28 August 2012

Get Busy, Get Dizzy for Paper Magazine

Photographed by Emily Shur for Paper Magazine, this spread combines many patterns for a fascinating result. Who knew that the layering of several different patterns could be so attractive to the eye? Or do you find them overwhelming and excessive? I see the layering of west African-inspired and perhaps Japanese-inspired patterns. This reminds me of the Wafrica Kimono which combined elements from these cultures very beautifully. It seems then, that we are not as different as we may think. Maybe this photoset provides strong visual evidence of that.

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Harry Uzoka for SCMP Style Magazine

I adore this spread featuring male model Harry Uzoka. Shot by Jeff Hahn on large format polaroids, the editorial was published in SCMP Style Magazine. I'm a huge fan of the vintage African themes in this set. Ladies and gentlemen, let me direct your attention to the painted barbershop advertisements that are still typical of many west African cities in the third and fourth photos. May I also point out the African and batik-inspired patterned walls? Don't you also love the balance of vibrant colours and bare black-and-white themes?

Model: Harry Uzoka
Photographer: Jeff Hahn
Stylist: Simone Konu
Grooming: Gemma Wheatcroft
Set-designers: Sam Overs & Leo Bruno Todd

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27 August 2012

Sounds of The Bossa Nova | 12 Tunes to Know

Bossa Nova is a popular style of Brazilian music that is known to have developed in the 1950s and 1960s. It is described as a fusion of the samba and jazz music genres. I adore the bossa nova and Afro-Brazilian culture. Perhaps that's strong evidence of my Afropolitan traits. Here are twelve tunes you should know from the bossa nova genre. Click on the album covers to listen.

From left-right, top-down:
Manoa - Lisa Ono
Bim Bom - Chega de Saudade by Joao Gilberto
Sylvia Telles - Voce
Mas Que Nada - Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66
Pink Martini & Saori Yuki
Antonio Carlos Jobim: Wave
Sam Prekop
Bossa Nova Cha Cha - Luiz Bonfa
The Astrud Gilberto album
Let Me - Jill Scott (featuring Sergio Mendes)
The Girl from Ipanema - Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto
Jazz Samba Encore! - Stan Getz & Luiz Bonfa
Tom Ze - Estuda
Oscar Peterson's version of Wave by Antonio Jobim

PS. If you must pick only one song, listen to the first, which is Manoa - Lisa Ono.


Art & Politics | Kudzania Chiurai's Provocative Artwork

Zimbabwean-born Kudzania Chiurai is noted as one of the most talented artists on the contemporary African art scene. Using mixed media Chiurai addresses topics of politics and xenophobia. As a result, many describe him as a poet, an activist, and cultural philosopher. When asked about his focus on politics,  Kudzania Chiurai answered saying, "You can't escape politics. Everything's political in the sense like how we're socialized." Trained as painter, Chiurai soon got involved with politics when he created posters of Mugabe in flames and with horns on his head. He was threatened with arrest and moved to South Africa in self-imposed exile. 
The Black President; Minister of Education

Dying To Be Men
In his first solo installation, Kudzania Chiurai explores the aesthetics of propaganda and political representation in this series. With the influence of elections in South Africa, the USA and Zimbabwe, Chiurai presents various aspects of the image of the black president and his cabinet. As a result, the viewer can also observe different notions of masculinity and power, as evocatively suggested by the title of the exhibition.
Minister of Defense; Minister of Arts and Culture

State of the Nation
The series focuses on aspects of a constructed African state that has just been ravaged by conflict. "On a continent that has experienced more violent conflict than any other, this exhibition follows an individual's narration of events that lead up to the inaugural speech by the first supposedly democratically elected prime minister..." explains Chiurai.
Kudzania Churai's latest collection, entitled Conflict Resolution, was displayed at Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany. Artists like Churai raise the question of what the role of an artist is. At what point does an artist decide to go from painting flowers to painting provocative images? What is the difference between an artist who focuses on beautiful aesthetically pleasing art, and one who focuses on developing social movements? Share your thoughts in the comments below:

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23 August 2012

An African Election | Then and Now

In 2009, Ghana held one of the most anticipated elections yet, with much expectation for a smooth transition. Directed by Jarreth Merz, An African Election is a film that "that looks behind-the-scenes at the complex, political machinery of a third world democracy struggling to legitimize itself to its first world contemporaries."A successful kickstarter campaign was launched the fund the screening of this documentary across the country.

