Connecting the dots through art
It is easy to appreciate a work of art at face value, where the surface is exciting and whimsical. However, below the depths of what meets the eye, is the invaluable virtue of an artist's interpretation of a world influenced by their own circumstances.
While searching for answers within her history, 26-year-old Melissa Lyn-Akuamoah, discovered a way to connect the dots and express the new found passion for her heritage through art.
The quiet, humble graduate of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and the Performing Arts, began her journey with art at Pembroke Hall Primary School.
"Other people found art to be the hard subject, but for some reason, it was easier for me," said Melissa.
Her artistic development took flight at St Hugh's High School, where she entered several poster competitions throughout her time at the institution.
"These competitions helped me to cope with a very challenging period of my life. My grandmother had passed, I had family issues, and I found that the arts made me happy. It gave me a sense of comfort.
Melissa was diagnosed with depression and was advised by her peers to stop doing art, because she was using the craft to bury herself rather than focusing on the cause of her depression.
"Some of my best pieces were created from some of my worst times ever. Even though I was doing art during that period of time, I found comfort in it and it helped me to express who I am," she said.
Melissa also admits that the pieces on display for the JCDC Visual Arts Competition 2018 at the Jamaica Conference Centre, were a stark contrast to the mindset she was in when she created them. The colourful, vibrant works of art depicting local artists, were in fact derived from a very dark place in her life.
Melissa recently embarked on a journey of spiritual enlightenment which allowed her to grasp a greater understanding of society and the rest of the world.
"I am no longer aligning myself with any religion. And I find that since I have been doing that, my mind is more open to understanding the world more, not limiting myself, and learning more about my creativity," she said.
"As a child growing up, I was more familiar with my Asian Jamaican heritage, because I grew up with my mother's side of the family. I never had any knowledge of my father. It made me feel out of place, and felt like something was missing from me."
At age 18, Melissa was reunited with her father and was very intrigued by his African background.
"When I met my dad a few years ago, I became more aware of my African roots which stemmed from Ghana. Our conversations drove me to do more research on my African background. The deeper I got into this rich history, I started to feel more whole," she explained.
Growing up, she associated people of African descent with slavery and other negative connotations, depicted by society.
"This continuous research answered a lot of the questions I had. I found out that medicine and science and technology, originated from Africa and this gave me a great amount of pride for my own race," she said.
Recently, international artiste Rihanna, was featured on the cover for the Vogue UK September edition. According to her research, Melissa could pick out elements of her attire and makeup, which originated from the Surma tribe in Africa.
"A lot of the things we see in fashion or otherwise, comes from African references. I am trying to let people know and become more aware of that," she said.
Melissa's unique pieces range from ink, pencils and crayons and even incorporating photographs to create mixed-media pieces using an intricate collage technique. Each art piece contains evidence of the extensive research which focuses on the origin of the muse Melissa selects.
"I am more popularly recognised for celebrity artwork pieces such as Tory Lanes, Usain Bolt, and Yanique 'Curvy Diva'," she said.
"I use the celebrities as a motif to bring across this concept and it has become very popular on Instagram," explained Melissa.
"Each piece I create, depends on what I am reading or researching at the moment," she explained. Many see her work as a form or conspiracy, but her only aim is to start a conversation and educate the public about their African heritage through the combination of popular culture.
Melissa was recently awarded for her work by the JCDC and looks forward to collaborating with more local and international artists to aid in bringing across a message of substance to the youth.
To view more of Melissa's artwork, visit @melakuamoahofficial on Instagram or email firstname.lastname@example.org.