Artist, Athlete, Educator


Kofi Bazzell-Smith is an artist, a graduate student at the University of Illinois, and a professional boxer. Pursuing his Master of Fine Arts in New Media, Kofi is currently a Mellon Foundation Interseminars Initiative Fellow with the Humanities Research Institution.

A US- Japan Bridging Scholar, Kofi studied manga in Japan and creates works in both English and Japanese. His goals are to publish in Japan, to open avenues for more diverse representation in the form, to bridge Black and Japanese cultures through art and language, and to pioneer teaching manga as a studio-based practice in western academia. In summer 2022 Kofi taught the first and only studio-based Japanese manga course in the U.S. at the University of Illinois.


Kofi’s current project, Azuki, is a bilingual manga that imagines Black potential in a world where race doesn’t exist. Azuki is an action-comedy about a little girl who is a Rock, Paper, Scissors champion. Pitted against a cast of tough, male opponents, Azuki only plays scissors, but always wins- speculating Black girl magic in a world without impediments as the universe bends toward her will.