Hamed Maiye on Afro-Portraitism and the need for continual self-expression

"Aspirations are to find the means to be able to consistently express and carry others with me through this journey."

-  Hamed Maiye

Hamed Maiye is a multidisciplinary artist and curator based in London that uses portraiture as a means of expressing emotional identity and heritage. Maiye founded the arts movement ‘Afro-Portraitism’ which documents the multifaceted image of the contemporary youth of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora whilst exploring the concept of self representation. We spoke to him about his work and his role in shaping the movement.​

How would you describe your journey as an artist until now?

It's been an eventful journey to say the least. I didn't actually decide to be an artist until early last year. I think actually adopting the title helped me embrace what it means to be an artist. I've learnt a lot, and my perspective on the way people behave has changed accordingly.​​

When did you first begin to realise the beauty of art and decide your future lay in the creative world?

I've always appreciated art, as a kid I used to sketch a lot of manga. I studied art at A level but didn't really believe in a future in art. I guess through self practice I realised that it was more than just a skill but something that really reflected me as a person.​

You have said in the past that a lot of your work is ‘based on expression and emotion’ and that it is ‘a weird’ and ’subconscious practice.’ Why do you think that is? And has it always been this way?

Emotions are something I often find hard to grasp, but sometimes when I create something it feels like a snapshot into how I felt in that moment. Sometimes an array of brushstrokes can better describe your feelings than words can, because words can be limiting. It's definitely something I've only recently discovered from studying my own work.

What have been the strongest influences upon your work? And are there any artists that surround you personally that have had significant impact upon your art?

Some of my work is based on self, and the need for expression. Other stuff is based on social influence, but also rooted within the need for expression. Artists such as Keith Haring showed me that you can create beautiful work that still carries a social message. Other artists such as Egon Schiele influenced me in the sense that you can re-depict people in unconventional ways, but still reflect their essence.

What themes that you are currently exploring in your work, or are planning to delve into?

I'm currently exploring collaboration and how different artists and practitioners can influence each other in their work. Learning and lending can be a beautiful process and its often something that many creatives do.

Your a central figure in the making and rise of Afro-Portraitism, an exciting and alluring movement that is growing evermore prominent by the day. For those that have not heard of the movement, how would you define the basis of Afro-Portraitism? And what were the thoughts and ideas behind its creation?

Afro-portraitism is a movement based on self expression, self being the youth of the diaspora. The basis of AP is create spaces whether it be physical or virtual, where people can freely express their narratives. AP appropriates the ideals of European portraiture, especially of the renaissance era where key figures were portrayed as regal and important. A lot of recent events have influenced the creation of AP, especially the consistent negative portrayal of the black youth in western media.

And what were the first steps that you made in order to make the concept of Afro-Portraitism a reality? And what are your goals for it?​

It initially started through conversations with friends and just bouncing off ideas from each other. The visual project for AP took a grass roots approach by bringing together different creatives of the diaspora and showcasing their talents. The exhibition was created as an extension to the visual project, giving a space for other artists of the diaspora to tell their narratives through their work.As for goals, I hope AP is something that will be adopted by other artists, or even just inspire others to create. Hopefully we can extend the conversation through many more mediums and exhibitions.​

Your aspirations as an artist?

Aspirations are to find the means to be able to consistently express and carry others with me through this journey. As a human I'm in constant conversation with myself and quite excited to see where my path leads. I won't speak too much about the future because theres beauty in enjoying the present and living in the now.

And finally, messages or words of wisdom for the people reading this?

Just be, and don't be afraid to be.