Artist Jamea Richmond-Edwards’s New Show Conjures an Afrofuturism of Dragons and Comets

"Ancient Futures" is on view at MOCA North Miami through March 17, 2024.

Jamea Richmond-Edwards, Dark Night of the Soul, 2023. Photo by Zachary Balber.

Every December, the art world returns from Art Basel Miami Beach with a new lineup of rising star artists who caught their attention during the week. This year, at the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, Detroit-based artist Jamea Richmond-Edwards’s solo show, “Ancient Future,” wowed crowds early in the week with her inventive application of Afrofuturist aesthetics to American history. 

“I’m really fascinated with history, but particularly I’m fascinated by mythos,” Richmond-Edwards explained of the work on view. The artist created each work herself with no assistance, with the idea that this “self-torture” would create an intuitive visual aesthetic that is signature to her narrative voice. “Since time is cyclical, that means I can create the future. So, I want to pull out some of the myths of the past into my future.”

Among those symbols are dragons, comets, clouds, and other celestial images that are drawn or painted in phosphorescent bright colors. The largest piece in the show is a diptych titled Lullaby for Shooting Star (2023), which tells the story of the Shawnee chief Tecumseh, who died near Detroit in Windsor, Canada.

“Since I’ve moved back to Detroit, I see so many streets named after him,” said Richmond-Edwards. “His nickname was shooting star. There’s a mythos that talks about his brother who was a shaman, who was able to conjure a dragon.”

In the piece, the dragon wraps around a starry sky to nestle protectively over a self-portrait of Richmond-Edwards on one end of the piece, and her son on the other. “I’ve just been obsessively drawing dragons,” she said of her time back in Detroit. “Then I started to notice them in the architecture all around town.” 

Adeze Wilford, a curator at the museum, noted that Richmond-Edwards brings a new perspective into the current trend of Afrofuturism in fine art. “‘Ancient Future’ presents an opportunity to explore the concept of radical imagination and the possibility of reconfiguring a future released from the confines of racial and gender binaries,” she said. “In developing this exhibition with Jamea, it was important that the show is a reflection of these complexities.”

Other works in the show delve deep into America’s past, exploring the folkloric narratives that emerged during the War of 1812 as well as the discovery and colonization of America. Richmond-Edwards also brings contemporary events into the mix, such as the Vatican’s rejection of the Doctrine of Discovery earlier this year, which was a signal that the Catholic Church acknowledged how colonialism wiped out Indigenous populations; as well as imagery of the 9/11 attacks, Emmett Till, and Beyoncé’s history-making Renaissance tour. 

A still from Jamea Richmond-Edwards’s video installation Ancient Future (2023) at MOCA North Miami. Photo by Zachary Balber.

Though the wall pieces are the talk of the show, perhaps the piece de resistance is the three-channel video work titled Ancient Future (2023), which follows a former drum major from the HBCU Jackson State University alongside Atlanta’s Dancing Dolls and features an original score made by the artist’s son. “The drum major represents dragons dancing in the cosmos,” Richmond-Edwards explained.

Looking back over the total body of work, Richmond-Edwards said with a sense of satisfaction: “This process has really been about writing myself as the heroine of my own story. There’s escapism and there’s world-building, but it’s really about getting comfortable with seeing myself as my own savior.”

Jamea Richmond-Edwards: Ancient Future” is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, 770 NE 125th St, North Miami, Florida, through March 17, 2024.


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