Watch the official trailer here:

Meanwhile, Ghanaians are preparing for yet another election which will take place in December. The late President John Atta Mills passed away in July due to a long battle with illness. Hours after releasing a formal statement signed by the chief of staff, the former Vice President John Dramani Mahama was sworn in as the President of Ghana. The west African country was been applauded for the orderly and timely fashion in which this was done. I happened to be in Ghana when this occurred and was amazed by what I observed from the media, the government, and citizens. 

Photograph: Haydn West/EPA

To help ensure a free and fair election, Ghana Decides is a project that works to foster a better informed electorate. The team works using social media and has acquired quite a following on twitter and tumblr. There is still much speculation about how the passing of the late President John Atta Mills will affect this season of elections. Regardless of which party wins, the hope is that the process will be peaceful, and the party chosen will truly be the choice of the people.

22 August 2012

Africa Weekend | Deloitte Ignite

This year's Deloitte Ignite, entitled Africa Weekend, is curated by critically acclaimed artist Yinka Shonibare. His vision for Deloitte Ignite 2012, Africa Weekend, is a celebration of traditional African and avant-garde arts and culture, expressing Africa’s global contribution to the contemporary arts world. Africa Weekend is hosted at the Royal Opera House in London, England.
Highlights include an exhibition of contemporary instruments made by Victor Gama, African cinema, dance performances, and photography. Special guest for the evening concerts include Tony Allen contributed to the creation of the Afrobeat sound, and Radio 1xtra's DJ Edu.

Watch the video preview:

For more details on Deloitte Ignite's Africa Weekend, click here.

Native Sun | Short Film by Blitz The Ambassador & Terence Nance

Directed by Terence Nance and Blitz the Ambassador, Native Sun* tells the story of a young boy who sets off on a quest to find his father soon after his mother's death. Shot in Ghana, the film follows the character as he journeys from his small village in Tamale to the big city of Accra. Native Sun is also the name of Blitz the Ambassador's album, which is the soundtrack to the film.
After seeing the 20-min short film, one important element that stands out to me is the realistic and relevant portrayal of Ghana in the story. We see a combination of scenes in a village, in the city, the slums and in a lavish house. Blitz the Ambassador also released a 4-min music video for Best I Can featuring Corneille, which doubles as a trailer for the short film. 

Watch Native Sun here:

*Sidenote: I love the typeface used for Native Sun. The clean letter design and the African fabric really add a dazzling, colourful, eye-catching design factor.

What are your thoughts on the film? What did you think about the alluding of the king to corrupt political leaders? How did you interpret the ending? Do share in the comments below.

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21 August 2012

Redressing The Crown: Joanne Piéf | The Art of Braiding

Joanne Piéf presents an intriguing collection of hair braiding designs (or sculptures) entitled "Redressing The Crown". She alternates between calling herself a hair sculptress, braidologist, and hair designer. Joanne Piéf started braiding hair at the age of 11 and "Redressing The Crown" is the result of her developing fascination with hair braiding.

When asked about her hair journey and those of other women, Joanne explained saying, "We speak through our hair, consciously or unconsciously." Through her research into hair and braids, Joanne has discovered that contrary to popular belief, hair braiding transcends multiple cultures, and is not limited to women of African descent.

As indicated by the collection's title, "Redressing The Crown", Joanne Piéf aims to shift the general perceptions of braiding and how hair should be styled. Although one can easily dismiss hair styling as a personal preference that is irrelevant to culture, it seems that the styling of the crown holds much value in many cultural traditions. 

