29 November 2012

The Progress Of Love

The Progress Of Love is a three-part transatlantic exhibition which explores how today's African artists reflect on universal emotions in a changing global society. The exhibition is hosted by The Menil Collection, The Pullitzer Foundation for the Arts, and the Centre for Contemporary Art. 

The Menil Collection in Houston December 2, 2012 – March 17, 2013
At the Menil Collection, The Progress of Love reveals how artists in Africa today are questioning, reflecting, and challenging received images and norms of love —sexual, familial, friendly, communal— as derived both from traditional culture and Western influences. Works by more than 20 artists from Africa, Europe, and America examine the ways in which language, mass media, cultural traditions, and socioeconomic forces foster images and expectations about love. The exhibition pays particular attention to the effects of the digital era, asking whether our ideas about love are now coming into closer alignment across the Atlantic. Zina Saro-Wiwa's Eaten By The Heart is featured at the exhibition.

Photo of artist Zina Saro-Wiwa.

The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts November 16, 2012 – April 20, 2013
The Progress of Love at The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts explores the end  of love’s spectrum. Yinka Shonibare’s Addio del Passato (2012) is featured in this series. Also featured are Mourning Class (2010-11) by Zina Saro-Wiwa and Take Care of Yourself (2007) by Sophie Calle. Mourning  Class is a multi-screen video presentation of a lamentation ritual devised by the artist, in memory of her brother and her renowned activist father, Ken Saro-Wiwa. Take Care of Yourself is a multimedia installation documenting the responses of 107 women to a break-up letter the artist had received from her lover, via e-mail.

Photo: Yinka Shonibare, MBE Addio del Passato, 2011 Digital video, color, sound, 16 min 52 sec Courtesy of James Cohan Gallery, New York and Shanghai © 2012 Yinka Shonibare, MBE

The Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, October 13, 2012 – January 27, 2013
At the Centre for Contemporary Art, The Progress of Love explores contemporary expressions of love with an emphasis on the performative, highlighting the growing interest in live art in Nigeria. It opens up the possibility for dialogue and interaction that may challenge audiences to rethink prejudices, expand possibilities, and engage with and in all the ways love can affect lives. Inspired by personal experiences, tradition, technology, and literature, artists represented in the performances express loss, absence, pain, and difference. In doing so, they invoke memory, challenge prejudice, and articulate togetherness in very personal ways. ”

For more details on programs, locations, and the artists visit The Progress Of Love.

Eaten By The Heart | The Progress Of Love

The Progress Of Love is a three-part transatlantic exhibition which explores how today's African artists reflect on universal emotions in a changing global society. The exhibition is hosted by The Menil Collection (in Houston, USA), The Pullitzer Foundation for the Arts (in St. Louis, USA), and the Centre for Contemporary Art (in Lagos, Nigeria). As part of the series at The Menil Collection, Eaten By The Heart is a video installation by Zina Saro-Wiwa which explores the views of Africans on kissing.

Differences in Practice of Kissing
There is a notable difference between generations, in terms of the views towards kissing as an expression of affection. In Part 1 of Eaten By The Heart (shown below), the participants describe the familiarity they have with the practice. The general awkwardness surrounding the idea would seem a little strange to those living in areas where kissing is equated with an expression of love. Anthropologists believe that kissing began in India and they reference Amazonian tribes who are still not accustomed to the practice. Perhaps our exposure to kissing in Western societies has conditioned us to expect and enjoy it as a form of love. The implications of this are quite fascinating.

Watch Part 1 of Eaten By The Heart:

Heartbreak & Expressions of Love
The video installation progresses to address topics of heartbreak. I found the responses very poetic and a beautiful communication of various appreciations of love beyond the customary kiss. The tender, vulnerable facial expressions provided visible hints of profound experiences of love and hurt. 

Adopting the practice of kissing
One participant suggested the idea that Africans “borrowed” kissing from the Europeans to “complete our love”. However the increased acceptance and use of kissing is more likely to have been the result of globalization and the decreasingly conservative disposition of younger generations.

