My photographic series Cosmologies is an extension of Infinite Essence. This series presents a more complex version of the visual landscape I have created with its use of images with multiple figures, painted backdrops, and ultraviolet strobes which emit synchronized beams of ultraviolet light in total darkness to illuminate glowing scenes that animate creation myths from Igbo and Dogon cosmology. Across these images, I sought to extend and use my work as a vessel to revitalize and share endangered precolonial African knowledge systems with contemporary audiences, and it is enriched by engagement with primary and secondary research material from French anthropologists and Igbo diviners. 

The works presented here collectively respond to contemporary images of Black death through an investigation of Dogon and Igbo spiritual sciences and ideas about how dynamics of sacrifice and resurrection are embedded in the very fabric and organization of the universe. These works imagine new, illuminated worlds for the Black body through recovering ancient ones.

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Title: Mgbakwocha (Grand Lady of the Mysteries)

Caption: At the beginning of the universe, all was one in the blackness of space. Eke-Nnechukwu, the feminine polarity of the Igbo Primordial Androgynous Deity, manifests Herself as Mgbakwocha. She is the Grand Lady of the Mysteries of creation, which She holds in the blackness of Her Divine Mystic Eye. She is associated with the planet Venus and is the birth source of life, which emerges from the blackness of Her womb. 

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Title: Nne-Nwanyi-Isi-Ajata (Lady of the Long Flowing Dreadlocks)

Caption: According to the Odachi Nne Ebere cosmogony of the Igbo people, the universe has emerged from and always remains grounded in an eternally subsisting Primordial Androgynous Blackness. One polarity of this foundational realm manifests herself as Nne-Nwanyi-Isi-Ajata, the Divine Mother of the Long Flowing Dreadlocks, and She is also known as the Lady of the Morning Star and Venus. She is the sourceless ocean of dawn and births, with Her waist beads prefiguring fertility and the birth of the cosmos from the Blackness of Her womb. She awaits the hour of creation in the darkness of the evening, contemplating in a deep meditative trance the mysterious actions of Her masculine double Chukwu, who has disappeared into a secret chamber. 

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Title: The Martyrdom of Eke-Nnechukwu

Caption: Overcome by excruciating curiosity, Nne-Nwanyi-Isi-Ajata exits Her meditative trance and manifests Herself as Eke-Nnechukwu, the All-Loving, All-Giving Mother Creator, and resolves to enter Her masculine double Chukwu’s secret pillared chamber to observe His mysterious act for Herself. As She steps foot into the chamber, however, an explosion rips through the fabric of the universe, emitting a golden tongue of fire that martyrs Her and simultaneously causes life to spring forth into existence from the Blackness of space. In the aftermath of the explosion, Chukwu exits His chamber, discovers Her corpse, and begins to weep in despair over Her shattered body.

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Title: The Resurrection of Eke-Nnechukwu

Caption: After Eke-Nnechukwu is martyred in a fiery explosion at the birth of the universe, Her masculine double Chukwu finds Her body and weeps over Her corpse in devastation. As He cries, His divine tears rain down upon Her, and in one miraculous moment, His tears suddenly bring Her back to life, purifying Her in the process as well. As Eke-Nnechukwu rises from the dead, Her feet hold the memory of Her attempt to enter Chukwu’s chamber prior to the explosion, and Her hands, Her primal act of spinning the universe into existence. 

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Title: Chukwu’s Grief

Caption: Following the shattering of the primordial world, Chukwu finds the martyred body of His feminine double Eke-Nnechukwu and brings Her back to life with His tears. However, even after Eke-Nnechukwu rises from the dead, Chukwu never fully recovers from the traumatic shock of this event. Disenchanted and sensing the inevitable spiritual shortcomings in this new state of the universe, Chukwu retreats into His pillared chamber and irrevocably locks its door of mercy (Uzo Ogo) behind Him. 

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Title: Komosu (Body of the Goddess)

Caption: As Eke-Nnechukwu rises from the dead, She assumes the form of Komosu. This honorific is a derivative of Koro-ma-ya-su, Komo-osu/Aru Uso/Ana Uso (Body of the Goddess), which signifies that Her resurrected body is the entirety of the physical universe in which we exist. 

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Title: Alawuala (The Land Which Is the Ultimate Earth)

Caption: Alawuala is the Earth Goddess in Igbo cosmology, and Her name translates literally as “The Land which is the Ultimate Earth.” She incarnates the spiritual principles of the resurrected Komosu, birthing the ancestors of humanity and terrestrial life from Her primal womb. Her layered waist beads speak to her fecundity and control of fertility in all dimensions of life. Her sinuous pose prefigures her zoomorphic terrestrial form as Eke-Nwe-Ohia, the sacred Igbo python. 

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Title: Nommo Die (Great Nommo) and Nommo Titiyane (Messenger of the Nommo)

Caption: Amma, the Dogon personification of Primordial Androgynous Blackness, emanates eight spiritual figures called Nommo at the start of creation. They are androgynous, immortal, self-fertilizing, bisexual sets of twins who are the progenitors of humanity. The first two of these figures are Nommo Die, “Great Nommo,” who is the heavenly agent of Amma, and Nommo Titiyane, “Messenger of the Nommo,” who guards and protects Their spiritual principles. Together, they play a central role in the unfolding of the universe.    

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Title: O Nommo (Nommo of the Pond)

Caption: O Nommo, “Nommo of the Pond,” is the Dogon mythical emblem of death and resurrection. They are ritualistically sacrificed by Amma to purify the universe, and Their blood and body are the material from which the planets and stars are formed. They are then resurrected by Amma and descend to Earth in a celestial ark with the original ancestors of humanity and all plant and animal species. Landing on Earth, They step out of the ark, water emerges on the surface of the planet, and They slide into the first pond, from where They proliferate life and the cosmic principles of Amma on Earth.

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Title: Valu (Roan Antelope)

Caption: The Valu (Roan Antelope) is born from the blood of the O Nommo as They rise from the dead. Serving as O Nommo’s companion on the celestial voyage to Earth from Amma’s womb with the ancestors of humanity and all plants and animals, the Valu is tasked with being a living testimony to the power of O Nommo’s sacrifice and a keeper of the memory of how that sacrifice served as a vehicle for the purification, resurrection, and kinetic reorganization of the universe.

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Title: Anagonno Alagala (Anagonno of the Sky)

Caption: After someone dies, Dogon traditions prescribe complex funerary rites that are held to regroup the deceased’s many souls and spirit bodies. After final responsibilities on Earth have been completed, the deceased transform into Anagonno Alagala, “Anagonno of the Sky,” where their role is to assist and direct the living from that point onward. 

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