Mikael Owunna

This image was created by multidisciplinary artist Mikael Owunna, who leveraged his training as an engineer to build a camera flash that only transmits ultraviolet light.Owunna meticulously hand-painted the body of the model with fluorescent paints that only glow under ultraviolet light and photographed him in total darkness. For the fraction of a second that the shutter snapped, a transfiguration happened: the model's body was illuminated as the starry universe itself. Owunna's inspiration for this piece comes from the African American myth of "The Flying African."

Throughout the United States and especially along the coasts of Georgia and SouthCarolina, stories persist to this day of enslaved Africans who escaped bondage by taking flight and returning to their African homelands.

Hypotheses persist as to the origin of this myth, but many point to the 1803 slave rebellion known as Igbo landing on Saint-Simons Island in Georgia, or a group of enslaved Igbo people walking into a creek drowning themselves rather than being re-enslaved. As they entered the water they chanted, "the Water Spirit brought us, the Water Spirit will take us home," and were thus transported to the primordial blackness from which everything emerged.

The Flying African by Mikael Owunna
The Flying African by Mikael Owunna