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Mikael Owunna

Head and shoulders portrait of man with a beard who is wearing a colorful patterned shirt.

Nigerian American multimedia artist, filmmaker, and engineer Mikael Owunna drew inspiration from African cosmologies and Warhol's screen-printing process for Anatomy of the Human, his new public art piece in The Pop District. Photo by Nathan Shaulis

Blending inspiration from The Andy Warhol Museum’s  archives with his own grounding in traditional African cosmologies, artist Mikael Owunna has produced a new work for this commission titled Anatomy of the Human. According to West African Igbo spiritual science, the human soul is composed of four spiritual elements. These are the Chi (the Divine Force of Chukwu/God Within), Eke (Creative Physical Organic Matter), Mmuo (Collection of Memories, Personality, Desires), and Onyeuwa (The Part of the Soul that Has a Mission on Earth). These components are described in a complex cosmology that presents many beautiful ideas about destiny, reincarnation, and the rich multidimensionality of every human being.  While evoking the dynamic feel of a specific set of Warhol’s works created through the use of multiple silkscreens to produce stop motion style images, Anatomy of the Human creates vibrant effects that represent the multiple spirit bodies that make up the human self.

“I am ecstatic to be working with The Andy Warhol Museum on this commission for The Pop District,” Owunna says. “This is particularly meaningful to me as a queer artist from Pittsburgh. I took inspiration from Warhol’s layered silk screen techniques to create this piece. I cannot wait for the public to see this work and everything that is in store for The Pop District.” 

About the Artist

Mikael Owunna is a Nigerian American multimedia artist, filmmaker, and engineer. Exploring the intersections of technology, art, and African cosmologies, his work seeks to elucidate an emancipatory vision of possibility that revives traditional African knowledge systems and pushes people beyond all boundaries, restrictions, and frontiers.

Owunna’s work has been exhibited across Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America and has been collected by institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Nasher Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Middlebury College Museum of Art; Equal Justice Initiative; Duke University Pratt School of Engineering; and National Taiwan Museum. His work has also been featured in media ranging from the New York Times and CNN to NPR, VICE, and the Guardian. He has lectured at venues including Harvard Law School, World Press Photo (Netherlands), Tate Modern (UK), and TEDx. Owunna has published two monographs: Limitless Africans (FotoEvidence, 2019) and Cosmologies (ClampArt, 2021). Owunna’s multimedia practice includes film, and in 2021 he directed the dance film Obi Mbu (The Primordial House) with Marques Redd. Owunna’s work has been commissioned for major public art installations by organizations including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Foundation, Contemporary Art Museum Raleigh, Pittsburgh International Airport, and Orange Barrel Media.

As a catalyst for neighborhood transformation and steward of public art, Citizens is proud to sponsor Mikael Owunna’s visionary installation, Anatomy of the Human.