26 November 2012

African Wax Prints | Hollandaise

The Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (SMBA) presents Hollandaise, an exhibition curated by Koyo Kouoh and featuring artists Godfried Donkor, Abdoulaye Konaté, Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Willem de Rooij, and Billie Zangewa. In a description of the exhibition Koyo Kououh explains that, "Wax is African because West Africans say it is theirs. They gave it its singularity, its language and its cultural identity. The market will like to make it a pure commodity with the label “True, Authentic Africa”, but the potential of African consumers to produce their own interpretations speak of their continuous creativity and agency."

London-based Ghanaian artist Godfried Donkor developed the idea of producing a video installation called "The Currency of Ntoma (fabric)", which portrays the extensive collections of Dutch wax prints some West African women have, with fabrics dating back to early 1950s. Kouoh notes that "ever since wax prints were introduced in Africa, women have collected them, along with other textiles such as batiks, lace and Congolese damas... Beyond the financial value of the fabric, the vintage pieces also give the wearer prestige and an aesthetic edge."

The exhibition opened on Nov 3, 2012 and will continue until Jan 6, 2013 at Amsterdam's SMBA.
It will travel to RAW Material Company in Dakar, Senegal from April - June 2013.

For more on Hollandaise, visit the official website.
To read more about Hollandaise in the newsletter, click here.

Excerpts via SMBA Newsletter No 130
Photocredit: (All 3 Images): 
Godfried Donkor, The Currency of Ntoma (fabric), two-channel video projection, 2012 (video still)

For Hire | Rickshaw Drivers in Bangalore, India

For Hire is an animation that tells the story of a day in the life of a Bangalore, India Rickshaw driver through the eyes of a European visitor. These green, yellow, and black, rickshaws are described as the "blood in the veins of Bangalore". The animation was created by Berlin-based animator Xavier Xylophon.

Watch the video below:

23 November 2012

Africa For Norway | Radi-Aid Campaign

Africa For Norway is a satire campaign about Africans donating radiators to save freezing Norwegians from their treacherous northern winters. The campaign video begins with a rapper called Breezy V, who tells us about the suffering that is taking place. He says, "People don't ignore starving people, so why should we ignore cold people. Frostbite kills too." I must admit that these words have caused much laughter, because despite its absurd nature there is truth to the statement. He continues with, "We need to collect our radiators, ship them over there, and spread some warmth, spread some light, and spread some smiles. Say yes to Radi-aid."

A choir soon breaks into song, imitating the campaign styles of the 1984 Band-aid "Do they know it's Christmas?", the 1985 Live Aid "Norway for Africa", and the USA for Africa "We Are the World". The Radi-Aid group sings, "Now the tables have turned, now it's Africa for Norway, and there's no way we can close our eyes. We see that they freeze... Norway gave a helping hand. They taught us what to do. And now it's payback time."

Watch the campaign video below:

Why does this video matter? 
If this “Africa for Norway” video was the only information we got about Norway, we would perceive the country to be a place where people freeze with absolutely no access to heating. Likewise, Africa's negative image has  been the result of one-sided coverage on  hunger, poverty, crime and AIDS. The aim of the campaign is to demand that fundraising not be based on exploiting stereotypes, that more accurate information be shared in schools, that the media be respectful in its coverage of topics relating to Africa, and that aid be designed to meet real needs rather than "good" intentions.

Why do I care?
As an African who has lived in her home-country and abroad, I know all too well about the condescending non-profit campaigns, as well as the attitudes that my classmates, co-workers, and neighbours in the "developed world" have about Africa. Most of the close-minded, inaccurate ideas people have are often due to the disrespectful media coverage and the portrayal of Africa as helpless, poverty-ridden and corrupt. I enjoyed this video tremendously, and I thank the creators for the work that was put in. Let's challenge ourselves to stay informed on global matters and make the effort to dig deeper.

