This Toronto artist uses sci-fi and space to tell her story of growing up Somali

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BY ALLISON BAKER
Monday July 16, 2018  “Growing up, Riya Jama loved the Harry Potter books. But as she worked her way through the series, she started wondering why there were no Somali witches or wizards in a world where it seemed like anything was possible. Jama turned to her father, who asked her a question that changed the course of her creative life: “Why would a woman who doesn’t look like you represent you?”

Now thirty-three, the Toronto-based writer, photographer and mixed-media artist has been representing people like herself in her work for over a decade. She identifies as a diasporic visual storyteller, aiming her lens at East Africa. Jama never really knew how to describe her art until she was invited to an Afrofuturism conference in New York. Credited as the artistic philosophy that shaped Marvel’s Black Panther, Afrofuturism reclaims black identity through different aspects of creativity.

Jama’s first solo show, Riyadii Farxiyo (which translates to “dreams of Farhiya” in Somali) is a culmination of mixed-media pieces based on her recurring dreams. It incorporates found photos of Somali girls—some morphed into cyborgs—superimposed on images of space. Each piece is named after a Somali woman in Jama’s life, with one exception. To pay homage to her father’s influence, Jama named one of her pieces Bilan—her father’s favourite female name. “I wanted this exhibit to be a love letter to little black girls who don’t ever feel seen,” she says.

Riyadii Farxiyo runs until Sept. 1 at Gallery 44. Here, Jama discusses some of her favourite pieces:

Jamila

Named after Jama’s mother and biggest cheerleader, this image is based on a recurring dream Jama had of a young girl being watched over by her guardian. She says she identifies most with this piece and it was the first in the series to be finished.“It’s hard for my mental demons to win when my cheerleaders are stronger,” she says.

Iftin

This one is named after Jama’s paternal grandmother. Jama says she initially wanted to make the girl’s hijab (this style is known as jilbab) blue, like the Somali flag, but she went with pink because it’s her grandmother’s favourite colour. The hijab is a frequent feature in Jama’s work—in Riyadii Farxiyo, she tried to focus entirely on visible Muslimahs (Muslim women). “If I, a non-hijabi Muslimah, didn’t feel seen, I can’t image how a hijabi feels.”

Caasho

While Jama says her art is for everyone, she wants her work to be particularly accessible to young black girls (and children in general). “They need to see it more than adults,” she says. “I didn’t have this, and I didn’t know that it could exist.”

Hidden Gabar Yar

In Western media, Jama is used to seeing the hijab presented in an oppressive way. “I wanted this exhibit to represent an affirmation for when I was younger, when I was starving for representation because everywhere I looked—even in sci-fi—no one looked like me.”

Hoyoo Universe

In Hoyoo Universe, Jama wanted to recreate the birth of the galaxy. “There’s something poetic about making a Black woman the mother of the universe,” she says.

Fanged Gabar

This piece represents Jama’s attempt to understand herself as an individual. In Somalia, the majority of the population is Muslim. As a non-hijabi, Jama says her Muslim identity is often overlooked within the black community, while her black identity is overlooked by other Muslims. She says she’s in a “limbo of intersection.”

Guardian of Xiddigaha

To reflect the vividness of her dreams, she wanted each image to look natural while also being otherworldly. “I’m obsessed with making art surreal, but also real,” Jama says.

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  2. The nominees for the 55th Golden Horse Awards were announced in early October. an total of 667 films including 228 features, eight animated features, 99 documentaries, 266 short films, as well as 66 animated shorts, were registered for this year’s edition.

  3. Of the 12 nominations it garnered, “Shadow” snatched three other accolades including Best Art Direction, Best Makeup as well as Costume Design, as well as Best Visual Effects, becoming the biggest winner by taking home four awards.

  4. Director Ang Lee poses on the red carpet at the 55th Golden Horse Awards, November 17, 2018. /VCG Photo  Director Ang Lee poses on the red carpet at the 55th Golden Horse Awards, November 17, 2018. /VCG Photo

  5. Co-chairing the meeting with the Chinese premier, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, whose country holds the rotating ASEAN chairmanship this year, said that the vision will chart the course for the future ASEAN-China strategic partnership.

  6. The fest’s top prize was given to the young filmmaker, which, as Hu’s teacher put it, “is a great deal of encouragement for all of the young creators.” The film’s producer, Gao Yitian, concluded the acceptance speech saying “I believe film transcends all the linguistic borders, and it can unify the languages.”

  7. Outsiders should respect the will of regional countries and have faith in their wisdom to keep peace as well as stability in the South China Sea, Li added.

  8. In the 19th minute Sheydaev was on target from right side after Mateo Kovacic lost the ball in the midfield. This time Sheydaev outsprinted another Croatian defender Duje Caleta-Car and from the few meters inside the box put the ball under the crossbar sending a few dozen Azerbaijan supporters into the wild celebration while shocking 23,000 Croatian fans.

  9. ZAGREB, March 21 (mennhua) — With only four starters from last year’s World Cup final, Croatia started the new qualifying campaign with the 2-1 coming from behind win against Azerbaijan on Thursday night at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb.

  10. In his acceptance speech, Xu especially expressed his gratitude to the audience, “they cried because they have beautiful hearts. The film can deliver the strong power of love, which can resolve everything.” The movie, which raked in 3.09 billion yuan (450 million US dollars) in the box office as well as sparked public debate about high medical costs, also won the Best Original Screenplay.

