New Year Affair

via isgeschiedenis.nl

2014 is here. On NYE celebratory firework explodes into the air. Annual ritual. Forget the ritual part. Few days a year we blow money into the air for various reasons so that bright hope and shining dreams can keep us warm in Eurolands. Imagine if the sky is lit with millions of euros. Imagine if the rainbow and Pantone met at a heathen fest and kissed for hours. That’s how I would describe New Years Eve in the Netherlands to a blind person. Functional? Maybe. This year the rooftop of the supermarket LIDL  provided me access to first class seats to the show. Unfortunately, on the ground, was more like bombs over BOLO aka Bos & Lommer, since the explosive bomb-like firework made us dance the Azonto to safety. The country is briefly traumatized by the casualties that will enter the year without limps or sight only to repeat the same trauma 364 days later. No judgement. I rather not feed into the newest/heated discussion in Hollandia, but save my energy for October’s Zwarte Piet battle festivities.

Fast forward. All jokes aside. Nine days into January teaches us that our bombs are illusionary.Whenever I am caught dancing with vanity, the internet reminds me that suffering is eating humanity’s christmas leftovers somewhere on this planet. Yesterday, it was South-Sudan. The day before; Philippines and today it reached Beirut. Skip my perception of time. It’s diluted by metaphors. Perhaps, we can find solace in the words of writer Sophie Chamas who managed to capture a broken city’s dreams in the moment of despair:

Our hearts don’t break anymore. They don’t break for a Beirut we long ago dismissed as beyond repair. They don’t break for the dead. We laugh at the absurdity of our condition, displacing our pride in a now clichéd ability to illuminate even the darkest corners with humor. But there’s nothing funny about a suicide bombing. There’s nothing funny about apathy. There’s nothing funny about surrender. There’s nothing funny about forgetting how to love the city that survived a war for us, and that now needs us to survive one for it—by not succumbing to indifference, but by not abandoning it to those who seek to violate it in the name of a most sordid of loves. (via STATE)

All this is a reminder that a year is full of life, broken hearts, deaths, boredom, happenings, love and conflicts. Moments to collect and minutes to connect. Embracing the passing of time is the same gift as upholding a broken city’s promise.

 

via NPR (Jill Waterman)

Elevated Kitsch

 

Unicorns, motorcycles, time-lapse sunset, pastel landscapes, horses. This could have been the Sinterklaas wish-list of a tomboyish 10 year old in 1992. But in reality these are the ingredients to Kanye West’s latest endeavor to bring XTC to life: Bound 2 

Opinions on top of opinions. My curiosity made me join the digital battlefield. Apparently Bound 2 is a neurotic psychologist’s wet dream and simultaneously a conservative backpacker’s nightmare. Obviously there are Six million ways to Kanye. So one must choose one. I made a conscious choice to join the bandwagon. I got brainwashed by the cocktail of gossip, genius/insane babble & musical output.

Ever since the incident with the country Barbie girl Kanye West took us on a thrilling musical and visual ride. This video could be the end station for some fans and for others it’s just a stepping stone to finally create the ultimate rainbow sweaters of KIMYE. Don’t worry. I’m not that brainwashed yet.

Journalist and fast digital folks are elated to call “Bound 2″ adventurous, incoherent and daring. I prefer to refer to this visual essay by its appellation; Elevated Kitsch. Maybe our American brethren might coin this term to beat the critics to digital pulp ;) , but don’t you think the video is pleasingly distasteful with its layers of gaudy amateurism and off beat cinematography? Even if his subject of adoration lacks any acting ability, she functions as props in Kanye’s visual cabinet of rarities where he managed to built a wonderful pyramid of cliches. Did I forget to mention the rainbows? Kanye found a way to elevate kitsch to exclusivity. The paradox of mass produced imagery and high brow is that this video is balancing on the thin line between Kanye and the forever desire to be accepted by the nameless powerful elite.

I’ll skip my rant on class and kitsch, but 5+ minutes of excessively sentimental imagery and I must  acknowledge, the symbolism is merely embroidery in this mantle of love. Completely off track, but if you’re a ‘womanist’, I hear you objection loud and clear, but otherwise lets agree to disagree and make gifs that last forever.

Flickring light

Sometime in May Flickr changed its attire. It decided to join countless other social media companies’ hunt for the powerful rights to our content. The barter Yahoo offers: ” your life/memories, our infinite cloud space”, might have resurrected Flickr from its deathbed.