For more on the campaign, visit http://www.africafornorway.no/

22 November 2012

The Impact of Cultural Arts | Conversations with che kothari

che kothari is a recognized leader in the Toronto community. He is popular among the vibrant youth and artists of the city. I first met che when I attended a joint book launch of Keisha Monique and album launch of Ian Kamau. che kothari had a very warm personality and was the least intimidating despite his strong influence in the community. It would be hard to adequately conceptualize his impact on the city if you had just met him right then because he’d treat you just like his own. I sat down with che to talk about his views on the value of cultural arts and its role in cities like Toronto.
PhotoCredit: (Left & Right) By Che Kothari

About che kothari
Our interview began with an introduction to che kothari’s family. che began by telling me about his mother and father’s immigration from their native India to Canada. che’s father worked in the shoe industry in the Middle East.  As is the dominant story of many Indian families, che was expected to take on his father’s work but although he was grateful and respectful of his father’s journey, his destiny took him along a different one.

Once settled in Guelph, Ontario, the Kothari family would find time to travel to the Caribbean, which felt like a physically closer version of Indian home. che fondly recalled a tender moment on Curacao, an island just north of Venezuela. Carnival was happening and che was absorbed in his efforts to document the scene. In that moment he realized what a blessing it was for him to have the opportunity to witness such strong culture. This was one of his first introductions to the role of documentation through photography.

PhotoCredit: Che Kothari

Back in Guelph, che’s classmates belonged to affluent families and there was little diversity in his neighbourhood. Other than during his travels, it was not until he moved to Toronto at age 17 that he found people who looked like he did, spoke like he did, and were as culturally expressive as he was. He describes Toronto as a “burst of creative and cultural energy that was not as present in Guelph”. There he also discovered communities of young people who were expressing themselves with hip hop and cultural art.

20 November 2012

'Nairobi' | LOVE magazine S | S 2012 Editorial

‘Nairobi ’ | LOVE magazine S | S 2012 Editorial
Photography | Alice Hawkins
Fashion Editor | Anders Sølvsten Thomsen
Production | Caroline Mbindyo
Casting | Lyndsey Mcintyre of Surazuri
Retouching | Henhouse

19 November 2012

(1)ne Drop | Defining What It Means To Be Black

People of African descent reflect a multiplicity of skin tones and phenotypic characteristics. Often times, however, when met by people who self-identify as ‘Black,’ but do not fit into a prototypical model of ‘Blackness,’ many of us not only question their identity, but challenge their Blackness, and thus our potential relationship to them. (1)ne Drop explores the "other” faces of Blackness – those who may not immediately be recognized, accepted, or embraced as ‘Black’ in this visually racialized society.
In an interview with CNN's Don Lemon, Artistic Director and Producer Dr. Yaba Blay shared some of her new experiences with the project. She also explained some of the history behind the (1)ne Drop rule. Overall, the project seeks to raise social awareness and spark community dialogue about the complexities of Blackness as both an identity and a lived reality. I appreciate Dr. Yaba Blay's work in addressing a topic that we all know is important, yet tend to overlook as we address other racial matters.

For more on the (1)ne Drop project you can visit www.1nedrop.com for details on the photobook which includes some of the images shown above.

Photo Credit: (1)ne Drop

14 November 2012

My Rockstars | Portraits from Morocco

My Rockstarts is an exhibition by London-based artist Hassan Hajjaj. Inspired by his childhood in Marrakech, Morocco, the collection is a series of portraits of average people who represent his everyday rockstars. Some of the frames in this collections are created with soft drink and food cans. This is explained as a representation or symbol of the growing import market. Hassan Hajjaj explains his work saying, “I’m trying to create something which has as much of my identity as possible… something that is fresh in Europe and Africa … it’s like when you see the jars and the sweets in the shop as a child.”
Hassan Hajjaj is also known for his designing of the Andy Wahloo, a bar in Paris. My Rockstars feels like a modern take on the work of photographers such as Malick Sidibe and Seydou Keita. Hajjaj credits Malick Sidibe's photos of Malian nightlife for having a significant impact on his work. My Rockstars was exhibited at The Third Line in September, and is reported to be making an appearance in London soon.

