Artist Jamea Richmond-Edwards Explains Why Understanding Black Women Is Key to Understanding Culture

Portrait of Jamea Richmond-Edwards by Cortney Leatherwood. Images courtesy of Richmond-Edwards and MOCA North Miami.

For years, artists, curators, and musicians have worked to amplify Afrofuturism as an ideology and practice that connects the Black diaspora with an ancient past and abundant, liberated future. The Detroit-born multimedia artist Jamea Richmond-Edwards presents an especially vibrant vision of Afrofuturism in her debut solo museum exhibition, "Ancient Future," at the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami.

Richmond-Edwards has an impeccable sense of self, fashion, family, and fellowship. During our Zoom call, which took place while she was installing the show, she credited her hometown and her family for instilling confidence in her as a person and an artist. Her no-nonsense attitude comes across loud and clear when she declares, “Give me the ball, and I’m gonna take it."

Jamea Richmond-Edwards, Dark Night of the Soul, 2023. Photography by Zachary Balber. Image courtesy of the artist and Kravets Wehby Gallery. 

Curated by MOCA’s Adeze Wilford, the exhibition consists of several large-scale assemblages and sculptures in the artist’s signature bright, maximalist aesthetic. The showstopper is her largest work to date. Up to 30 feet wide, Dark Night of the Soul combines Egyptology and Biblical references. Richmond-Edwards describes this new body of work as “charged” and “transformative,” guided primarily by the subconscious mind.

The show also presents a new video highlighting HBCU bands and majorette performances, two important elements of African American culture that artists like Beyoncé have brought to the mainstream. The film is scored by Richmond-Edwards's son, an emerging jazz musician. Her choice of collaborator illustrates Richmond-Edwards’s commitment to family and intergenerational approach to art-making, yet another noteworthy element of Afrofuturism. 

Jamea Richmond-Edwards, Ancient Future, 2023. Photography by Zachary Balber. Image courtesy of the artist and Kravets Wehby Gallery. 

Richmond-Edwards's full-bodied approach to life and work extends to managing the needs of her own family. She balances navigating the art world with homeschooling her children in Maryland. “I grew up during the crack epidemic and Reaganomics in the '80s, you know, all this shit going on outside of my window or my door. However, my family and I have that space," she says. "It really just speaks to how important the mind is, and ensuring that not only with our children, but within ourselves, we have the space and capacity to dream." It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that her artwork embodies a similar committment to imagining a fuller, more abundant future.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards, March of the Nagas, 2023. Image courtesy of the artist and Kravets Wehby Gallery.

“You can tell a lot about the culture by what's happening with Black women,” Richmond-Edwards notes as we talk about the intended impact of this show. In a year where Black women like Sha'carri Richardson, Simone BilesVenus Williams, Julie Mehretu, and Beyoncé continue to break records in their respective fields, Richmond-Edwards contends, “We’re the most unprotected people but somehow we are leveling up."

Leveling up is an understatement for the artist, who has produced a show that beautifully takes viewers on a journey into a world centered on light and freedom. “I'm operating in a space right above reality, in the unseen, the imaginable," she says. "And I'm comfortable with that space."

"Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Ancient Future" is on view through March 17, 2024 at MOCA North Miami.