The album artwork for Burna Boy’s African Giant album is one of the notes specially created to promote the African Giant message. A number of notes with a variety of images printed on them were released, and the images on each note represent Burna Boy’s commentary on the Nigerian/African situation. The note on the album cover, in particular, shows Burna Boy in ceremonial traditional wear, plantain trees, gold, and cylindrical objects that are either timber or oil drums.
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A few of the songs on the album are bluntly political, and the notes are supposed to support the message. Another Story begins with a narration of how Nigeria was colonised, Different talks about social ills and election scandals, while Collateral Damage addresses fraudulent leadership. The Afrobeats star launched a Burna Bank in New York in August, in collaboration with Spotify, where the Burna notes were dispensed for fans to use in buying Burna Boy merchandise. These Burna notes may seem like more of publicity than activism, but Burna made subtle points with the images.
A manifesto above the ATM read:
“Institutions and governments have historically used money and power to oppress, buy, and sell entire nations. [The ATM’s] placement right here in NYC is a representation of the strength and magnitude of the African Diaspora. Together, they will continue to embody joy and opulence — through music, truth-telling and art by any means necessary.”
The notes were designed by Sajjad Musa, an artist based in New York. Sajjad uses a variety of techniques to create art. His methods include stencil, collage, painting, photography and audio production. According to his artist profile, he seeks to ‘create art illustrating innercity cultural motifs with an ethereal inventive aesthetic.’ His work is inventive and original.
Sajjad listened to snippets of the African Giant album before he created the Burna bills. His impression from those listening sessions influenced the art he created for the currency notes. The Burna Boy project was not his first foray into currency artwork, however. In 2017, he created a collage series called Break Bread. He exhibited the series at a pop-up exhibition in New York that year. Break Bread was handcrafted, and Sajjad’s aim was to ‘challenge society’s view of money as a Dystopian catalyst of division and separation among people.’
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Speaking on the creative process behind the Burna Boy notes with Konbini, Sajjad said:
“We began by conceptualizing a culturally relevant idea that also related to the song and album theme. The theme was then developed into a collage-like scene. Next, the scene was etched in the currency style and dropped into a bill template we developed.”
For Sajjad, the collaboration was about showing what can happen when creatives from different cultures come together to create. The creative industry has embraced this attitude with enthusiasm in the past year. Nigerian music, especially, has benefited immensely from collaborations between African and Western acts. Burna Boy himself featured a number of foreign artists on the African Giant album (Angelique Kidjo, Damian Marley, Jorja Smith, Future, YG, Jeremih). Sajjad Musa is the one artist on the album you may not have known about.
The Guardian NG
Featured Image Source: Konbini
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