NextGen: Look to Lina Iris Viktor for Illuminating Depictions of Black Girl Magic

The first profile of our July 'NextGen' series highlighting talents who envision a black future features visual artist Lina Iris Viktor.

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.'

We kick off the series with artist and visionary, Lina Iris Viktor.

Self-portraiture is an expendable, infinitely interpretive space to express reflections of ourselves. In our mind's eye, we may be more glamorous than we physically present ourselves to the world, or worse: less glorious than we truly are.

'Syzgy' (2016). Lina Iris Viktor. Photo via Instagram.

British-Liberian artist Lina Iris Viktor sees her work beyond the confines of self-portraiture—a universal form that enhances her worldly persona, evolving herself into an ethereal, regal being. Using paints of white, blue, black and browns, geometric patterns, photography and pure gold, Viktor presents herself as a sensual goddess, an intimidating empress, a fierce queen, and so much more.

Photo via Lina Iris Viktor's Instagram.

The narratives behind her paintings reclaims the ideas of black girl magic by envisioning herself as an intergalactic, otherworldly black female entity. “My work is an abstraction of self—an obliteration," Viktor says in an interview with OkayAfrica. “...Those portraits, whether viewed as me or not, are an act of defiance, and in there lies something that is empowering. It controls the gaze—demands respect."

'the body black series, 2015.' Lina Iris Viktor. Photo via Instagram.

Considering the stereotypes attached to black women—hypersexualization, fetishization, misogynoir, the angry black women—Viktor's worlds negate these notions and pursue a more enlightened, uplifting narrative that's been echoing in our inner ears for centuries: black women are magic, dripping in gold.

Lina Iris Viktor. Photo via Instagram.

Viktor's Afrofuturism is timeless, empowering and bold. One look at her dreamy, stylish images and we are transported into a world where curves, confidence and brown skin reigns, and where gold is an element used to evoke emotion, tell stories and symbolize our royalty—exactly what our ancestors would have wanted.

Lina Iris Viktor. Photo via Instagram.

Watch Lina Iris Viktor speak on the misconceptions of blackness in art in this video and keep up with her on Instagram here.

Interview

Angelique Kidjo Writes a Love Letter to 'Mother Nature'

We talk to the Beninese musical icon about assembling her new album on Zoom and the "bigger than COVID-19" threat that lies ahead!

The kind of infectious energy that lives within Angelique Kidjo can't be contained by Zoom. Her zest for life reaches out far beyond any screen, and burns stronger than the fastest internet connection.

"I can't wait until we're in person hugging again," she enthuses soon after joining our Zoom meeting to discuss her latest album Mother Nature. Having been on the receiving end of a hug from the four-time Grammy-winning singer, I know exactly what I'm missing out on. "Me too," I say, as I wrap my arms around my laptop, my face squishing the screen. "No, no," she retorts. "I don't want that. You keep it. I want the real deal," she chuckles, her full-bodied trademark laughter lovingly admonishing me.

The Benin-born musician is preparing to release Mother Nature, a collection of songs reflecting our one Earth, and cementing her status as an African musical icon. Collaborating with the likes of Yemi Alade, Mr Eazi, Burna Boy, Sampa the Great, Shungudzo and more, Kidjo's crossing through time and space, over age and country through Mother Nature's themes and stories. Each track is infused with a vigor that only she possesses — the kind that shares a significant message even as the listener is called to just dance or sing along.

Below, Angelique Kidjo reminisces about making the album, and chats us through her hopes and dreams for it!

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