26 September 2012

Art Gallery of Ontario | Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting

The Art Gallery of Ontario presents "Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting". The exhibition features over 80 paintings by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and over 60 photographs of the couple. A range of Rivera's painting styles from his early cubist period and studies for his Mexican murals, to his portraits and later landscapes are included. The exhibition also includes almost a quarter of Kahlo's entire body of work. 
The AGO describes "Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting" the exhibition as one that offers a new perspective on the artistic significance of this couple for the 21st century: one which encompasses how their paintings reflect both the dramatic story of their lives together and their artistic commitment to the transformative political and cultural values of post-revolutionary Mexico. 

Although I have a passion for the vibrant cultures in Mexico and South America, I have had a particularly difficult time enjoying Frida's art. Despite the many efforts to revisit her artwork, I find many of them quite disturbing. Is it just me? Am I the one? How do you interpret them? Do you have any favourites? Do comment below.

For more information on the exhibition visit the Art Gallery of Ontario.

19 September 2012

Photojournal | Life in the 1930s - 1980s

From Left to Right, Top-down:
visitors. waco,teXas. 1939.
“Tout New York”, texte de Thomas Page, editions Minerva/Gründ, Genève 1976.
“Sénégal” de Armand Lunel, Editions Rencontre, Lausanne, 1966. Photographies d’Armand Dériaz.
Harlem, 1947. By Morris Engel
A couple watching a performance in a “flea circus” ca. 1959 by Rene Burri

Sounds of Jazz | A Collection of 9 Rich Tunes

From left to right:
 Aguas de Marco - Joao Gilberto - Stan Getz
Study Guide
Pico da Neblina
Chambre Avec Vue - Henri Salvador
Walkright - Bahwee
Everybody loves the Sunshine - Roy Ayers
Saxophone Colossus - Sonny Rollins
Chet Baker plays Vladimir Cosma - Sentimental Walk in Paris, 1985
Coming to You Live - Charles Earland
Earfood - The Roy Hargrove Quintet


5 September 2012

Conversations on the Influence of Afropolitanism

The contemporary African is often viewed as urban and culturally savvy – a description much-aligned with the traits of an Afropolitan. With the evidence of a growing middle-income class, the use of ‘Afropolitan’ to describe Africans alludes to the rapid change towards African cosmopolitan lifestyles.

During my recent visit to Ghana, I sat down with Kobina Graham of Dust Magazine and Mantse Aryeequaye of Accra[dot]Alt to discuss the influence of Afropolitanism.

We began our conversation by defining the term 'Afropolitan'. Kobina recalled that the term was first used by Taiye Selasi to describe a group of young Africans with feet both at home and abroad. These were all people who had moved from the continent to study or work. This group had interests in music and fashion within which the different cultures that influenced them collided.

My early research into the term suggested some correlation between Afropolitan lifestyles and the likelihood of becoming a leader. Kobina didn’t think that this was inherently the case. He reminded me that there used to be this idea that if you were an African raised abroad, you were somehow more exposed to the “right” way of going about things (ie. civilization) and that it was your destiny to return home and impart your “superior” knowledge towards making things better for the “poor” people at home. “People with such lofty notions of leadership come home to Ghana and discover that people on the ground have their own ideas and do not really have time for yours.”

Hearing this immediately reminded me of the gatherings I had attended with families abroad, where nostalgic conversations between the elders always quickly turned into heated debates about the future of Ghana. These discussions almost always ended with some form of consensus that Ghana – much like the rest of Africa – was doomed because the people were not willing to change. So if this was true and Ghanaians of the previous generations did not want to change, what was the missing element we were finding in the contemporary Afropolitans today?

Continue reading here...

3 September 2012

Dear White People | Controversy & Overdue Dialogue

Dear White People is a satire about being a black face in a white place. The film follows the stories of four black students at an Ivy League college where a riot breaks out over a popular "African American" themed party thrown by white students. The satirical film explores racial identity in "post-racial" America while weaving a universal story of forging one's unique path in the world.
It is understandable that the film and its title are causing a stir in both Black and White communities. In an article for the Huffington Post, film director Justin Simien explains that the film is not about "white racism" or racism at all. Instead, its about the difference between how the mass culture responds to a person because of their race and who they understand themselves to truly be. The film has also gained attention from the mainstream media. In a CNN interview with Carol Costello, Justin Simien explained that the film aims to offer a different narrative of the black experience which is not available to the public. He continued with a reference to films by Tyler Perry which are viewed by many Blacks as an inaccurate portrayal of Black Americans today. It seems that many agree with Simien. The film's kickstarter campaign to raise $25,000 was surpassed to over $41,000. 

Overdue Dialogue
Why does this film matter? Regardless of whether one may like or dislike the film, Dear White People  matters because it sets the much-needed conversation going about what the Black experience really is. It serves as a platform for Blacks to share their individual stories and to be recognized separately from the stereotypes presented in the media. The film covers experiences that are shared by many Black people yet still not discussed in the media today. As a result, Dear White People has caused much relief particularly for people who relate to the film. The stir caused by the film is great because it serves as the momentum for creating a much more racially informed public.

Watch the trailer here:

What are your thoughts on the film? Do you intend to see it once it is released?  
Do share in the comments below.

Read Justin Simien's post about the film on The Huffington Post here.

Shwe Shwe

A campaign for Shwe Shwe designer Gareth Cowden, photographed by Jono Wood.

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Clic Clac Baby | Portraits of Ivory Coast in the 1960s

In 1954, a 22-year-old Ivorian photographer, nicknamed Clic Clac Baby, started taking pictures, quickly setting up a studio in the small town of Adiake, 120km (75 miles) from the then capital city Abidjan. Reminiscent of the celebrated photographers Malick Sidibe and Seydou Keita from neighbouring Mali, his pictures capture the era around the country’s independence in 1960, when the country was quickly emerging as one of the continent’s economic success stories.
With 1,500 CFA francs (around $6 at the time) he bought his first camera and started walking up to 30km a day around the villages in his cocoa- and pineapple-growing region taking portraits, often with an improvised backdrop of local cloth. The collection of 30 photos from the 1960s show a surprisingly fashionable world, with subjects dressing up for photos and posing with status symbols of the day, like portable radios and scooters. “Before, if you had a radio or a television – you’d dress up well, and come and listen. Now everyone has them, but before they were rare. A man who had a radio – wow, that was a rich man,” the photographer explained.
These beers (bottom right) are now known as "Drogbas" after the country’s famous football star, but in the 1960s, long before the footballer was born, they were just as popular in the local "maquis" - Ivorian bar-restaurants. Some of the work kept in his simple studio has not survived, but a surprising number of the 6x6 format negatives have been well preserved thanks to Baby’s meticulous filing.
“I know that if I can keep the negative well, sometimes the people will come and ask me about their photos. ‘Hey Mr Baby, the other day my mother or my father took photo with you – my mother’s died or my father’s died. Can you get one of the negatives to print for me?',” he said. “We mustn’t forget the past. It’s the past that’s created the present. If your father didn’t exist, how could you exist?” he asks. 

Words by the BBC Africa’s John James. via

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