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Photo by O'kiins Howara

"African Créative," 2020.

Spotlight: O'kiins Howara Creates Technicolor Images of His Surroundings With a Smartphone

Get familiar with the work of the Ivorian photographer and visual artist O'kiins Howara.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists and more who are producing vibrant, original work. In our latest piece, we spotlight Ouattara Moussa Idriss Mahaman also known as O'kiins Howara, a self-taught Ivorian photographer and visual artist who works exclusively with his smartphone to bring bright, fashion-forward depictions of Africans to life. Read more about the inspirations behind his work below, and check out some of his stunning images underneath. Be sure to keep up with the artist on Instagram and Twitter.


Their responses have have been edited for length and clarity.

Describe your background as an artist briefly and what led you to become a photographer?

As an artist I touch on several artistic domains: music, drawing, writing, but I did not consider myself an artist until I discovered a love for photos. What led me to photography, I would say, is my way of conceiving things, I wanted to bring to life what I made in my mind.

What are the central themes in your work?

The central theme in my work is often to [express] the beauty of Africa through its cultural riches. I also denounce certain evils that affect society.

Can you talk about how you use and interpret color in your work?

Colors are for me an essential element for the beauty and the originality of the photo, I use color to bring life to the photo.

How has the current pandemic affected you as a creator?

It has not affected my work that much, but it should be noted however, that there is less contact with the outside world. Since I often work with other models and props, I can't have all the accessories I want, as well as all the [other] elements necessary for the composition. But I try to do my best to always create.

"False System," 2019

Photo by O'kiins Howara

"Breath," 2020.

Photo by O'kiins Howara

"Color," 2019.

Photo by O'kiins Howara

"Behind M'y self," 2020

Photo by O'kiins Howara

Music
Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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