For this series, I sought to transfigure Black bodies from sites of state violence into cosmic vessels drawn from African cosmological traditions and notions of the soul. I began an exploration of indigenous African mythical narratives and set out to create a visual style that would uniquely capture their cosmic grandeur, dense symbolism, and presentation of Blackness - beyond contemporary racism - as the divine, cosmic source from which all life and existence itself emerge. For this work, I leveraged my training as an engineer to build a camera flash that only transmits ultraviolet light, hand painted the bodies of nude Black models with fluorescent paints that only glow under ultraviolet light, and photographed them in total darkness. For the fraction of a second that the shutter snapped, a transfiguration happened: their bodies were illuminated as the starry universe itself. I placed these glowing bodies into tableaux that were inspired by scenes from the archive of African diasporic myth.
Infinite Essence, the title of this series, is inspired by a quote by Chinua Achebe, who in his reflection on the Igbo conception of the chi, one of the four human spiritual bodies that operates as the divine spark that animates our existence, hypothesized that the chi was “an infinitesimal manifestation of Chukwu (The Igbo High God)’s infinite essence given to each of us separately and uniquely, a single ray from the sun’s boundless radiance” ("Chi in Igbo Cosmology." In Achebe, Morning Yet on Creation Day, 93-103 ). My images seek to capture a vision of the chi by transcending what is solely visible to the human eye through the ultraviolet spectrum. This project, a transfiguration at the intersection of art, science, technology, and myth, that connects the black body to the stars and is rooted in my Igbo background and traditions, showcases a vision of Blackness beyond all boundaries, restrictions, and frontiers.
I print these works primarily on aluminum sheets through a process of dye sublimation. The metal substrate connects me to a deep history of African smithing traditions embodied in figures like the Igbo bronze casters of Igbo-Ukwu and Demme Na, the mythical Dogon smiths that descended from the heavens.
These works are my contribution to reviving our original knowledge systems, vibrationally recalibrating Black spiritual and artistic production of the early 21st century, reestablishing proper fluxes of energy as my ancient duty mandates, and renewing continuities that have been lost.
Prints & Merchandise: Available Here