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'Distant Relatives' Photo Series Showcases The Striking Resemblance Between Black Stars And Our Ancestors

This photo series inspires a stronger sense of black pride and identity.

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When Los Angeles artist Jessi Jumanji started exploring her family history, she was blown away by the familiarity of the faces she saw in photographs. The pictures would soon inspire a masterpiece by Jumanji, a self-proclaimed "Afrofuturist at heart." An intentional marriage of African history and pop culture manifested in her brilliant photo series, “Distant Relatives: Familiar Faces.” The mind-blowing series offers visual pairings of famous black faces with their historic and ancestral counterparts.

Jumanji posted a picture of singer Trey Songz alongside a photograph of an Egyptian man taken in 1910 on Instagram last week. The caption reads "#throwbackthursday #timeless 1910 vs 2016."

Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Jumanji, whose real name is Jessica Lofton, recognized her personal sense of African identity, and said she believed a certain knowledge of self, due to the stripping of cultural identities, is what's missing from black culture today. 

"Mainstream media represents us in many ways, so I try to create authentic art that inspires people to see black life from a different perspective that shows our beauty, brilliance and resilience," Jumanji told Blavity.

But understanding and embracing the past and present is not all that matters to the visual artist. She also believes in the importance of looking toward the future as a community.

"Creating art at the intersection of history and pop culture bridges the gap between the past and present and helps us envision the future from a new perspective, one where it is possible for black people to embrace their culture and excel while doing so," she said.

Basically, sis is telling us the same thing Beyoncé told us at Beychella. You can be your true black self and still slay the masses at the same time.

Since celebrities have influence over pretty much every popping trend, why not combine their artistry with the often overlooked beauty of those who paved the way?

Jumanji told Blavity she feels like focusing on Afrofuturism allows her to reconnect with the ancestors and "reclaim their time" from the dark pasts that they endured by celebrating their beauty and strength.

Below are more photos from “Distant Relatives: Familiar Faces.”








#TimelessTuesday #throwback 1945 vs. 2013 “Straight Outta Georgia” Gangsta Granny vs. Gucci Mane @laflare1017 A black maid executed in Georgia in 1945 was granted a pardon by the state for killing a white man she said enslaved her. Lena Baker said she acted in self-defense, but a jury of white men convicted her after a one-day trial. Baker is the only woman to have been executed in the state's electric chair. #black #blackhistory #guccimane #gucci #melanin #melaninpoppin #history #hiphop #1017 #lookalike #collage #art #laart #laartist #hiphophistory #keyshiakaoir #atlanta #eastatlanta #georgia #mugshot #radricdavis #afrofuturism #revolt #art #atlantaart #atlantaartist #blackgirlmagic #kanyewest A post shared by ARTIST JESSI JUMANJI 🎨🦁🐯🐼 (@jessijumanji) on

Jumanji firmly believes black people should understand the black beauty we celebrate today has roots -- it comes from somewhere and should be known, embraced and truly celebrated by us. She expressed to Blavity that, for her, "visual art is a form of communication and expression like no other because it transcends language barriers, and is more accessible than ever in many different forms." 

This majestic, monumental work of art that is “Distant Relatives: Familiar Faces” hones an unshakable, unapologetic sense of black pride, black power, and black love. 

Jessi Jumanji is a 27-year-old painter, musician, poet and visual artist who has been featured on Bootsy Collins' latest album and recognized by other celebrities like Erykah Badu, Cardi B and more.

To see more of Jumanji's dope work, follow her @jessijumanji.


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Maya is an alumna of Hampton University who just wants justice for black folks. Follow her on Twitter & IG @MJBoddie.