photography by Tyrell Hampton
text by Stephanie Wade
“I knew the locs should be longer than my body and as thick as my forearm. Strong roots mean a flexible tree.”
Aba Mfrase-Ewur, a model and a hair artist, was first drawn into the world of art through her experience of being bullied in middle school. “Art was what helped me escape that,” she tells. “I read everything I could get my hands on and listened to all kinds of music. It reminded me that there are places in the world where you are celebrated for being yourself.” Now based in New York, Mfrase-Ewur’s natural creativity takes many forms in a variety of ways. Her artistic expression is not constrained in any particular way, though. “As far as style is concerned, I really just work with whatever speaks to me,” she says.
Mfrase-Ewur started out creating abstract paintings because she loved the way the paint felt on her hands. “I was very influenced by action painting and the energy of abstract expressionism,” she states. “I then moved to sculpture, film, and writing. When I was in college, I began working with my hair as a medium, and moving to New York amplified my creativity.” For the artist, art is inherently political, and her experience at a protest against police violence in Oakland, California in 2009, is what really galvanized her into becoming an artist. “That summer, I heard of a peaceful protest happening in honor of Oscar Grant III who was murdered by the BART Police, and on that day, the police officer had been convicted. It was the first time in over 40 years that a cop had been convicted of unlawfully killing a black man. I convinced my aunt to let me go and at 15, I attended my first protest.”
By carving out space for herself as both artist and subject, her body of work becomes galvanizing through its own creative force. “I wanted to speak to the difficulty of trying to capture the present moment. As soon I recognize the present as the present, it flies by me into the past. So, I wanted to make something that would capture the essence of who I am when I am in those precious and fully present moments.” To Mfrase-Ewur, being present with every breath is an opportunity. “Each moment that I remain present, I raise my vibration, therefore raising the vibration and presence of those around me, too.”
“Being present with every breath is my opportunity and responsibility.”