Meet the Artist: Marryam Moma

Marryam Moma is a visual artist who holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the Tyler School of Art, Temple University in Philadelphia. Moma melds the palette of re-purposed hand-cut pieces, paper and media together into fresh, layered imagery with new associations. 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.

You will find Moma's work in the Starbucks permanent art collection, MINT Gallery, Kai Lin Art Gallery, and more. Her work has been featured on The Jealous Curator, Pop Science Magazine, Atlanta Magazine HOME Edition, Radiant Health Magazine, and Showfields NYC. Moma also created the XXL Magazine Freshman 2021 cover, released July 7, 2021. She is featured in this iteration of the Black Artists Print Shop.

artist making work in studio

In your artistic statement, you say your collages are focused on elevating the importance of the Black experience and body. What symbols do you use for that message, and how do they lend themselves to collage?

With my collages, I am not necessarily looking for symbolic messaging or patterns. A lot of the times you’ll find floral elements within my work, because the floral elements lend themselves to an ethereal feel. I tend to use them to communicate power, positivity, body positivity and a reconciliation back to self. And uplifting not just one’s self, but the community around them. 

There have been times within the work that florals also represent a voice of resistance, a challenging time or positivity after trauma. So those are some of the ideas and stories that I tell using floral elements.

We love the floral elements in your work. They often appear alongside the heads of beautiful subjects, emoting a wide range of expressions. Tell us about that process and what those floral elements mean to the work.

The florals really give a feeling of hope. Especially the nature of a flower. It’s living. It expresses itself with non-interference. No part of the flower is egotistical. As humans, we find ourselves in spaces where we interject or we interfere—based on decisions we need to survive, or just the ego driving conversations and dialogue. But with the floral elements, they just are. They just live. They go from this budding stage of flowering until death. That process is so beautiful and so powerful. 

So I leverage floral elements to tell those stories because they have such a purity. And they carry a sense of hope, that life, even though its cyclical, can still be beautiful. 

I remember telling a story around sexual violence. I sold that piece at the Hambidge Art Auction in 2019. The piece had minimal floral elements compared to my other works. But that’s what that piece needed at the time. And it just gave it this sense of the helping hand coming to help the subject in the collage, saying, “You’ve lived through this, do not eradicate those feelings but rise through them.”

flower and figure silhoutte in black frame
"Le Bel Homme."

How do you choose the subjects of your work? Where do you go for inspiration?

I have tons of paper. I look and review insane amounts of magazine clippings, flyers, and I also leverage stock images. I find a repertoire of influences to try and create the image I see in my head. My daily life: traveling, meandering through space and in my environment. I’m a certified paper hoarder. 

It becomes this very exciting process to deconstruct then reconstruct those elements and then blend them into my story, the way I want to see it or the way I want to tell it. 

How do your heritage and formative experiences manifest in your art?

Wow. They do, so much. I am half-Nigerian half-Tanzanian. I grew up, up until age 14, in Africa. My mother was an architect for the UN and my twin brother and I moved around with her. A lot of the color, the vibrancy, the stories that I tell have been things that have been poured into me as a child. My parents were married for over 27 years, so I come from a very close-knit, Black family that is centered around pillars of Black legacy, generational wealth, togetherness, community and those are evident in my work. 

Especially at the core of my practice, that I celebrate the Black body and tell these stories. I think moving here to the U.S., I didn’t see a lot of that, right? I studied architecture at Temple University, the Tyler School of Art and Architecture, a lot of my peers at the time came from broken families, single parent homes and they just couldn’t fathom how my parents had been together for so long (my dad passed away). It was so exciting to give another story to Black life. 

I have since used my collage as a vehicle to tell more positive, more uplifting stories around Black life.

How did you cultivate your artistic voice?

A lot of practice. Like I mentioned before, I studied architecture. So a lot of my process is very subtractive, yet still remains organic. I work within a rigorous, subtractive process.  And with collage, it’s really interesting because just a simple piece of paper can inspire an idea. So in terms of the process, I am starting with a lot of recycled paper. And I tend to remove elements and edit until I’m satisfied that the manifestation of my idea and the collage are aligned.

What does Atlanta mean to you as a creative home?

It’s absolutely incredible what’s happening here. There is an artistic revolution and I am so proud to be a part of that. I think that the artists here are extremely powerful in their voice and their creativity. In terms of what it is and what it means to me as a creative home is just a space where I can collaborate with other artists, where I can be inspired by other artists’ work, where I can inform others and teach and share the knowledge that I know. 

I have definitely, in the past five years I have been here practicing as a collage artist, learned to collaborate and gain some more material intelligence. So my primary medium is paper, but adding mixed media elements, trying to make decisions on how the piece will remain glued together, having conversations around public art and how it informs the community. 

Atlanta has helped me grow as an artist.

drawn figure opening suit to cityscape in black frame
"The Road Home."

What is your best piece of advice for up and coming artists of color?

Have faith, never give up. It sounds so cliché, but it’s very true. I think in the last 18 months, it’s been quite difficult for creatives because we’re sensitive about our stuff.

Make space to rest, recuperate, rejuvenate. Rest is extremely important in the practice. Just as important as creating itself. Give yourself space and time to rebuild and replenish. 

And I don’t think there is anything more important than self love. Being able to create from a place where you are full and your cup is full allows you all that much more space to express your ideas and share your vision with the world. 

Rest, continue to create, aspire to be better in your practice, take time to learn more and more about others that have come before you within the same medium, and don’t be afraid to experiment with other mediums and gain more material intelligence.


Learn more about Marryam and her work at her website and Instagram page.