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OPTICVOICES: Mama’s Boys by Emmai Alaquiva

OPTICVOICES: Mama’s Boys is an interactive, mixed-media exhibit that orbits the healing of mothers who have lost their sons due to systemic violence and aims to fossilize their legacy. The vessel of cinematic and provocative storytelling is captured through the galvanizing lens of Emmy Award-winning, multidisciplinary artist, Emmai Alaquiva. The kindred journeys of mothers around the world are shared through artistic love letters in the form of photography, film, mixed media and augmented reality.


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About Emmai Alaquiva

Testing the limitations of what is possible, Emmai Alaquiva is manufacturing the future of digital art across the multiverse of mindful media. “The sky is not the limit,” says Alaquiva, a four-time Emmy Award-winning film director, photographer and composer. As proven in his dynamic body of work, Alaquiva skillfully showcases the soulful account of humanity while becoming one of the most distinguished trailblazers in the creative arts industry.

An interdisciplinary artist, Alaquiva isn’t just an arts-in-media innovator, he is also an entrepreneur creating opportunities in the digital landscape. In 2001 he launched the contemporary, full-service digital multimedia company Ya Momz House. “Our commitment is to tell stories,” says Alaquiva. His entrepreneurial efforts have been recognized by several publications, including the Pittsburgh Business Times, upon which he was named Top CEO of the Year, nationally honored by Black Enterprise Magazine as BE 100 Modern Man of Distinction and most notably as a national BM Community Leader recognized by President Barack Obama.


Alaquiva’s innate ability to execute a narrative from behind-the-lens has ushered in countless triumphs for his work. Achievements include a 2017 Emmy Award nomination for his international directorial film debut for Ghetto Steps. The film was selected by the City of Pittsburgh to be included in the short film, Future. Forged. For All., a marketing campaign for Amazon’s announcement of the global brand’s second headquarters. In 2021, Alaquiva accepted the honors of two Emmy Awards for his social justice work being selected by Google as a contributing film director for the global release of the Google Year In Search film. Most recently, Alaquiva wrote and directed the PSA, Unspeakable that aims to amplify the voices of the Deaf, hard-of-hearing and those with audiological conditions. The PSA was featured on ABCs Good Morning America. The announcement went viral and was seen by more than 300 million people in more than 60 countries.

Cracking the code on how one man’s vision with a big idea can make something from nothing, Alaquiva harnessed his way from homelessness to being appointed by Governor Tom Wolf to serve on the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts. For Alaquiva, it’s his path-less-taken approach to visual storytelling that drives him. As an artist he turns to his ability to curate images that share a message. With his OPTICVOICES: MAMA’S BOYS, an interactive photography exhibit for social change, Alaquiva documents a mothers’ resiliency through the aftermath of losing her slain son to an act-of-violence. Turning his lens from tragedy to the classroom, he is also co-founder of Hip-Hop On L.O.C.K., an award-winning arts education program for youth K-12

EMMAI ALAQUIVAAlaquiva’s work has been seen and heard across the world through media giants such as CBS, Amazon and PBS to presenting on stage for TEDx talks. Celebrity projects with Oprah Winfrey, Wiz Khalifa, Martha Stewart and the late Dr. Maya Angelou skim the surface of his high-profile work. The twelve-time Telly Award-winner has also been recognized throughout Pittsburgh organizations as a 40 Under 40 powerhouse, a 50 Finest, and a FAB 40. Honorably, Alaquiva has received proclamations from the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to his acknowledgment as GET Involved, Inc.’s Man of The Year for his community leadership. Whirl magazine honored Alaquiva and his wife, Patricia in their Couples Who Make A Difference editorial piece highlighting the Alaquiva’s philanthropic efforts to raise thousands for charity.

The story behind Alaquiva could have ended at the point in his personal life when he was without, however the future held a home–or a residence for Alaquiva. With each year he has amassed a portfolio of work that has opened the doors to an artist-in-residency as the 2022 B.U.I.L.D. Residency Artist at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center (AWAACC). Alaquiva’s OPTICVOICES: MAMA’S BOYS will stay on exhibit at the AWAACC through January 31, 2023.

For Emmai Alaquiva’s visual portfolio, a comprehensive list of awards and honors visit https://www.emmaialaquiva.com