August 19 - September 28 2024

Afi Ese and Jaymes Earl: Interconnected Opulence: The African influence on Black urban adornment

The concept of opulence revolves around the symbols of wealth and status that hold significance within a particular community. We find it fascinating to explore how these symbols vary across different cultures. In many traditional African cultures, the adornments worn serve as representations of history, emotions, background, and status. Similarly, in the thriving culture of hip-hop, the trends that emerge from within this community have become the standard across all areas of pop culture. Our objective is to delve into its origins and create a visual bridge between the traditional African cultures and our contemporary urban culture.

This show highlights the urban trend of having gold teeth. Coined as grillz by Houston hip-hop culture, gold teeth have historically held significance in the black community as a symbol of wealth, success, and individuality. In many African and African American cultures, gold teeth are seen as a form of adornment and self-expression, reflecting a person’s personal style and cultural identity. Additionally, gold teeth have been used as a way for individuals to display their financial status and social standing, especially in communities where traditional forms of wealth may not be as easily accessible.

Gold teeth are also associated with hip hop culture and have become a popular trend within the music industry, with many artists and celebrities sporting gold grills as a fashion statement. This has further contributed to the cultural significance of gold teeth in the black community, representing a form of artistic expression and rebellion against mainstream beauty standards.

Overall, gold teeth hold a special place in the black community as a symbol of cultural pride, creativity, and defiance, reminding individuals of their heritage and the struggles they have overcome.

Afi Ese (pronounced ah-fee eh-say)
Phone: 832.498.3568
Instagram: @‌Afi.Ese.Art
Identifies as a disabled artist (wheelchair-dependent)

Afi Ese is an African American figurative narrative artist living in Houston, Texas, raised in rural Waller County, Texas, with roots in Togo and Mali. She holds a master’s of science in forensic psychology with a concentration in juvenile art therapy from Prairie View A&M University. Afi’s work focuses on Black portraiture while venerating the rich history of the West African diaspora with an emphasis on generational trauma and triumph in rural Black America. Afi combines and re-imagines historical events and attributes specific to the Black American experience. In doing so, she gets to shine a
spotlight on the beauty and resilience of her community. She recognizes the importance of positive black images in daily life and uses her work to help direct the Black narrative and experience in an honest and transparent fashion. Afi wants each piece to leave the viewer feeling culturally empowered, especially the youth.
Afi identifies as a disabled artist, suffering from advanced rheumatoid arthritis and is wheel-chair dependent. She also has hand deformities. As a professional artist invested in mental health and how art can be used as therapy, she expresses her journey through pain–both metaphorically and physically. She views artistic ability as a mental skill just as much as a physical skill and aims to show others with disabilities that they can find catharsis and relief through art.
Most recently, Ese’s works have been on display at The Museum of Fine Arts-Houston and The Houston Museum of African American Culture in Houston, TX, If We Had Wings solo exhibit at Gallery Guichard in Chicago, IL, and The Houston Central Public Library.


Jaymes Earl

Phone: 915.328.4005
Instagram: @‌original_jaymesearlAaron Jaymes Booker, also known as Jaymes Earl, is a Houston based artist originally from El Paso, Texas. Born into a military family, he lived in North Carolina and Germany, before settling in El Paso. He later went on to obtain a degree in mathematics from Prairie View A&M University.
Jaymes has always been very artistic as a child. He’s always enjoyed working with his hands building models and illustrating various comic strips. It wasn’t until the Fall of 98’ that he fell in love with hip hop music. Everything from the beats, rhythms, tv, movies, and most important the fashion and the
effect it has had on the world.
Status symbols such as a pair of fresh kicks, colorful clothing, grills and other flashy jewelry that was once only associated with hip hop, is now a staple in today’s pop culture.
What was once considered taboo or often vilified, now sets the standard for what is considered “cool.” Many people of various backgrounds all wear Air Forces or Jordans. Flashy jewelry and terms like “bling-bling” has become the norm and a part of the English language.
His artwork simply focuses on these changes in our culture along with its roots that exist within traditional African cultures. His work is a combination of his favorite childhood hobbies, various mathematical concepts such as coordinate planes, scaling, line segments, geometric shapes, and hip
hop music


Artist's Reception: August 24 2024, 5 - 7 pm


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