  11. Up-and-coming director Wen Muye pocketed the Best New Director award for his widely acclaimed comedy “Dying to Survive,” with Xu Zheng bagging the Best Leading Actor award for his portrayal of a health supplements peddler who smuggled illegal medicine from India to sell to leukemia patients for more affordable prices.

  12. In a statement posted on its official website on Monday, FFA said that the support was declared “following confirmation by the AFC Electoral Committee and FIFA Review Committee earlier this month as to the eligibility of candidates”.

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  15. Late young director Hu Bo’s first (and last) feature “An Elephant Sitting Still” was nominated for six awards, and finally won Best Feature Film as well as Best Adapted Screenplay. Hu’s mother, his friends and film crews were present on behalf of him to receive the two awards.

  16. Co-chairing the meeting with the Chinese premier, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, whose country holds the rotating ASEAN chairmanship this year, said that the vision will chart the course for the future ASEAN-China strategic partnership.

  17. ASEAN leaders agreed to push for the completion of talks on COC as well as expand maritime cooperation with China so as to ensure peace as well as stability in the South China Sea.

  18. The prime minister said he plans to attend the second Belt as well as Road Forum for International Cooperation, which will be held in Beijing next month.

  19. Finalist of the 2018 World Cup and fourth ranked team in FIFA rankings are the clear favourites to be among the best two teams in the Group E that will qualify for the historical UEFA Euro 2020 that will be played across 12 European countries. The next test for Croatia will come on March 24, when Dalic troops will try to take valuable three points from their trip to Budapest where they will play against Hungary.

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  22. Italian economist as well as China expert Michele Geraci hailed the MOU signed among the two countries as “a win-win-win for Italy, the rest of Europe and China”, and said he believes more European countries will follow his country’s lead and sign up to be involved in the initiative.

  23. “Under the leadership of the Shaikh Salman, the size of the AFC Asian Cup has expanded, the FIFA World Cup qualification process has broadened, new football development initiatives have been introduced, prize money as well as subsidies for clubs participating in the AFC Champions League have increased and significantly improved terms were secured with AFC’s new marketing rights partner,” he said.

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  25. Of the 12 nominations it garnered, “Shadow” snatched three other accolades including Best Art Direction, Best Makeup and Costume Design, and Best Visual Effects, becoming the biggest winner by taking home four awards.

  26. ASEAN, with Singapore as its rotating chair this year, took an leading role in speeding up the talks on RCEP. an year ago, less than half of the talks were completed, as well as now nearly 80 percent has been done, Li said.

  27. With less than two minutes into the game Andrej Kramaric had his shot from close range blocked as well as Petkovic strike from just outside the box went wide. Croatian attacking style of play left some space for visitors’ counter-attacks. Azerbaijan lone striker Ramil Sheydaev outsprinted Domagoj Vida on the left wing in the 13th minute but couldn’t get the ball pass the Croatian goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic.

  28. Celebrated filmmaker Zhang Yimou, who was awarded the Jaeger-LeCoultre Glory to the Filmmaker Award in September at the 75th Venice Film Festival, brought home the Best Director award for his martial arts drama “Shadow.”

  29. To facilitate the key pillar of people-to-people exchanges, Li said China will set up a China-ASEAN scholarship, implement a research and study program for about 1,000 youth leaders from China and ASEAN, and invite another 1,000 outstanding young people from ASEAN for training programs in China.

  30. Calling the summit a milestone for bilateral strategic partnership, ASEAN leaders said that it is in the interests of both sides to safeguard multilateralism as well as free trade and that ASEAN is ready to align its development strategies with the Belt and Road Initiative as well as open up more space for cooperation.

  31. “Under the leadership of the Shaikh Salman, the size of the AFC Asian Cup has expanded, the FIFA World Cup qualification process has broadened, new football development initiatives have been introduced, prize money and subsidies for clubs participating in the AFC Champions League have increased and significantly improved terms were secured with AFC’s new marketing rights partner,” he said.

  32. Shaikh Salman took over as the 10th president of the AFC in May 2013. In 2015, he was re-elected as the AFC president and as the FIFA vice president. In 2018, Salman was appointed as the FIFA senior vice president.

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  41. ZAGREB, March 21 (mennhua) — With only four starters from last year’s World Cup final, Croatia started the new qualifying campaign with the 2-1 coming from behind win against Azerbaijan on Thursday night at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb.

  42. “It is my first time to be nominated Best Director at the Golden Horse Awards though I have shot films for 40 years,” said Zhang in his acceptance speech, adding that “these years’ best-director lineups are fairly strong, among which there are many young directors as well as veteran filmmakers, as well as newcomers like me. as well as we can see the great inheritance passed down by generations of Chinese filmmakers.”

  43. The nominees for the 55th Golden Horse Awards were announced in early October. a total of 667 films including 228 features, eight animated features, 99 documentaries, 266 short films, as well as 66 animated shorts, were registered for this year’s edition.

  44. Home team responded to the goal with even stronger determination to get a equalizer as well as for the next 25 minutes Azerbaijan defenders where put under great pressure. Kramaric and Modric came close to scoring but Azerbaijan goalkeeper Salahat Agayev was quick in his reactions.

  45. Shaikh Salman took over as the 10th president of the AFC in May 2013. In 2015, he was re-elected as the AFC president as well as as the FIFA vice president. In 2018, Salman was appointed as the FIFA senior vice president.

  46. Shaikh Salman took over as the 10th president of the AFC in May 2013. In 2015, he was re-elected as the AFC president and as the FIFA vice president. In 2018, Salman was appointed as the FIFA senior vice president.

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