Lébé and His Articulations
In the Dogon system, Lébé was a descendant of the eighth Nommo (a group of androgynous, immortal, bisexual progenitors of humanity). The oldest human of his time, he was the first to die and be buried. Upon his internment, at the strike of the smith’s anvil, a serpent god descended into his tomb and swallowed his body whole. The god then expelled a massive torrent of water, regurgitating Lébé’s body into colorful stones that formed the outline of his body. The joints were important focal points and represented for the Dogon the most important parts of a human being, and there was a sacred number associated with each one.
In the photographs of Infinite Essence and Cosmologies, Owunna leverages his training as an engineer to explore the nuances of darkness and light. He employs ultraviolet strobes, painted fluorescent backdrops, and carefully hand painted nude bodies of Black models that only glow under ultraviolet light. When he then photographs the models in total darkness, the shutter snaps, and for that fraction of a second, synchronized beams of ultraviolet light illuminate a glowing scene that reanimates tableaus of creation from the archive of African diasporic myth.