Arts + Culture

‘Afro-Portraitism’ Is the New Black Art Movement You Need to Know

Artist and curator, Hamed Maiye, speaks to OkayAfrica on his new project and art movement that explores the complexities of black identity.

A big part of creating unity in a culture relies on bringing people together and collaborating. While there are many traditional forms of collaboration, young people within the diaspora are finding unique ways to elevate imagery and representation of African people.


Artist and curator Hamed Maiye is using his project, Afro-Portraitism, as a way to bring artist of different mediums together to explore the art of portraiture within the African diaspora. Afro-Portraitism uses self-representation as a way to express the complexity of the black identity and how it cannot be seen only through one light or from one perspective. Maiye has teamed up with stylist Umps Machaka, photographers Hannah Faith, Liz Knuckles and White Negatives, as well as videographer Tunde Awoyemi to use his paintings as a way to promote further exploration of his painted characters through photography and film.

The exhibition, which is co-curated by Nicole Crentsil and Annabelle Nguyen, is an extension of the original project and collaborates with more artists to explore what self expression means to each of them. Afro-Portraitism will take place at The Gallery at Republic in London on April 21 and 22.

In the meantime, check out our interview with Maiye on his inspiration behind the exhibition and the importance of collaboration within the diaspora.

Amarachi Nwosu for OkayAfrica: What inspired the name of your exhibition?

Hamed Maiye: Afro-Portraitism started as a concept—I had to create a contemporary arts movement. Each part of the name has its own significance. Afro: being of afro/Caribbean culture. Portrait: a visual representation of someone, usually through painting or photography. Ism: a practice or a movement. These three components create Afro-Portraitism, which is a movement based on self-representation, particularly for young people of the African diaspora. This movement appropriates the ways Europeans used traditional portraiture to represent themselves as important and regal. The movement itself is not fixed to being expressed through a painting or photograph but acts as a metaphor for any act of self-representation.

Why was it important that you made this exhibition a collaborative effort?

I sincerely believe that collaboration is the key to progression. A lot of young creatives feel that we’re in competition with each other, which isn’t the case. Especially since Afro-Portraitism is presented as an arts movement, solidarity is key. I believe collaboration helps people build and learn from each other.

How does working off of the art of others, allow you to express a unique story?

Working in this way allows you to step outside yourself as a creative. I feel as though it’s helped to broaden my perspective as to what art means for different people. Ultimately everyone is trying to tell a story, and bringing these different stories together helps to create a wider and more beautiful image.

Do you think art plays a key role in bridging culture and exposing African narratives?

Art plays a very important role in how we represent ourselves and the narratives that we pass down. Through sharing and expressing our art, whichever medium it may be, we learn new things about each other that change our views and perceptions. Art has always been a political practice and should continue to be, its subtle way to protest or even enlighten. The more new narratives that are exposed the more the world learns about us. Art is invaluable and important.

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Interview

This Compilation Shines a Light On East African Underground Music

We talk to a few of the artists featured on the Music For the Eagles compilation from Uganda's Nyege Nyege.

Nyege Nyege, a label in Kampala, Uganda is channelling the confidence brimming over a whole continent. Africa is no longer the future. For dance music, its time is right now.

Music For the Eagles is a compilation released in conjunction with Soundcloud to showcase the best new acts that East Africa has to offer outside the mainstream. A new wave of artists firmly blasting non-conformist energy for you to spasm to. Music that takes you places. Otim Alpha's high BPM wedding frenzy of incessant rasping vocals accompanied by feverous violin will have you clawing the walls to oblivion. Anti Vairas' dancehall from a battleship with super galactic intentions doesn't even break a sweat as it ruins you. FLO's beautiful sirens call, is a skittish and detuned nursery rhyme that hints at a yearning for love but reveals something far more unnerving. Ecko Bazz's tough spiralling vocal over sub-bass and devil trap energy is an anthem that can only be bewailed. And Kidane Fighter's tune is more trance-like prayer. These are only some of the highlights for you to shake it out to.

We got to chat with a few of the artists featured on the Music For the Eagles compilation as they took a break from the studio below.

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