Words: Linn Wiberg / Photography: Frida Vega Salomonsson
Johanna Burai is an artist on a mission. After struggling to find images of black hands online, she set out to stop the whitewashing of the internet and so created the World White Web – a stock imagery site that’s racially diverse and better reflects the world we live in.
Did you always know that you wanted to become an artist?– I’ve drawn and painted ever since I was little, but I never knew I’d make a career out of it. I took a break for five years, when I studied a bunch of things in the hope of finding ‘a real job’. But since exams aren’t my thing, it didn’t go very well. In 2012, I was accepted into Beckman’s College of Design, so now I’m back on track.
What projects are you currently working on?– Right now, I’m working on two separate projects for Mack Beats and Silvana Imam, but they’re a secret at the moment. I’m also working on my own exhibition that’ll be showcased at the NAU Gallery in Stockholm later this spring.
Your art tackles issues of politics, representation and ethnicity. How do you think political art compares to political music?– There’s absolutely no difference between them – they’re just two different art forms. I think they’re a good way to spread political messages and reach people who aren’t interested in politics, or don’t feel included in the debate.
That’s why it’s a big deal when famous artists take a stand and express their opinions. Beyoncé has probably helped more girls here in Sweden than any of our own politicians.
Why do you feature so many musicians in your work?– I’ve always been a massive music fan. When I was little, I used to buy music magazines, cut out pictures and use them to make my own fanzines. In a way, I’m still doing exactly that.
I’ve always had idols and been proud of it. Many of my ideas come from songs. Like the illustration 'Can I Live' of Jay-Z – that’s based on the track of the same name from his album ‘Reasonable Doubt’.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?– Wow, I’ve got a long list! Tupac, if he were still alive. Grace Jones and Frank Ocean would be a dream too. Grace Jones’ visual language is to die for – everything about her is to die for. Frank’s artistry inspires me. His integrity is rare nowadays.
Have you ever lived without music?– Never. What a disturbing thought.
What music do you listen to now that you’d have hated as a teenager?– Bon Iver. He makes very experimental music and my younger self would most likely not have got it. His melodies are magical though.
What’s the best way to listen to music?– Loud.
What type of music inspires you the most?– I mostly listen to hip hop, R&B and old dancehall. But I also love Phil Collins, so occasionally I treat myself to some Phil – as loud as possible!
What track can you sing every word to?– Haha, without a doubt it’s 'Can I get a…' by Jay-Z and Amil.