In an interview with Vogue, Joanne recalls braiding the hair of her family members as an activity done in private. In Ghana, women can get their braided in neighbourhood salons at very low prices. After being so accustomed the culture of hair braiding in Ghana, I can't help but be intrigued by Joanne Piéf's work. Understandably, the hairstyling of women of African descent has often been a culturally symbolic topic. Joanne's contributions to the dialogue provide a new twist and artistic portrayal of the subject.

via Vogue

20 August 2012

Guest Contribution | Reflecting Culture in African Art

Just published, is this article that I contributed to Rise Africa as part of the August series on Art. For a taste, you can read the excerpt below. The complete article is available over at Rise Africa.

Reflecting Culture in Africa Art

Africa boasts a myriad of vibrant cultures, of which art is a key highlight. Defining the relationship between culture and art would require a complex, well-investigated explanation. Nonetheless, we can agree that these two social elements are interconnected and interdependent. As creative pan-Africanists, understanding the relationship between culture and art can enable us in our efforts to rebuild our continent. Digital art, film, and photography are three influential art mediums that are being used by artists to spark dialogue about African cultures.
Digital Art: The quantity and quality of the talent within the digital art field is remarkable. Two interesting works of art are the African Madonna by Studio Muti, and an Occupy Nigeria series by David Osagie. African Madonna is the product of a combination of elements from South African tribal culture and references of religious icons. David Osagie’s series of artwork was inspired shortly after Nigeria’s membership in the Occupy movement, which is reported to have begun soon after Nigerian political leaders defied reforms designed to distribute Nigeria’s oil rich economy to citizens. Both works are great examples of how art can be used to communicate social values and ideas.

Comments? Questions? How do you see the expression of culture in African Art today? How else can it be used for social progress? Let me know in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you.

The Perfect Blues | Jesse Boykins III

Directed by Dr.Woo, The Perfect Blues starrs Jesse Boykins III, an emerging musician with a voice of love. I have been a fan of Jesse Boykins III and the work of Dr.Woo for a really long time. Each song and each musical short film demonstrates a carefully constructed work of art, and exudes the vibrant creative souls of these artists. The Perfect Blues is from the 'Zulu Guru' album which also features musicians Melo-X and Mara Rhuby.

The album is available for purchase here
You can find out more about Jesse Boykins III here and Dr.Woo here.

15 August 2012

Tunes of the Week

Every week, Auburn Butterfly recommends four tunes for your enjoyment. These will come from a variety of genres particularly jazz, blues, soul, folk, and some latin-american and african genres.

From left to right, top-down:
Le Voyage en Afrique/A journey in Africa
King - The Story

*From a two-track album with clips of jazz and blues. More info and free download here.

Click on the album cover to listen to each song.

14 August 2012

Shirin Neshat | An Iranian Artist In Exile

Shirin Neshat is an Iranian artist in exile known for her outstanding work in film, video and photography. She has been recognized with many awards for her dedication to reflecting "the ideological war being waged between Islam and the secular world over matters of gender, religion, and democracy," and because "the impact of her work far transcends the realms of art in reflecting the most vital and far-reaching struggle to assert human rights". In a TED talk presentation (posted below), Shirin Neshat explains the joys and struggles of her efforts to represent and speak for her Iranian people.

Also have a look at a previous post about Women Without Men, a film directed by Shirin Neshat. The film offers an exquisitely crafted view of women rights today in Iran, as compared to Iran in 1953. Read more on the film here. You can also read more on Shirin Neshat from an article written by G.Roger Denson at The Huffington Post entitled Shirin Neshat: Artist of the Decade.

13 August 2012

Photography from Mali | Malick Sidibé

From left to right, top-down:
Nuit de Noel (Christmas Eve) 1963
Regardez moi! 1962
Toute la famille en moto 1974 - 2011
Malick Sidibe 2002

Malick Sidibé is a Malian photographer known for his use of black-and-white photographs to portray the popular culture in Bamako during the 1960s. The photographs above are from some of Malick Sidibe's popular exhibitions. I am fascinated by the classic, vintage aesthetic of Malick Sidibé's work. After examining these photographs, I'm feeling inclined to look through my parents' pictures for some fashion inspiration. I'm already hanging on to my mum's beautiful vintage dresses and skirts, which I adore. 

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