Arts + Culture

NextGen: Manzel Bowman's Digital Art Is a Perfect Fusion of Black Excellence and Space Travel

For digital artist Manzel Bowman, his work depicts black people flourishing in fantasy outside the norm that the world puts them in.

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 third edition, we reached out to artist and creative, Manzel Bowman. 

In Manzel Bowman's digital masterpieces, black people are transported to outer space, are gigantic landscapes overseeing new countries and are deities painted in blue, gold, green and red—hues so hypnotizing that their pigments pop out of your phone screen. His images are so detailed, so enticing, that one can gaze into and create a mental story to accompany his visually arousing pieces.

Bowman exercises art as a tool for black empowerment, celebration, and a negation of harmful stereotypes applied to our race. "I am trying to bring about a correction to the misrepresentation of my people," Bowman tells us via email, "and the best way I can do that is by creating pieces and scenes daily to counter America's normative. I just want to see black people flourish the way they are supposed to!"

A post shared by MANZEL BOWMAN (@artxman) on

Bowman's art also recalls old school psychedelic album covers of Sun Ra, Jimi Hendrix and even Michael Jackson's "Dangerous." There are collages littered with Egyptian symbolism, planets, West African inspired statues and countless stars that stretch across the sky—or decorate women's faces like a confetti of freckles. There is a bond between black people and the unknown, the distant and the unseen, that Manzel's art articulates. Our spiritualities, consciousness, rebirths and reincarnations are sewn within the stars: laced across the sky like secret codes only we can decode—etched into mountains and spun around planets' orbits like infinite rites of passages.

A post shared by MANZEL BOWMAN (@artxman) on

Yet, Bowman seems modest about his Afrofuturistic masterpieces, even though his art swims in a sea of black fantasy, space travel and magical reality. "To be honest I'm not sure what Afrofuturism means to me, as I was unaware of the term until I had seen an article online featuring my work with Afrofuturism in it's title," he tells us. "I suppose it means to bring to light the interconnections of the past, present and future in an artistic manner representing people of African descent." Right on, brotha.

A post shared by MANZEL BOWMAN (@artxman) on

Check out a few more of our favorites from Bowman below:

A post shared by MANZEL BOWMAN (@artxman) on

A post shared by MANZEL BOWMAN (@artxman) on

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Pictures courtesy of Maeva Heim

Maeva Heim is the Founder the Beauty Industry Has Been Waiting on

The 31-year-old founder of Bread Beauty Supply is changing the conversation around haircare for textured hair.

It's nearing 9 p.m. in Australia, and Maeva Heim is dimly lit from behind and smiling warmly at her computer screen, ready to talk shop. We're here to discuss hair care, namely her brand Bread Beauty Supply, and how black beauty has made the globe smaller.

The 31-year-old is the founder of Bread Beauty Supply, a haircare line that encourages all textures and curl patterns to come as they are. "We don't want to tell you what to do with your hair. Enough people do that already," Heim says of Bread's brand philosophy. "We are just here to provide really good products for whatever you want to do with your hair at any point and not dictate to you how things should be. We're just women making the good products. You're making the good hair, and that's it. We're not here to define the rules."

But it's impossible to talk about recent strides in beauty products for textured hair without talking about the summer of 2020. In the weeks following the murder of George Floyd in the United States, a crescendo of cries rallied through global streets asking for not just equality but equity. The world watched with scrutiny as black boxes filled social feeds and brands made pledges to diversity. Those calls pinged from executive boards to the shelves of some of the world's largest beauty retailers. Meanwhile, after years of formulation, fundraising, and perfecting formulas and ingredients during a global pandemic, Maeva Heim introduced Bread beauty to the world in a perfect storm of timing and execution. The July 2020 launch filled a wide gap for Black beauty between homemade beauty products and behemoth beauty brands as Heim focused on an often under-explored direct-to-consumer middle.

Lauded on social media for their innovative packaging and nostalgic scents (the brand's award-winning hair oil smells like Froot Loops), Bread is a brand that makes hair care basics for not-so-basic hair. Typically, women with textured hair have not been included in the conversations around the idea of "'lazy girl hair" with minimal and effortless maintenance and styling - something Heim wanted to change. Part of Bread's mission is deleting category terms from the brand language – e.g. 'anti-frizz — that the brand feels unnecessarily demonizes characteristics that are natural to textured hair.

Photo courtesy of Bread Beauty

Born and raised in Peth, Western Australia, to an Ivorian mother and a French father, Heim grew up as one of the few Black kids in her neighborhood. Her days weaved between school and helping her mother run her braiding salon, one of the only of its kind in 1990's Australia. From sweeping floors, answering phones, and assisting with product orders, Heim's introduction to the world of beauty was rooted in the practice of doing.

Heim would go on to study business and law at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia, before working in marketing at L'Oréal, followed by an internship at Procter & Gamble in Singapore. But it wasn't until her relaxer exploded in her luggage during a flight between New York and Chicago that she began to think seriously about not only her personal hair journey but also about the beauty industry's gaps.

After ditching chemical hair-relaxer and returning to her natural texture, she pitched her idea to Sephora and, in 2019, was selected as one of the first-ever Australian participants in the Sephora Accelerate program, securing a launch deal for both in-store and online.

But what's most striking about Heim, aside from her penchant for focusing on the brand and the consumer, is her focus on the innovation gaps for Black beauty products. Uniquely shy on social media but poignantly focused on every nuance of her brand and serving Bread's prior overlooked customer base, Maeva is the founder the beauty world has been waiting for.

*This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity

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