Arts + Culture

NextGen: Jeff Manning's Soulful Digital Portraits Depict a Surreal Subconscious

We catch up with Philadelphia-based graphic artist, Jeff Manning, on how his work illustrates the beauty of the black mind.

DIASPORAOver the course of July 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.

Throughout this month, we'll also highlight and celebrate young, leading talents who already put into practice what a future with black people look like through their work in our daily profile series, 'NextGen.'

In our eigth edition, meet artist and Philly native, Jeff Manning. 

Graphic artist Jeff Manning merges the intricacy of graphic design with the intimacy of portraiture and sensuality of neo soul music, creating images that conjure an elegant sphere of spirituality. However, what’s most striking about these images is the way they illustrate a visual, cinematic side of our imaginations and subconscious thoughts.

'Signals.' Jeff Manning. Photo courtesy of artist.

Manning's digital incarnations envision us as awakened angels, sensitive androids and intuitive astronauts, able to transport ourselves with the unfathomable power of our minds. Based in Philadelphia, his subjects drown in the ecstasy of their imaginations: elements float around their heads or protrude out of their skulls like crowns that project their mind’s wildest desires.

'Signals.' Jeff Manning. Photo courtesy of artist.

“The portraits give the viewers of my work an idea of the positive characteristics of a person,” Manning tells me via email. “I've always wanted the viewer to see themselves or picture themselves as the person in the artwork and know that there is no limit to what they can do—promoting self-awareness and empowerment.”

'Escape to Space.' Jeff Manning. Photo courtesy of artist.

A leading proponent of Afrofuturism is the ability to imagine or portray oneself as more than what we can realistically, or currently, express. That’s why daydreaming is such a safe haven: the imagination is a powerful vehicle that can transport us to any destination we choose, to any personality we aspire to be. The mind is a world all it’s own.

Have a look at more of our favorites from Jeff Manning below.

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Photo courtesy of Cimarrón Productions.

Cimarrón Is the Women-Led Film Production Company Empowering Afro-Colombians to Tell Their Own Stories

The "first Afro-Colombian film production company," is teaching filmmaking in Colombia's black communities in order to combat the lack of representation.

When filmmaker, activist, and cultural agent Heny Cuesta first started her career in Colombia, she noticed a severe lack of black creators in the industry. Cuesta, an Afro-Colombian originally from Cali, was the only Black woman in a room full of mestizo directors at a panel discussion at the International Film Festival in Cartagena de Indias (FICCI) in 2013.

"None of the filmmakers were black, but they were talking about ethnic content despite the fact that they didn't know the territory," says Cuesta. That scene shocked her, but it reflected the low number of movies directed by black directors in Colombia. In 2018, Colombia's film industry premiered 37 feature films and only one of them –Candelaria– was directed by a black director. It received many international awards.

The lack of blackness in Colombia's film industry goes far beyond studios, film festivals and production companies. Afro-Colombians make up almost 20 percent of the population but historically have had few opportunities to access education. Most black Colombians, who come from cities and towns along the Pacific and the Caribbean coasts, have been neglected and isolated due to a lack of infrastructure, as well as a lack of education and job opportunities.

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Black Coffee's Appearance on 'The Daily Show' With Trevor Noah Has South Africans Celebrating

In the interview, the celebrated artist discusses bringing the sounds of South Africa to the world and his dreams for the continent.

It was a truly South African affair on Tuesday when veteran hitmaker Black Coffee appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

The fellow South African stars shared mutual respect for one another throughout the 7-minute interview. "You have taken the world by storm," Noah said of Black Coffee's career, to which the artist responds, "doesn't it sound like your story?"

Black Coffee expanded on the reasons that he's always stay closed to his South African musical roots rather than trying to imitate popular American or European forms of house music. "What set Black Coffee apart for me, was that you made music of Africa, and the world fell in love with that," says Noah.

He also spoke about the building of a new school and neighborhood in his hometown of Johannesburg, and his mission to transform perceptions of the continent. "We always see Africa as an inferior place, all the best things were on TV, It took away so much from the continent and we're trying to reverse that and create a space in Africa that will inspire africans to want to stay and create a future," says the artist.

Noah later asked the artist to speak about his "Africa is Not a Jungle" initiative—which will provide a platform for African artists through curated shows—and share what he hopes to achieve with his music on a global scale.

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Video: Mr Eazi On How He's Helping Young African Artists Grow

In 'Moments With: Mr Eazi,' the buzzing Nigerian star tells us about Banku music, being a serial entrepreneur, and how he's been pushing young African artists through his emPawa initiative.

Mr Eazi stopped by our offices in New York City during a packed round of promo around his new emPawa platform.

The Nigerian star sat down with OkayAfrica and spoke in-depth about his early days, how his friends all pooled money to help him get started, how his famous 'hat' look came about, the blend of Ghanaian & Nigerian sounds that make up Banku music and more recent things like collaboration with J Balvin and Bad Bunny.

Watch our Moments With video with Mr Eazi below.

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Asa 'Lucid' cover.

The 14 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Asa, Patoranking x Busiswa, $pacely, Vagabon, Shane Eagle 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 our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Check out all of OkayAfrica's new playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

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