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
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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