‘Art has a way of shifting culture,’ says UA student Kwamé Gomez

by Noor Hindi

Kwamé Gomez is always looking towards the future. Her artwork features bright, vibrant colors inspired by the Caribbean, elements of fantasy, and lots and lots of glitter. 

For Kwamé, art is about creating a better world — one that imagines a future without the imprint of colonization on Black identity. Her work is inspired by Afrofuturism, an art and cultural movement that fuses together Black identity and political resistance.

“I think art is revolutionary,” Kwamé says. “Art has a way of shifting culture, politically and in many contemporary conversations. Making art right now is my way of defiance.”

Kwamé has been an artist her entire life. She attended Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts and Firestone High School and is currently in her third year at the University of Akron’s Myers School of Art.

As a child, Kwamé would watch her dad create graphic novels featuring him and his friends as superheroes. The novels reflected his struggles as an Afro-Latino man in Akron. Watching her father draw and seeing one of his books at a local library inspired Kwamé.

“I was blown away,” Kwamé says. “It completely rocked my world and really showed me this is possible.”

The characters in Kwamé’s pieces typically have exaggerated features and are painted around images of nature, which is often bizarre and fantastic. Kwamé sees these characters as vessels of herself and members of the African diaspora.

“I started thinking about post-colonial and pre-colonial ideas,” she says. “I was thinking about decolonization and the fight one has within themselves, trying to take these standards of beauty and western conventions of art off of yourself.”

One of the more prominent features of her paintings is her use of glitter to create texture. Kwamé’s love for glitter came from her desire to express the joy and overwhelming beauty she finds when looking at photos of the Caribbean. Her studio is full of printed photos of the region that she’s found on Pinterest, and she’s excited to visit Puerto Rico for the first time this spring.

“I feel like I express myself through different vehicles,” she says. “For me, glitter represents the beauty of the land. And this is the best way I can describe or experience it. There’s no exact words I can find besides that. And it’s just the beauty I experience even thinking about these places.”

Kwamé often uses mixed media to communicate her messages. Aside from the glitter, Kwamé is starting to experiment with synthetic hair to create sculptures, as well as braiding and African threading.

Previously, she enjoyed utilizing plastic and different fabrics in her pieces. During her senior show for Firestone High School, she remembers collecting various pieces of plastic and wrappings to create six to eight mixed media pieces that centered around the Black body. 

After graduation, Kwamé wants to jump into graduate school to continue developing her artistic vision.

“I have so much I want to do,” she says. “New innovation is something that really moves me. I was planning things the other night and feeling so excited to paint.”

Check out more of Kwamé’s work by following her on Instagram @Kwame_Gomez20.

Noor Hindi is The Devil Strip’s Senior Reporter. Email her at noor@thedevilstrip.com.