'Above Your Head' by Joy Miessi. Photo courtesy of artist.

Joy Miessi's First Solo Exhibition Is an Ode to the Lessons Our Mothers Taught Us While Braiding Our Hair

We catch up with the Congolese-British artist ahead of her debut solo show, "Do You Know Your Middle," which is heading to London's 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning.

Do You Know Your Middle? is the title of Joy Miessi's first solo exhibition at the seminal 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning in Brixton, London. Inspired from moments shared with her mother braiding and parting her hair, these latest works are Miessi's attempt to preserve memories with each piece documenting a past experience in her life.

The North London-based artist uses the full breadth of her creative arsenal via illustration, clothing and painting to compose pieces that reference the duality of everyday life in the UK and her Congolese heritage. Miessi's signature mixed-media style formed of abstract shapes, writings and intense colours juxtaposes two cultures translating moments, feelings and intimate thoughts into emotionally engaging statements is particularly resonant with those of a diasporic disposition.

We spoke with Miessi on heritage informing creativity, building an archive and the importance of physical space in documenting the Black experience.

Christian Adofo for OkayAfrica: Your new exhibition is titled, "Do You Know Your Middle?" and that phrase borrowed from your mother speaks to a sense of grounding and reaffirming your identity. How important is it to you to acknowledge the past within your work in the present?

Joy Miessi: The title, "Do You Know Your Middle?" is something that my mum always says when defining the middle parting of my hair. It's usually a question to check that I'm paying attention but has now become a question that has helps me acknowledge the past and inform my present and future decisions.

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