Arts + Culture

Afrofuturism Inspired One of Miami’s Hottest Art Fairs

We speak with Mikhaile Solomon, founder and director of Prizm Art Fair of African and Diasporan artists during Miami Art Week.

Miami Art Week is here again. And while upwards of 70,000 art-fiends will flock to the main attraction at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Little Haiti/Little River is the true epicenter of afrofuturism.


Now in its fourth year, Prizm Art Fair is continuing to shine a much-needed spotlight on emerging artists from the African Continent and Diaspora. Held over the course of two weeks in December, this year’s edition will explore the global impact of Africa’s cultural DNA (Prizm’s 2016 theme) through the work of more than 55 artists representing eight countries total. And unlike most art fairs, it’s the artists themselves (read: not gallerists) who exhibit their own work.

“The fair,” a statement reads, “aims to give a voice to those often not represented in the mainstream art world.”

It will do so in a bigger space than it’s done in the past—Prizm’s latest home is a full 3,000-square-feet larger than its previous location. (Held in the Miami Modern District in 2015 and at the Miami Center for Architecture and Design prior to that, the fair rotates locations each year.)

We caught up with Prizm's founder and director, Mikhaile Solomon, ahead of this week's art happenings. In the phone conversation below, the Miami native shares how afrofuturism inspired one of the city's hottest art fairs and what she's personally looking forward to at the 2016 Prizm Art Fair.

Alexis Peskine, "Raft of Medusa" (2015). Courtesy of Alexis Peskine and PRIZM.

How did Prizm get started?

I started the fair back in 2013. I was obsessed with afrofuturism. If you want to really define it in a very rudimentary way, it's sort of like the collision between science fiction and cosmology and black culture. I've always been really interested in comic books and deifying black icons. And so when I was thinking about the art fair, I was like “It would be kind of cool if I created a whole entire art fair that would just focus on this afrofuturism concept.” But then I realized that would put me into a really small niche. [And so] I used the idea as a vehicle for the actual branding of the fair.

The idea behind the art fair came from my fascination with afrofuturism. But then it became a broader art fair to encapsulate everything that is African Diaspora contemporary art.

A part of the reason why I did it was the idea that I wasn't seeing a lot of Diaspora-focused artwork in a lot of the main spaces like Basel and Frieze and Armory. I know Armory this year did a focus on Africa with Contemporary And—these are sort of recent inclusions that I think are great. I hope that it's not just a trend, that it's a continued conversation that endures.

What’s your take on African and Diasporan art and artists in the Miami art space?

After I started meeting a lot of my [visual artist] friends, people that I call friends now, I realized that there weren’t enough spaces or platforms during things like Basel. These are folks that weren’t showing in larger, more established spaces during Basel.

Basel would come to Miami, and artists like Robert McKnight, T. Eliott Mansa and Bayunga Kialeuka, for instance, these are all names that everybody locally knows, but in the broader international conversation around Diasporic work, they're not really well known. That's why initiatives like Prizm are important, to help elevate the voices of people who have consistently been working and producing work in the Miami landscape for years, and are well known locally, but the work has to extend beyond our borders so people can have access to their content as well.

Nyame O. Brown, "Flygirl" (2015). Courtesy of Nyame O. Brown and PRIZM.

Why Little Haiti this year?

The crassest answer is it was available. On top of that, Little Haiti is also a very culturally rich space. A lot of artists that are in the show grew up in Little Haiti, and their studios are here in Little Haiti. It was a space that became available, but I was like, "this is very appropriate because of the work that we're showing."

For instance, in our Perform section this year, we’re working with an artist named Nyugen Smith. He's based in New Jersey, but he's of Haitian and Trinidadian descent. He's producing a whole entire performance around the evolution of his lineage. There's going to be himself, who kind of represents the present, an elder in the community and someone that's younger than him. It's sort of an intergenerational conversation about his own personal lineage. For him it's an important piece because he unfortunately did not learn a lot about his heritage growing up. The piece is actually process for him in terms of him getting closer to understanding his whole entire ethnic experience.

What else are you looking forward to at the fair?

We're hosting two dinner events. One that's kind of an early preview of the fair. Then we'll also be showing a video installation by Allison Janae Hamilton, which is called In the Land of Milk or Honey. There will be a long family-style dinner table with two chefs, Jamila Ross and Akino West, who are based in Miami.