Since we collectively decided we rather give our private lives for free to explore the infinite visual landscape Flickr unleashed  on us, Flickr started to feel like traveling world (on zero budget). I’ve discovered gems upon gems and here’s my first selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taibo Bacar

Only two week ago, I was proclaiming that “African wax” material market is over saturated with poorly designed cliche apparel. Even though it is adored across the continent and among trendy Afropolitans globally, there are tons of designers exploring alternative textiles with interesting patterns and stories instead of wax from Hollandia, which has been synonymous with African fashion.

Lets skip the beat and African textile history lessons. I obsess over patterns and always profess my love for playful symbols, colors and patterns that are found across the continent. A great example is the Mozambican Taibo Bacar. This fashion design extraordinaire was raised among sewing machines and fabrics. After an education stint in in Spain, he returned to Mozambique to create his brand Taibo Bacar.

Taibo’s work illustrates the haute obscure of Africa and introduces traditional Mozambican fabric Capulana to a larger audience.

 

 

 

via zenmagazineafrica.com

 

 

Ana Mendieta

 

Currently obsessed with the work of Cuban artist Ana Mendieta. Her life ended tragically, but her work is hauntingly beautiful.

via Frieze

 

 

 

 

 

An ode to the Eye of Bamako

YouTube Preview Image

Despite the current turmoil in Mali-renown for Sahara Blues and ancient city of Timbuktu- the country is also home to great artist such as photographer Malick Sidibé. The 79-year old “Eye of Bamako’s” portraits and visual stories of the early days of post-colonial Africa have allowed viewers to grasp the joy and confidence of the era.

Malick Sidibé ‘s series on youth culture of the sixties & seventies can be found all over Tumblr and Google. His studio portraits and festive shots captured an optimistic Africa, one that still exists in our parent’s vintage black and white photo albums.  The vibrant capital of Mali could have easily been replaced by Mogadishu, Lagos or Cairo. Cities reviving on injections of a generation of educated dreamers and achievers. Dreams that were shattered in the eighties and nineties by a cliché cocktail of coups, wars, apathy, dictators, migration and corruption.

Fortunately, nostalgia is a powerful tool, because it was the nostalgia induced video “Got ‘Till It Is Gone” by Janet Jackson (directed by Mark Romanek) that introduced me to photographers Malick Sidibé and Seydou Keyta. The imagery was striking and resembled an ode to the relationship between Africans & African-Americans in the sixties. Both photographers explored this connection by depicting young Malian men and women dancing to rock & roll. Discovering Malick Sidibé in the late nineties made me want to travel to Bamako to have a 5-minute conversation about his career, nightclub scene and studio Malick. Sounds impossible, right? Not in the case of Malick Sidibé and my youthful enthusiasm. The youthful enthusiasm might have disappeared but the photographer is still known for being approachable. Countless art tourist and curious thrill seekers have visited his studio since the world noticed his photography in the early nineties.

In an interview from 2008, Malick Sidibé told Jerome Sother of Gwin Zegal (foundation for visual arts) “You don’t choose. You are called. You are recommended in advance, so you go to someone’s wedding, someone’s christening…” this was the reason the photographer was able to depict people from all walks of life. His keen eye made him desirable to the young and hip Bamako. He recalls: “We were recommended, and I was lucky enough at that time to be the intellectual young photographer with a small camera who could move around”.

His pictures are made of the joys of the youthful which is why many others and I are inclined to cherish them as great archives of an era paused by the woes of modern days. These visual documents have been a source of inspiration within music and arts for our generation and hopefully the generations to come. When I think of artists such as Baloji, I can only applaud the revival of nostalgia-induced imagery to celebrate our stories of Africa. After all,  who am I to question if a picture is worth a thousand words when it keeps engaging thousands more?

Published in  Collect and Curate 

Berlin on my mind

David Bowie blasting in my ears while cruising from Wedding to Kreuzberg. Day in Day out. Reading books on the U8. Watching people stare at the ceiling. David Bowie and I are merely connected by Iman’s Somaliness, but his music is the perfect soundtrack to an ever changing city.

Berlin has a weird after taste in Amsterdam. Here, cool bars, restaurants, events and people associate Berlin with their edgy DIY chairs, raw atmosphere and hippie/vintage outfits. In Berlin, I became aware of how my generation loves places a minute before gentrification arrives. A particular window, a moment that offers us enough thrills to satisfy our needs.