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12 November 2012

Lest We Forget

Bottom two images:
1. New York’s famous Harlem Hellfighters arrive home from France (February 10, 1919)
2. The famous 369th Colored Infantry Regiment upon their return from France (February 1919)

In remembrance of the men and women who fought in many wars, 
whether military or social, for the freedoms we enjoy today.

Lest We Forget.

1. National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the War Department
2. Kelly Miller’s History of the World War for Human Rights by Kelly Miller; Washington and Chicago: Austin Jenkins co., 1919

Jane Alexander | Surveys (From the Cape of Good Hope)

Surveys (From the Cape of Good Hope) was an exhibition of sculptures by Jane Alexander, a South African artist. The exhibition was organized by the Museum for African Art (MfAA), supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, and guest curated by Pep Subiros. Jane Alexander’s sculptures are described as "hybrid mutants that speak to the porous borders between humans and other forms of animal life". "Alexander acts as a surveyor mapping the forces, interests, and passions at play in human behavior. Her sculptures, installations, and photomontages are firmly rooted in her South African experience. Alexander’s body of work throws into relief the asymmetric relations and practices that preclude access for so many people to a free and dignified existence".
Jane Alexander is also known for a previous sculpture installation entitled, "Butcher Boys". I did not enjoy this collection because its combination of naked ribbed human bodies and horned heads was too raw and dark for me. Viewer discretion might be advised for young viewers as it might be frightening.

I enjoyed Surveys (From the Cape of Good Hope) a lot more. The figures in this collection seem a lot more human and relatable. As a viewer I feel intrigued and eager to understand the stories of Alexander's creatures. The combination of human and animal features also reminds me of Frank Ocean who uses similar figures with the head of a panda and lion. It makes one wonder how these could be related. In the past, I haven't seen or paid so much attention to themes of the relationship between animals and humans, but I'm curious to see other depictions and what they could mean.

Sources: Huffington Post, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

9 November 2012

Songs From Poems | The Musical Style of Kae Sun

Kae Sun is an artist at heart. You can tell by his thoughtful gaze and deep introspective pauses that he has a lot to share. I sat down with him to discuss his recent music video, his upcoming album, and his work as a musician.

Sharon: What is the main artistic theme behind the Ship and the Globe music video? I noticed the themes of a journey in the music video. Is that what the song is about?
Kae Sun: Yes, it’s about journey and space in terms of distance. I write a lot of poetry and sometimes a poem turns into a song. My lyrics often come from poems.

Photo Credit: Yaa Annobil & Joshua Kissi

S: That’s incredible! Who is your favourite poet?
K: My favourite poets are actually musicians who are great songwriters. I like Bob Dylan. His lyrics are very literate. Leonard Cohen is a Canadian favourite of mine. I also read African poetry.

S: So would you consider releasing poetry in the future?
K: Maybe, we’ll see. I write all the time so it’s a possibility.

S: How did your recent visit to Ghana affect your inspiration for your album?
K: I was in Ghana very briefly in May. My visit in Ghana has definitely helped in terms of inspiration. But the first time I returned to Ghana after living in Canada was the most eye opening. I noticed everything I had missed as a child. Ghana was a lot more interesting for me.


2 November 2012

London's Film Africa Festival | November 1 - 11

Film Africa is back this November with a new range of educational, family, and art events alongside an engaging film programme. Known as the UK's largest annual festival of African cinema and culture, the festival runs for 10 days with 70 African films, 35 leading filmmakers offering Q & A's and 8 African music nights.
Above: The Three Furies

Above: Thula

Above: The Godfather

The film festival is hosted by the Hackney Picturehouse as well as The Ritzy in Brixton, the Rich Mix in Shoreditch, the BFI Southbank, Screen on the Green in Islington, and the South London Gallery. For more on the Film Africa festival, visit www.filmafrica.org.uk.

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