ASU senior awarded for life-like portraits of African refugees

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Papay Solomon, 24, is an artist whose paintings of African refugees are gaining notority. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) Papay Solomon, 24, is an artist whose paintings of African refugees are gaining notority. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)
Solomon paints portraits of African refugees he meets in Phoenix. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) Solomon paints portraits of African refugees he meets in Phoenix. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)
Papay Solomon - Left:  self portrait; Right: ‘Inside the Lappa with Grace’ Papay Solomon - Left: self portrait; Right: ‘Inside the Lappa with Grace’
Artist Papay Soloman is gaining attention for his portraits of refugees from Africa. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) Artist Papay Soloman is gaining attention for his portraits of refugees from Africa. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)
TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

“Painting is basically everything. I like to use colors that best compliment what I’m trying to say.”

For 24-year-old Papay Solomon...

“I knew I liked painting people that looked like me.”…his art is a portal to a reality he said few in Arizona know.

“I think the majority of people think that Africans are from just a place with huts,” said Solomon.

He paints life-like portraits of African refugees he meets in Phoenix, but with a narrative that goes far beyond a third-world.

“When you walk in front of my paintings. I try to illustrate just elegance,” said Solomon.

He hopes to change the perception of refugees...because he is one.

“I’m just trying to capture that middle…whatever that means. Between two cultures,” said Solmon.

He lived in a refugee camp in Guinea for nine years.

“We went days sometimes without really having enough to eat,” he said.

But it was there, he found his love for art, sketching in his only notebook.

“You’re wasting your good notebook pages…but I kept doing it anyways,” said Solomon.

His family moved to the United States when he was in high school. He never thought he'd even be able to go to college, but a scholarship made that possible.  His refugee paintings are now being sold for thousands of dollars. And the Herberger Institute of Design and Art named him its "top undergraduate."

But to Solomon, the best reward was finding himself.

“At one point I used to be shy to say I was from Africa,” said Solomon. “Now I’m not afraid to be…uh…to just be.”  

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Briana WhitneyBriana Whitney joined CBS 5/3TV in February 2018, and is no stranger to the sunshine and heat!

Click to learn more about Briana.

Briana Whitney

She’s from Northern California, but prior to coming to Phoenix, she reported at KIII-TV in Corpus Christi, TX for three years.

During her time in South Texas, she reported on several national stories. Some of the most memorable were the 2015 Wimberley floods, reporting for eight hours off the Gulf of Mexico during Hurricane Harvey in August of 2017, and reporting from the church shooting in Sutherland Springs in November of 2017.

Her general assignment reporting won her two Associated Press awards, six EMMY awards, and one Emmy nomination for a half-hour special she wrote, produced and hosted on the issue of child pornography.

Briana graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and during college had seven different internships at several news stations.

When she isn’t chasing breaking news or working on a feature story, Briana loves checking out the best restaurants in the Valley, and hiking or rollerblading around town. Briana is very happy to have made Arizona home!

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