When painter, curator and creative director Hamed Maiye coined the term ‘Afro-portraitism’ to define an energetic new wave of black artists making self-representational work, it wasn’t about getting recognition from the art establishment.

“There’s a huge DIY scene happening (in London), where collectives are putting on their own shows and not really waiting for co-signs,” Maiye explains. Self-definition was a vital way of recognising the work happening right now, but also of creating an identifiable art movement. With staged photographs or expressive strokes on canvas, Maiye’s portraits recreate the assured, regal stance of traditional European portraiture, his young Afro-Caribbean subjects meeting the eye with an unbroken gaze. They’re the antithesis of passive. 

Speaking of the peers driving the Afro-portraitism movement, Maiye namechecks BBZ, Yellowzine, Black Girl Festival, Body Party and Sistren as “(creating) spaces (from) which different groups of people can learn and vibe together”. Maiye has also just wrapped his first music video, an opulent “faux-opera” for south London performer Roxanne Tataei. “I worked on it with some of my favourites – artists Nwaka Okparaeke, Kobby Adi and Favour (Jonathan). Seeing all the new work being produced is beautiful in itself.” 

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