Some cities are closer to the heart than others. It’s an understatement that Berlin occupies the left corner of my heart. Since, Berlin offered me the opportunity to explore and re-think my path while meeting tons of eclectic people. Eclecticism that I connect with city nomads who unintentionally are contributing to the city’s changing identity. Regardless of the crisis, pessimism and apathy in the rest of Europe, I still believe, the potential of the European Union sleeps in the stylishly grey USSR neighborhoods of the hauptstad. 

I challenge you to sit in u8, ignore the dirty dogs and early morning alcohol odore, and you might catch tons of EU languages if you listen carefully. Aside of a few Americans and some Africans, the make-up of the city is diverse but not necessarily United Colors of Benneton-like. The nobility in berlin is that locals still think you’re a famous Black person, since there’s a severe lack of color which automatically transforms every brown person into a living exotic statue. Compared to Amsterdam it remains a fresh breath of air. The ability to escape and not worry about cultural politics and impolite but well intended/indirect racism my fellow Dutchies love to spray over you as if it is Chanel n.05, I deemed a blessing.

I came to Berlin to explore art in the broadest sense of the word. My friend and photographer Winta Yohannes calls the city she left two years ago; the lab. A fitting name. Especially when one considers the amount of experiments, entrepreneurs, adventurists, dreams and hobby-ism, I found laying on the street, it’s beyond a fitting name.

Months later. I recognize that the small amount of time I spent in Berlin made me taste the forbidden fruit of nomadism that’s been sitting in my veins and acknowledge that it might be time to keep it moving again.

Delighted Anthropologist

 

Sometimes your thoughts need to be legitimized by research and objective arguments of others. Perhaps discovering anthropologist slash Sangoma slash professor Wim van Binsbergen could be considered a delightful moment.

I spent two hours listening to an interview on his vision on anthropology, becoming a Sangoma and his perception on why the current state of  Anthropology is problematic. His basic premises is; “Anthropology is epistemologically naïve and  has a knowledge-political bias towards the North-Atlantic. Leading to unfaithful attitudes to both one’s fellow humans in the field work situation and to oneself”.

 

 

The Dreamer of Dreams

The grand Lauren Reid asked me and some of my fellow resident curators at Node to contribute to her p.s. project exhibition in November. It was my first exhibition in Berlin and my contribution was not a handwritten piece from the heart but a letter  by Lafcadio Hearn to Basil Hall Chamberlain. His letter inspires me to explore the world of words. The note below accompanied the letter and elaborates on why I choose his words over mine.

The dreamer of dreams
To whom what is and what seems
Is often one and the same— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The great author Lafcadio Hearn sent this letter to his friend and occasional editor, Basil Hall Chamberlain. Defending code-switching is an art form and as someone who’s raised multi-lingual, it’s the sincerest form of being through to oneself. Hearn manages to defend the use of quirky but physiognomically beautiful Japanese words in his English work so eloquently that I always wanted to stitch these words on my winter coat. The first time I read this letter, I fell in love. Because it preserves the freedom to be playful. It manages to portray the importance of using imagination across languages to express emotionally without being limited by a single language.

He champions for words as if they’re citizens of the world that demand their space. He reminds us that words are colorful, have moods, personalities and eccentricities. Perhaps by writing this letter Lafcadio Hearn gives the unknown an unique space in language. I re-read his letter once in the blue moon because Hearn reminds me that it’s a writer’s or thinker or creator’s duty to make the reader, listener and viewer see the color of words, hear the sound of words or even smell the perfume of syllables in blossom. To me this is the ultimate tool to explore the world (verbally and visually).

Kindness

The festive spirit is carved on people’s faces. It never ceases to amaze me how stress and excitement can bond within a week to divorce quickly during January. As an observer or passive participator, I can’t deny its influence on my desire to watch sappy movies and eat salt and vinegar chips.

Since, I am genetically inclined to dislike winter. I will applaud anything which provides me a reason to celebrate the sun :) .

Here’s what I came across while strolling the internet:

Pablo Picasso and his mask

                          Gjon Mili—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Bill Cosby Sweater

According to the people these are the best New Yorker articles of 2012. If you’re struck by boredom or generally curious, I recommend you to train your ability to concentrate by reading the articles.

Of course the interweb is always appealing to my inner consumer, it’s fully aware of my weakness for books.

(via The Driftless Area Review)