In two photographs from his Infinite Essence series, including Nommo Semi, Pittsburgh artist Mikael Owunna creates celestial portraits of Black people inspired by African cosmologies. According to a creation myth from the West African Dogon tribe, the androgynous deity Amma creates eight spiritual figures called Nommo who are the ancestors of humanity. The figure on the left embodies Nommo Semi, whose gesture demonstrates their role as the Guardian of Space. The photo on the right portrays Nommo Die (Great Nommo), the heavenly agent of Amma, and Nommo Titiyane (Messenger of the Nommo), who guards and protects their spiritual principles.
Using his training in engineering and photography, Owunna built a camera flash that transmits ultraviolet light. He paints the backgrounds and models with fluorescent paint and photographs in total darkness. When the camera shutter opens, beams of ultraviolet light illuminate the glowing scene.
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