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Alumni Spotlight: Malaika Favorite

Maliaka Favorite by Billie Holliday mural

Malaika Favorite; image courtesy of Favorite.

“Always believe in your magic,” advises Malaika Favorite (BA 1971 & MFA 1973), LSU art alumna and Louisiana-based artist.

Her latest project is nothing short of magical: Favorite, a mixed-media artist and writer, was selected by Disney to create art for the upcoming Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, a new park ride attraction inspired by the animated film, “The Princess and the Frog.” The new reimagining of the iconic theme park’s Splash Mountain Rides will open in 2024. Favorite’s mural, inspired by the Louisiana setting of the film, will greet visitors entering the ride. View the ride’s “first look.

“When we were exploring how to introduce guests to the story of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure as they prepared to embark on the attraction, maintaining the authenticity of Princess Tiana’s experience as a young Black woman striving to achieve her dream in the soulful backdrop of New Orleans was one of our highest priorities,” said Carmen Smith Sr., president of Creative Development — Content, Product and Inclusive Strategies for Disney Parks, to The Advocate. “It only makes sense that an extensive search for an artist who could bring our vision to life brought us to Malaika’s doorstep.”

Mural of alligator in swamp

Mural image courtesy of Disney.

“My goal is to create art that delights and adds to the Magic of Disneyland and Magic Kingdom,” she said of the works that she’s creating for Disney. The mural focuses on family, friends, food, music, art, and bringing folks together, according to Disney Parks.

“The act of creating art is like playing to me,” Favorite said. “I seldom feel like I am working. I’m having an adventure that takes me on a journey to places in my mind.”

Favorite works in a variety of forms and media. Her experiments with literature as part of the painting’s text and those with folded canvas are prime examples, and she’s equally at home working in oils, acrylics, watercolors, and lithographs. “My goal as an artist is to present a dialogue between the viewer and the work of art, something that reveals a new dimension every time you visit the work.”

She is inspired by the natural landscapes of Louisiana, which feature in her works. “I take a lot of photos that inspire my artwork,” she said. “I take walks in the woods and I am amazed by the beauty. I take a lot of photos that I store in the vault of my phone and PC. When I need inspiration, I know where to look.”

For fellow and aspiring artists, Favorite reminds to believe in yourself. 

“Always believe in your magic. We all have a magic kingdom inside of us if we just take the time to visit our minds and explore what’s hidden there.”

“When you explore your inner world, document what you see, hear and learn and put it on paper or in a poem or a song. It’s a never-ending resource.”

Her favorite memories of LSU were the times spent creating. “Art class was my favorite place to be. Drawing and discovering all the ways I can say something with a brush or sketching tools.”

After receiving her MFA from LSU, she worked for several years as a university art instructor, and as an artist-in-residence at a few public and private schools. “However, I never had enough time to develop my craft as fully as I wanted to, so in 1995, I made a difficult decision to leave the world of academics to focus fulltime on art and writing.”

She works in a variety of styles and media, depending on the nature and purpose of the work. “My studio work usually focuses on a theme; I stay with that theme until I exhaust it. Sometimes I revisit the theme after I get more insight into the idea. In this way, I am constantly exploring old and new territory.”

mural on tin

“Juke Joint” mural at the West Baton Rouge Museum. Image courtesy of Favorite.

“I am fascinated by creation, the wonder and amazement of it all. When I take a walk I am dazzled by nature, after I receive this sacrament of astonishment, I come in and make art. Somehow a small portion of the magic leaks into my painting, a little speck of it, sufficient to make me cry, maybe just enough to make someone else cry and be amazed. That is my inspiration.”

She noted in an artist’s statement that:

“It is very difficult to explain a work or art, mostly because the work is its own explanation. Art is not for the immediate audience only, if it was it would be a prop or backdrop for a play, designed to be viewed for a limited time. Visual art should be timeless. It should speak to each generation, and to each viewer as an endless dialogue that continues to inspire, fascinate and delight.”

Her artwork is featured in Art: African American by Samella Lewis, Black Art in Louisiana by Bernardine B. Proctor and the St. James Guide to Black Artists, edited by Thomas Riggs and can be found in the following collections: Absolut Vodka collection, Morris Museum of Art, Augusta GA, LSU Print Collection, Baton Rouge, LA, Alexandria Museum of Art, Alexandria LA, The Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta GA, Hartsfield International Airport, Atlanta GA, The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati Ohio, Rosel Fann Recreation Center, Atlanta GA. She also has outdoor murals on Auburn Ave in Atlanta and on White St. in Atlanta. She is a longtime artist member of the Baton Rouge Gallery of Contemporary Art.

A poet, she has also published three collections of poetry: Illuminated Manuscript, New Orleans Poetry Journal Press (1991), Dreaming at the Manor (2014), and Ascension (2016) winner of the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award. Her poetry, fiction, and articles appear in numerous anthologies and journals, including: you say. say and Hell strung and crooked (Uphook Press) 2009 & 2010, Pen InternationalHurricane BluesDrumvoices Review, Uncommon PlaceXavier ReviewThe Maple Leaf Rag, Visions InternationalLouisiana LiteratureLouisiana English JournalBig Muddy, and Art Papers. She is the winner of the 2005 Louisiana Literature Prize for Poetry.

Read more about the LSU School of Art.