as well as a viral song titled "Voices." "One time I was on set with the video director T.G Omori, he told me that 'Voices' was the first time he heard of me" Terri tells me as we settle on a plush couch at his home in Lagos.

Regardless of Terri's initial career trajectory; signing to a label headed by afrobeats' biggest superstar was bound to accelerate his musical journey, and at the same time, cast a huge shadow of expectation on his career, especially given a debut as spectacular as "Soco." With his latest EP, Afro Series, powered by the sensational single "Ojoro," one thing is clear: Terri is stepping out of the shadows into his own spotlight and he is doing it on his own terms.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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