Visual feast: Amira Humes’ vibrant Filipino mural unveiled in Brooklyn

Amira Humes sat down with the Asian Journal to discuss her inspiration behind the mural in Brooklyn. She is an illustrator originally from Saginaw, Michigan but now calls Milwaukee, Wisconsin home. Amira holds a BFA in illustration with a minor in communication design from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. Throughout her creative exploration, she has embraced her identity as a Black Filipino American and used her background to inform her work.

Before earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration, Filipino-American illustrator Amira Humes had illustrated her mom’s sinigang recipe for a project, resulting in the artwork being featured in a Filipino grocery store in Nevada and online.

The mural, a collaboration with Knorr, prominently features the tamarind soup mix product as Amira wanted to connect it to her family and Filipino culture, showcasing her mom’s sinigang dish. The central figure in the mural represents Amira’s mom, surrounded by the ingredients of the dish and other cultural nods such as sampaguita flowers, malunggay, and a traditional bahay kubo.

The vibrant colors and bold lines reflect Amira’s style and the joyful feelings associated with Filipino food, and in this particular case, sinigang – which Amira says “always brings that nice, warm, happy and fuzzy feeling.”

A Knorr representative told the Asian Journal that 15 million packets of the Knorr Sinigang Mix were sold in the US and Canada last year, roughly translated to more than 41,000 packets sold per day.

Journey to Brooklyn

Amira’s artistic journey stems from her multicultural background—her mom is from Cagayan, Philippines, and her dad a black American who worked as a chef. Encouraged by her dad’s culinary influence, Amira saw art in food, eventually incorporating Filipino flavors into her illustrations.

“They were both supportive but in different ways. My mom saw that it could be a hobby and my dad as ‘Maybe you can make this into something.’ So when I decided to go to art college, my mom still had a little bit of reservation about it, I think she was worried if I was going to make it,” Amira shared.

Despite initial concerns from her mom about pursuing art, Amira’s success and recognition in the field have shifted her mom’s perspective.

Through food illustration, Amira authored “The Very Asian Guide to Filipino Food,” a book highlighting Filipino culture’s main foods and flavors. “I wanted to just show how kids can interact with it, how people who are unfamiliar, can get familiar with it, and show that it’s a very strong community of people who just want to share the food and the flavor and enjoy their time together,” she said.

Growing up in Saginaw, Michigan, Amira felt a lack of knowledge and representation of the Filipino community. Despite her mom having friends and engaging in potlucks and church activities, the broader media landscape lacked visibility for her culture. As Amira matured, she observed older individuals bringing attention to their heritage through art projects and college initiatives. Inspired by these examples, she aspired to become a source of inspiration herself.

Steven Raga, New York State Assemblymember of New York’s 30th Assembly District) with the mural’s Filipino American artist Amira Humes. Assembly Member Raga is the first Filipino American elected to public office in the state of New York.

“I wanted to be someone that can inspire somebody else and use my artwork as a platform to shine a light on us and let people know who we are,” she said.

Amira envisioned utilizing her artwork as a platform to illuminate the Filipino community, fostering awareness, and understanding of the culture. She had all these in mind as she envisioned what the mural would look like.

She described her emotions when she saw the larger-than-life mural for the first as “insane” and “surreal” and that landing a gig with a company like Knorr meant so much.

The mural, initially created digitally on a small iPad, holds sentimental value for Amira as it symbolizes the intersection of her artistic vision and Filipino representation in a city setting.

For Amira, the mural is more than a personal journey; it is also a means to inspire and bring attention to Filipino culture and representation.

Beyond highlighting the tamarind soup mix, Amira also wanted to highlight how it is connected to her and her family. From the bright happy colors, the yellow and the red and a little bit of blue, almost reminiscent of the Filipino flag in a subtle way to little elements of Filipino culture like sampaguita flowers, malunggay leaves, calamansi and the bahay kubo that Amira envisioned her mom would have grown up in.

The collaboration with Knorr, a renowned company, left Amira feeling proud and overwhelmed.

“It felt unbelievable,” she quipped. “When I got the email, I was like ‘Wow, they know who I am,’ and that little me from a small town in Michigan was able to create a piece of artwork that gained attention from a company as big as Knorr and for them to say that they wanted me to create something for them, it made me feel like all of the hard work and the effort and the support that’s been behind me since the beginning wasn’t for nothing.”

The selection of the phrase “Kain Tayo” for the mural was deliberate, serving as a maternal invitation to savor a meal. Additionally, “Kain Tayo” holds a cultural significance as a traditional Filipino expression extended to visitors during meals, symbolizing an open invitation to share in whatever is on the table.

Taste of Home

For its Taste of Home campaign, Knorr collaborated with Asian American artists such as Amira Humes and her fellow artists Tanya Mu (Chinese Canadian) and Faith Cao (Vietnamese-American).

As a global food brand since 1838, Knorr has been a pantry staple for many Americans and Canadians in their countries of origin. Here in the United States and Canada markets, Knorr’s portfolio also includes the best-selling products from many parts of the world such as Knorr Mexican Mi Arroz, Knorr Chinese Chicken Broth Mix, Knorr Filipino Sinigang Soup mixes, and many more.

A survey conducted by the company among 220 Asian Americans whose countries of origin are China, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam revealed that 90% of Asian Americans consume food from their countries of origin every week.

“Our ‘Taste of Home’ campaign is not just about bringing global flavors into American and Canadian homes,” said Partha Guha, Head of Nutrition Business, Unilever International North America. “It’s about honoring the authenticity and culinary traditions that define and unite us, and celebrating the stories, memories, and connections that our products inspire.”

Knorr collaborated with emerging Vietnamese-American artist Faith Cao (@caoculator) and Humes (@creative.amira) to create large-scale murals in Denver and Brooklyn.

Through these murals, the artists were able to share their unique stories of how Knorr has played a pivotal role in connecting them with their personal narratives, cultural backgrounds, and deeply ingrained traditions. The installations serve as a visual representation of the profound impact that authentic flavors can have on an individual’s life, inspiring them to share their art and stories with the world.

From left to right: Filipino-American Artist Amira Humes (second from left) created the mural inspired by her mom who used to cook sinigang for her. Joining her at the launch of the mural in Brooklyn were (from left) Lan Trieu (Head of Marketing, Nutrition & Ice Cream – International Portfolio), Steven Raga (New York State Assemblymember of New York’s 30th Assembly District), Partha Guha (Head of Nutrition and Ice Cream Business, Unilever International North America), Tanya Mu (Chinese Canadian artist) and Faith Cao (Vietnamese-American Artist).  AJPress photos by Momar G. Visaya

In Amira Humes’ colorful mural in Brooklyn, we see more than just a painting. We see the story of the artist who initially illustrated her mom’s sinigang recipe and now, it is on a wall in Williamsburg.

It’s a work of art that shows everyone a slice of Filipino culture, one that says, “This is who we are, and this is our tasty tradition.” As you look at the mural, you realize that it’s an invitation. It says, “Kain Tayo” which means “Let’s eat and come join us.” The mural is like a big table with Filipino stories and flavors for everyone; it’s a warm welcome to taste and see the joy of Filipino culture. n

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at [email protected].

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