Malaika Favorite's Portrait Quilt
Atlanta-based artist and poet Malaika Favorite recently completed a major portrait painting-quilt representing twenty-four contemporary and past poets of the African Diaspora. The work was commissioned by Dr. Joanne Gabbin, coordinator of the Furious Flower Poetry Center and the Furious Flower Poetry Conferences in 1994 and in 2004. The portrait was unveiled on Thursday, September 23, 2004, in the presence of two of the represented poets, Lucille Clifton and Nikki Giovanni. Four years ago, when Dr. Gabbin first started thinking about organizing a second Furious Flower conference after the success of the 1994 conference, she talked with Ms. Favorite about creating an artwork celebrating the Black poetic aesthetic.
The completed piece is a composite of twenty-four 16" by 20" framed portraits of African American and Diaspora poets, including Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Margaret Walker, and others. The work captures the conference's aim to create history, community and nationhood by honoring the leaders and word warriors of two great literary eras in U.S. history, the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement. Each of the twenty-four panels is a collage of poetry, black and white seriographic prints, and an acrylic painting of the poet or an image from their poetry. Ms. Favorite gave considerable thought to which of the artist's writings to incorporate and what stage of the artist's life to represent. The lines of the poems appear sometimes as a book form, sometimes emerging from the mind of the poet, sometimes as the body of the poet, and often as the bodies of the people the poet writes about. In doing so, Ms. Favorite represents the way poetry incarnates the bodies, voices and experiences of the African Diaspora. Opal Moore, who is a poet and Chair of the English Department at Spelman College, also participated in initial conversations and provided advice to the artist.
Malaika Favorite standing in front of her art piece with Dr. Joanne Gabbin
Synopsis written by M.G. Shanahan