Commemoration March 3, 2001

“I have seen the goodness of God”

Mfon Essien, one of today’s most promising photographers and one of our featured Hot Girlz, lost her battle with breast cancer, at the age of 34, on February 14th. Her transition came just one day before her work, “The Amazon’s New Clothes,” went on exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art as part of their much talked about show, Committed to the Image: Contemporary Black Photographers.

Born in Ikot Ekpene, Nigeria and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Mfon's genius as a photographer was the way in which she blended edgy shapes with soft gestures and delicate props (or vice versa). Her first portraits usually featured men-- boyfriends who would always oblige Mfon's request to disrobe. By her own admission, Mfon never really considered her body very fascinating even though it was easier to manipulate and a lot less stressful. But Mfon short for Mmekutmfon, which means, "I have seen the goodness of God," would experience an event that would transform her life and the way she thought about her body and how she lived.

In 1998, Mfon was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. She underwent a major mastectomy to remove the cancer. Considering that women are not even told to get their first mammogram until they are 35, the shock of having breast cancer was enough to leave the usually tough spirited adventurer feeling crippled. But Mfon understood that learning to live without her left breast was going to be an experience she needed to accept. And like many artists that find themselves at the crossroads of life, Mfon used her art to make that important first step—she shot herself in the nude.

In a weird twist of circumstances the resulting series of self-portraits entitled, "The Amazon's New Clothes," have become what many friends and critics believe to be Mfon's best work. And according to some, they
believe it is also her most erotic.

Mfon received an Honorable Mention in last year's very competitive American Photographer Magazine contest and her work was on exhibition this past May at the Senegalese Bieenale in Dakar, Senegal. She past away in the company of her friends listening to Nina Simone and feeling the warmth of grace in her midst.


Reflections on Mfon

I didn't know her too well - as a matter of fact, she was probably in my presence for all but three times. But each time there was an energy and beauty in her life-force that touches me still to this day. Her memory should be celebrated through her work as well as through the lives she touched on her journey through life in this world. Above all, I'm thankful that I was fortunate enough to have been exposed to her energy. The way in which her motivation to contribute through art fueled her last months should be an inspiration to all that life is about love, and (positive) energy - no matter what the circumstances. This woman had been "dying" for quite some time and you would never had known it through her expression and passion for life.

~ Nelson Rodriguez

During her final journey she was surrounded by her favorite people, music and family. We-- Cooley (her roommate), George (her lover/boyfriend) and I had the good fortune of spending the last day with her and we listened to disco, Prince and Nina Simone. She fought like a warrior until the end. Never once did she think she couldn't overcome the challenges of the disease. Preserving her legacy as an artist was an important component to her survival and that's why she worked so steadily to insure that. She was blown away by the enormous amount of respect she received from the community for her Amazon's New Clothes series. As her publicist and trusted friend I had the blessing to participate in her life at the most critical time with unconditional love and support. Together we added value and enormous freedom to one another's life. I am heartbroken from the lost however I am a bigger person in knowing her. Her strength was magnetic and I know that I will never meet another person like her. She was truly loved and moved into her next life with grace and pleasure. A foundation is being set-up in her name. ME Foundation is established to empower young women who are surviving cancer. The foundation will work to help women maintain life issues while receiving treatment and will rely solely on donations.

~ Tonya Miller

Though Mmekutmfon considered me her mentor there were many times when I felt as if I was kneeling in front of a great sage whose wisdom I took in through my pores. She was in a place I hope to reach someday. Even before her illness she was surrounded with light-- the great and brilliant brightness of Godliness or what many of us refer to as humanity. She was beautiful and I will always love her and to me she will always remain alive.

~ [B]arron [C]laiborne [A]fricanus


Some words from Mfon

About photographing women:
"I always wanted to shoot women, but I would run into women who were uncomfortable with their bodies and I don't have time for that. When I'm shooting it's already a test because I never know what I'm going to get. So I don't feel like being someone's therapist-- telling them why I think they have a great body."

About shooting herself:
"I (photographed myself) specifically to heal immediately and to get over the mourning. I was like 'you don't have a breast and you're not having plastic surgery anytime soon. So get it together and feel sexy today. Take these pictures now!"

"I'm constantly shooting myself so I can continue to appreciate what I have and where I am. Maybe I'll get breast implants tomorrow and maybe I won't. Maybe I will not even live past tomorrow. I just want to make sure that wherever I am, I am totally diggin' where I am-- not mourning or wishing I had a bigger ass. I just don't have time for that anymore. I feel sexy now. And I never felt like that before."

About life:
"I'm nothing like I was before I found out I had breast cancer. It's wild because now it's in my second year and I have come full circle. I have more reverence for life than I ever have. I completely exist in the here and now."






Reproduction of material from any pages of without permission is strictly prohibited.
© theHotness 2002