My name is Aisha Jemila Daniels and I’m a visual artist from Miami, Florida going into my final year at Howard University, where I am studying Fine Art Photography. My mother’s best friend, Toye - may she rest in peace - was a gelatin silver photographer. She photographed Black people on her travels as an AIDS /HIV doctor. Her impressionable photographs are remarkable in that they capture Black people in their most natural settings. Her lovely photographs inspired me to take my first photography class at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, FL back in 2008. Once Toye died, I decided to enter a fine arts program at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High. My years at Krop resulted in my aspiration to prepare for and become a professional photographer.
Besides Toye’s influence, inspiration also comes from Seydou Keita. He was a Malian photographer, a portraiture master, from the 1940s to ‘60s. He documented the people of Mali so beautifully, showing them as people who take pride in their appearance and are regal. I wanted to take his project further and document the authentic beauty of Afrikans throughout the continent and in her diaspora. That’s when I created Afrikans, which is an extensive photographic documentation of black people on the Afrikan continent and transplanted blacks throughout her diaspora. The purpose of the project is to unify us as one people through revealing to us our aesthetic and cultural similarities, along with restoring the authentic and regal Afrikan image in retaliation to white supremacy in the media.
From years of working on my photography project Afrikans I decided to work on more personal work, realizing that I too am a great subject. I began with a body work entitled Acceptance which focuses on my internal being, allowing self-revelation, which permits an understanding of my own reality, giving me options of ways to move forward. I am learning to be honest with myself, reflecting on how my surroundings have affected me and how I choose to heal. Now, I have been producing a surreal body of self-portraits outside of Acceptance.
My first award was given to me back in 2013 by Scholastic, I received their Gold Key award for my ceramic work and was given an exhibition in the Miami Art Museum. During the same year I received my first photographic award, an Honorable Mention award from the Young Arts Foundation. Later in 2015, I received my first award for my project Afrikans, the Shutterstock Award from Worldstudio AIGA. In 2016, I honored with the Creative Conscience Award from London, United Kingdom for Afrikans. The award is given to projects that bring social impairments to light through artistic mediums in hopes to rectify them.
While studying in the United Arab Emirates, I was fortunate to intern at Art Dubai, which is a leading international art fair for the Middle East, other parts of Asia, and Africa. Also, I received the Student Photographer of the Year Award for my Acceptance series by Martin GrahameDunn, one of the leading professional photography trainers of the United Kingdom. He was a judge for Photography Live Dubai, which is an international photography & videography event that serves the Middle East and North Africa. Very recently, I was fortunate to have an article written on my Afrikans by Gulf Photo Plus, which is a well-known photography center of the Middle East. Afrikans is also published in the Femme Fotale photo book, which is a photographic project by women that represents women artists.