A master commander of the craft blade, Tanzanian-Nigerian collage artist Marryam Moma has a bachelor’s in architecture and a master’s degree in business administration. Moma deconstructs images, then re-integrates them to create something new, is an intuitive and ongoing visual experiment where color, texture, space and shape come into play. Moma celebrates the human form, reinforces ideas about individuality and self-love. The clarity, discipline, and execution of her work reflects applied strengths from a formal education in architecture.
Using hand cut collage as a vehicle, Momas practice explores the intersections of gender, race, sexuality, to change the dynamics of how the Black body is viewed. Her work is in the permanent collections of multinational corporations such as Microsoft and Starbucks and has been featured on popular television programs such as Blackish, Bel Air and Cherish The Day. Moma created commissioned works for Pop Science, and XXL magazines, was featured on The Jealous Curator and in ART Seen, All She Makes, Radiant Health and Create! Magazines. Moma has exhibited widely in the United States and currently, you will find Moma’s works internationally, in the Congo Biennale, in the city of Kinshasa, Congo.
As a Tanzanian-Nigerian collage artist, I chose to escape the rigidity of my formal architecture background in favor of building a creative practice that highlights the experiences of people like me. I depict Black joy through a multidimensional use of paper cutouts, layered paper, acrylic paints, gold leaf, and shiny mixed media. I deconstruct then reintegrate elements, within a rigorous subtractive editing process to create layered, textured, and detailed imagery with new associations and meaning.
Contrasting textures, luxurious materials, rich colors and a careful selection of apparently disparate elements come together in my art to raise questions about and tell stories of the multilayered experiences of Black bodies – including my own – in the midst of a culture that is divisive versus inclusive.
Inspired by my siblings who were ridiculed for their Afrocentric features as young Black women in predominantly white spaces, the subjects in my collages wear what is now considered stylish and trending. The Bantu knots worn by the subject in “To Have and To Hold, while a very routine style in my tribe, now becomes this statement stylistic trend in mainstream culture. The subject in “Unapologetic” confidently showcases her wide, full lips in crimson red, a feature my sisters were once ridiculed for and the third flaunting common place fashion of wearing multiple Tanzanian-Masai ear piercings. These works are a vibrant celebration of everyday life practices that are customary for my people, that have been assimilated into mainstream global culture.
Using collage as a vehicle, I ultimately hope to create a space in which the Black body is celebrated.
When did your interest in art begin vs. when you began thinking of it as a career/life choice?
My interest in art began at a very young age of five or six, but not in the form that my art career has manifested. I aspired to become an architect like my mother, who has been practicing for over 30 years. She made her practice look so dreamy, fun, and effortless. She would bring her work home to her studio and take tea breaks, like many a Tanzanian in the heat of the summer, while sketching my twin brother and me. I remember thinking to myself, I want to be like her, I want to be an architect. I graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture from Tyler School of Art, Temple University later in life. Somewhere along the lines, literally, I fell in love with collage as I used it to visually brainstorm building design ideas. I chose collage and visual art as a career about eight years ago.
What draws you to your particular subject matter?
I am drawn particularly to telling positive stories about the experiences of the Black body, using collage as a vehicle. At the core of my practice, I choose to uplift and elevate the Black body, the female body. I chose to escape the rigidity of my formal architecture background in favor of building a creative practice that highlights the experiences of people like me. I depict Black life, stories, and joy through a multidimensional use of cutouts, layered paper, acrylic paints, gold leaf, and shiny mixed media. Contrasting textures, luxurious materials, rich colors, and a careful selection of apparently disparate elements come together in my art to spark conversations about the multilayered experiences of Black bodies – including my own – amid persistent societal divisions that stand in the way of the harmony and inclusivity I believe in.
What interest of yours (outside of art) ends up influencing your practice the most?
Travel, fashion, music, salient societal dialog about a barrage of issues, and familial relationships and bonds influences my art the most.
What is one piece of advice you wish you could give your younger self?
Do not be afraid to make mistakes and do not be afraid to do the hard things. Magic happens outside of your comfort zone and consistency is key to mastering your craft. When you work and you feel you failed, fail up next time. Make better mistakes. Repeatedly. One day you’ll look back and I hope you clearly see your exponential growth that has been founded on perseverance and diligence. Also find trusted peers or mentors that can provide you with constructive criticism. Always look for opportunities to add value and help people that you may be divinely positioned to bless with your knowledge and resources.
What would you say is your biggest goal for this year?
Self-care and more self-love. It is my full intention and goal to soften into the woman I am evolving into this year. One that is not afraid to relinquish white-knuckled control over my practice and delegate more. One that is not afraid to say no to seemingly great opportunities because my health comes first. One that organizes time to play, have fun, and bond with family, just as seriously as art projects are organized and on a timeline within my practice. I want to do better at checking in with myself, giving myself permission to rest, rejuvenate, and reset.