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Archangel by David Alabo. Photo courtesy of artist.

NextGen: David Alabo's Afro-Surrealist Art Will Blow You Away

The Ghanaian-Moroccan artist creates offbeat and fantastical worlds that highlight Africa and its diaspora in a stunning way.

This week, we'll be publishing short profiles, essays and interviews on the theme of "Afrofutures." Together these stories will be a deep dive into the way African and diaspora thinkers, technologists and artists view a future for Africans in the world and outside of it.

Take a look at our introduction to Afrofuturism here.

We'll highlight and celebrate young, leading talents who already put into practice what a future with black people look like through their work in the return of our profile series, 'NextGen.'

In an age where films like Black Panther bring Afrofuturism to the forefront; Ghanaian-Moroccan afro-surrealist David Alabo shines just a bit brighter than the rest. His work takes viewers to worlds where magic, heads, outer space, animals, Africa and landscapes collide.


David Alabo. Photo courtesy of artist.

Alabo's work on a music cover while studying economics at New York's Baruch College landed him a CNN feature and a plethora of opportunities. Since graduating, he's now based in Accra creating work that tips its hat to Ghana, East Africa's Maasai people, North Africa's Arab influences and our home's vibrant colors and gradients. Music is still a large part of the 22-year-old's creative process. He vibes to it as he creates his work's settings-mountains, plains, hills, galaxies.

Alabo's Afrofuturism is, "the fusion of afrocentric elements with surrealism to create paradoxical fantastical worlds that highlight African culture and its diaspora in both a familiar and strange way."

His computer-generated oeuvres, "may not make sense at first but over time they send a message. Sometimes, the message is open to interpretation. They have a lot to do with fantasy and immediately strike the eye."

Birth by David Alabo. Photo courtesy of artist.


Much like the abstract greats that influence him—Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and Basquiat—Alabo takes us on a contemplative journey.

The future for African artists is "brighter than it has ever been," he says. "The internet and social media are massive platforms to display work. We put issues that affect us in our art. This is the time for every african to just do it. Ride the wave."

In the upcoming weeks, he will display his unique viewpoint at the inaugural Yaatribe (Young African Artist Tribe) Gallery alongside photographer, Diego Asamoa and when that is a success, he hopes to expand the project beyond his country's borders.

Audrey Lang is an alumna of Northeastern University and a Boston-based site merchandiser. A surveyor of life who's enamored with all things fashion, art and Africa, keep up with her on Instagram and Tumblr.

Interview
Photo: Shawn Theodore via Schure Media Group/Roc Nation

Interview: Buju Banton Is a Lyrical Purveyor of African Truth

A candid conversation with the Jamaican icon about his new album, Upside Down 2020, his influence on afrobeats, and the new generation of dancehall.

Devout fans of reggae music have been longing for new musical offerings from Mark Anthony Myrie, widely-known as the iconic reggae superstar Buju Banton. A shining son of Jamaican soil, with humble beginnings as one of 15 siblings in the close-knit community of Salt Lane, Kingston, the 46-year-old musician is now a legend in his own right.

Buju Banton has 12 albums under his belt, one Grammy Award win for Best Reggae Album, numerous classic hits and a 30-year domination of the industry. His larger-than-life persona, however, is more than just the string of accolades that follow in the shadows of his career. It is his dutiful, authentic style of Caribbean storytelling that has captured the minds and hearts of those who have joined him on this long career ride.

The current socio-economic climate of uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrusted onto the world, coupled with the intensified fight against racism throughout the diaspora, have taken centre stage within the last few months. Indubitably, this makes Buju—and by extension, his new album—a timely and familiar voice of reason in a revolution that has called for creative evolution.

With his highly-anticipated album, Upside Down 2020, the stage is set for Gargamel. The title of this latest discography feels nothing short of serendipitous, and with tracks such as "Memories" featuring John Legend and the follow-up dancehall single "Blessed," it's clear that this latest body of work is a rare gem that speaks truth to vision and celebrates our polylithic African heritage in its rich fullness and complexities.

Having had an exclusive listen to some other tracks on the album back in April, our candid one-on-one conversation with Buju Banton journeys through his inspiration, collaboration and direction for Upside Down 2020, African cultural linkages and the next generational wave of dancehall and reggae.

This interview has been shortened and edited for clarity.

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