Papay Solomon – From a Refugee Camp to a Fine Arts Graduate

By: Flomo Yarkpawolo

May 7th is Arizona State University (ASU) spring 2018 commencement and the university is expected to graduate thousands of students. According to ASU, among the graduates will be some “impressive graduates” – including Papay Solomon who was named the outstanding undergraduate in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Solomon is also graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting.


Solomon, 24-year-old, whose parents are Liberian, was born in Guinea. According to Solomon, “When my mother was pregnant with me, there was a civil war in Liberia and she had to flee. She gave birth to me in Guinea; but, I feel Liberian.” The family later moved to the Kouankan refugee camp when he was five years old. They lived in the refugee camp for nine years. The family eventually settled in Phoenix, Arizona. It was at Central High School where Solomon started to spend time with his painting. In 2015, after earning two associate degrees, he transferred to ASU where he hone in on his artistic skills.


Solomon mostly paint images of young Africans from the diaspora. According to him, “I’m trying to tell those stories of the in-betweeness that we all carry.” One of my favorites of Solomon paintings is "Inside the Lappa with Grace," an oil-on-canvas portrait of Grace Mbola.:

“Grace Mbola was born in Congo Brazzaville in 1996. At the age of five, Grace and her family relocated to Gabon and stayed there for four years. When she turned nine years old, Grace and her family departed from Gabon to the United States and she has lived here ever since. Grace currently works as a Caregiver but aspires to become a pediatrician in the next few years. Grace hopes to one day go back to her country of birth and build schools for impoverish children.”

Another stunning painting by Solomon, Diluting Dreams, is been exhibited by Moniker Art Fair in New York. Moniker Art Fair is London’s only contemporary art fair. The acclaimed fair is now making a debut in New York with some of the world’s most renowned urban and contemporary artists and galleries.



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