Swedish-American artist Mikael Chukwuma Owunna felt that black people were getting a second class ticket from society. The individual may be seen as equal however on a cultural level, more work had to be done to ensure the effects of equality. One particular issue that moved Mikael was the statistics for police using their guns on black people. Police officers who are sworn to protect and serve their community, in the opinion of many, are acting like occupying forces exerting summary executions on the streets. Is this what we call justice in our modern and removed from the primitive society that we've worked hard to achieve? Mikael Chukwuma Owunna doesn't think so.
But he's not like them, he doesn't fight fire with fire. Mikael decided to elevate black people using art, using soft power to get the message out there that there are beautiful people too. Showing that they have intimate feelings and sense good and bad may sound like something we don't need any more. If that's the case for you, consider yourself lucky. It seems that ingrained cultural perceptions are still on the gradient, and someone needs to come along and level the ground. We can all do our bit on that front, black, white, Asian, Indian, Inuit, and Aborigine.
Mikael Owunna has used special photography to turn his subjects into exciting night sky scenes. Studded with luminous starlight, his UV flash filter tones down the skin to almost pitch black. This captures much more from the fluorescent paints than usual. and transfers onto the camera as a literal glow jumping from the skin. Because of the dark skin pigment and the contrast between the black and white, it really looks like their bodies have been painted in stars.
Finding his sense of identity in a society that values only certain individualism and uniqueness has been difficult for Mikael. Being openly homosexual and black has given him a difficult journey, when considering his Swedish heritage, we can empathise a clear sense of wanting to belong from an early age. Rather than striving to fit in and following the crowd, showing the world why his ideas and personality are valuable for their own merit has hopefully inspired many more to do the same. It's a known fact that upon seeing their portraits, many of his subjects have had strong emotional responses. All good ones, too.
You can get on the train with Mikael Owunna on Instagram and Twitter.