We're also doing an event on the Miami Science Barge, which is an experimental space that's located right off the dock of Biscayne Bay. We're hosting it in collaboration with a group called Famous Art Critics where we dine and we dialogue about pathways to cultural equity, about making art institutions more inclusive.

Firelei Baez, "Busqueda Oshun O-delay" (2016). Courtesy of Firelei Baez and PRIZM.

Our public opening day, which is December 1st, we always have a fun day where we have a DJ in the space. People can come and feel really familial. People can enjoy themselves while they look at the art. And December 1st is when we're having our performances. Nyugen’s project with his family will be at 6pm.

Another young lady from New York, Ayana Evans, she's doing a piece called Gurl I'll Drink Your Bath Water. If you know anything about that saying, it's a southern saying, almost like a cat call. It means you’re so gorgeous that I would degrade myself enough to go ahead and drink the water that you bathed in.

She's doing a whole performance that is multi-layered. She's essentially bathing herself, removing things that have a lot of spiritual undertones, a lot of religious undertones. There's a layer of feminism. There’s a layer of nostalgia for herself, personally, because she's washing herself with Palmolive soap detergent, because that's a detergent that her grandmother used consistently when she was growing up. The smell of it, the color of it, it's all very nostalgic for her.

It's a performance piece that's both autobiographical and social commentary. For me it was very gut-wrenching when I watched it. I'm interested to see how people respond to it. I hope people will have a lot of questions.

Prizm takes place November 29 through December 11, 2016 at 7230 NW Miami CT in the Little Haiti / Little River community.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

popular
Headdresses 2 (Collaged) by Helina Metaferia, 2019. Image courtesy of the artist and PRIZM Art Fair.

Here's What to Expect at This Year's PRIZM Art Fair In Miami

The yearly art fair, now showing at Miami Art Week/Art Basel Miami Beach tackles 'Love In the Time of Hysteria,' with works by artists from across the diaspora.

PRIZM Art Fair is back again for its seventh edition, once again highlighting some of the brightest artists from Africa and the diaspora during Miami Art Week/Art Basel Miami Beach.

This year's exhibit, entitled Love in the Time of Hysteria, features several works curated by William Cordova, Ryan Dennis, Naiomy Guerrero, Oshun Layne as well as PRIZM Art Fair's founder and director Mikhaile Solomon. It includes pieces from 42 international artists, hailing from over 13 different countries, including Barbados, Bahamas, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martinique, Morocco, Nigeria, Egypt, Norway, South Africa, Ghana and the United States.

"Love in the Time of Hysteria illustrates how love, compassion and respect endure in a social milieu riddled with divisive political rhetoric, unprovoked attacks on members of marginalized communities and broad societal malaise as a result of economic inequity," said PRIZM in a press release.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Moozlie. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

This South African Rapper Faked a Brutal Car Accident on Instagram to 'Raise Awareness'

South African rapper Moozlie scared South Africans when she appeared to get into a car accident during a live video on Instagram.

South Africans were frightened on Thursday when the rapper Moozlie, who recently won Best Female at the South African Hip Hop Awards, appeared to be involved in a terrible car accident. She was driving and talking about the music business when the "crash" happened. The end of the live video showed a shattered windscreen and nothing else. Many of her followers could be seen on the live video asking her whether she was okay or not.

Keep reading... Show less
News Brief
(Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for AFI)

Cynthia Erivo Earns Golden Globe Nomination for 'Harriet'

Check out the full list of 2020 nominees (and the snubs).

Award-winning actress, Cynthia Erivo has earned a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman in Harriet. She's earned a nomination for Best Original Song for 'Stand Up."

She's nominated in the "Best Performance by an Actress In a Motion Picture—Drama" alongside Charlize Theron, Scarlett Johansson, Renée Zellwegger and Saoirse Ronan.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

CNN Names Ethiopian Innovator Freweini Mebrahtu This Year's 'Hero of the Year'

Freweini Mebrahtu designed a reusable sanitary pad to help keep girls in school and has fought to end the cultural stigma around menstruation.

Last night, Ethiopia's Freweini Mebrahtu was been named CNN's "Hero of the Year". The award was in recognition of her work on menstruation and keeping girls in school as well as fighting to end the cultural stigma still attached to menstruation. Mebrahtu was also awarded USD 100 000 to help in expanding her work.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.