In our own hands: an interview with Kesha Bruce for the 6×6 Summer Blog Tour

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My exploration of Afri-love has tended to centre around creativity and the creative professions. Mainly because it's what I do and what I love but, also because of a strong belief that creativity is a powerful way of inspiring and creating positive change. I've also been going on and on (and you may be sick of it by now) about how everything starts with the self. Any change we can hope to encourage on a large scale is likely to be futile if we haven't also considered how to implement it for ourselves.

Enter artists and Baang+Burne directors, Kesha Bruce and Charlie Grosso, and their 6×6 project: their answer to the question “what if there were no more art galleries?” For 6 weeks starting in September this year, artists in New York City will take matters into their own hands and put on exhibitions to showcase their work. What an inspiring concept! What amazing potential such an idea could have in an African context, where the necessary infrastructure for a viable career as an artist is even more scarce …

I thought I'd get more wisdom from the source – the wonderful Kesha Bruce.

Continue reading “In our own hands: an interview with Kesha Bruce for the 6×6 Summer Blog Tour”

Diaspora tales

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According to the UN, "around 200 million people who identify themselves as being of African descent live in the Americas. Many millions more live in other parts of the world, outside of the African continent." In celebration of the diverse and flourishing African Diaspora (and indeed the UN International Year for People of African Descent!), I'd like to share with you two great projects that I've had the honour to work on recently.

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Diasporan Darlings: a website sharing the unique experiences of life, love and work in the Diaspora – informing, showcasing, engaging and entertaining. 

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Spora Stories: an initiative by acclaimed playwright and scriptwriter, Ade Solanke, to bring the dynamic stories of the African diaspora to the stage and screen – great stories, well told.

To see more of the design work created, check out Diasporan Darlings and Spora Stories in the Asilia portfolio.

Happy weekends to all – at home and "in the D"!

Interview with artist, photographer & writer, Kameelah Rasheed

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Today I'm really happy to bring you this interview with artist, documentary photographer, writer and youth educator, Kameelah Rasheed. Along with participating in several groups exhibitions across the US and having her photography and writing featured in a number of print and online publications, Kameelah is also the co-founder of Mambu Badu, a photography collective for emerging female photographers of African descent.

Here, Kameelah discusses her ambitions, the challenge of perfectionism and the power of storytelling. I am super inspired by this driven woman!

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Tahrir Squared: multiplying the effect across the world

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It is often said that in order for individuals to effect significant positive change in our communities and societies, we need to organise.

Yesterday marked the launch of a community portal that seeks to do just that. Inspired by the spirit of the uprising in Tahrir Square, Cairo, that took place on January 25th this year, Tahrir Squared is that online space that aims to multiply the Tahrir Effect, expand the Tahrir Region and build the Tahrir World. During the uprising, Egyptians came together despite differences in religion, class, age, gender and ability, creating an incredibly moving example of unity and the power that it can generate. Tahrir Squared aims to keep this amazing energy and momentum going and spread it to those across the world who are similarly organizing for justice and to improve their lives and those of their fellow citizens.

Asilia is proud to have partnered with the folks behind Tahrir Squared in designing and building the site. We are grateful for having been given the opportunity to contribute to such an honourable cause.

Explore Tahrir Squared for news, views and analysis; interviews; a library of images and video and; to find out about civil society initiatives in Egypt, the Arab region, the wider Middle East and internationally.

Logo designed by Asilia, photo by GeoEye

5 steps to creative independence (my guest post on the African Digital Art network)

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Earlier this week, a post I wrote and illustrated, especially for African Digital Art (ADA), was published. "5 Steps towards Creative Independence" shares some of the things I've learned during my one and a half years of self employment.

Check it out if you haven't already and don't forget to join the ADA District – an online community designed and created for African creative professionals, designers and artists. 

Defining Afri-love


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This post was originally posted on Lulu's blog, Pandemonium Today, in September 2009

Africa is in my veins … in my thoughts and in my actions. I don’t know how love for a continent is made. How the colours and rhythms from one far-off coast can resonate as loudly on the opposite side. How listening to strangers speaking a language I do not know (understanding is different for it often transcends linguistic boundaries) can bring sudden feelings of homesickness. How the rush of sights, sounds and smells, as I step out of a plane, has my being instantly relax in the knowledge: this is where I belong.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder and it also teaches the heart a lesson about its self: about how it is made; about what dictates its pace; and what it requires for beating.

I used to think I was patriotic, I still do, but I believe what I was feeling deserved a different and more appropriate name. It transcends national borders – it goes back before the Scramble. It rises over the barriers of language for communication takes place on several planes.

Meeting people from around the world and sharing our common affinities for the continent has helped, over years, to formulate for me, a way to articulate that feeling I previously could not quite capture. I choose to name it Afri-love. Simple, says what it does on the tin and allows me to signpost the myriad expressions of that feeling that I observe, live and create. Naming is a powerful process – it allows one to lift up a thing, hold it to the light and study it closely. Naming can be dangerous too: it can limit the form and consistency of a thing. However, in this instance, naming is useful to me as an umbrella under which to formulate ideas and mobilize the kind of action that will expand itself. Afri-love breeding Afri-love.

And naming helps to create community. A community already exists but it is not always self-aware. The extensive take up of the Afropolitan idea/identity is proof that Afri-love exists in abundance. Its informal community of agents spread its beauty and energy across the globe, sharing good news about the continent; enlightening people about its diversity and cultural wealth; and destroying the barrage of misperceptions that exist within the minds of ignorant and “worldly” alike.

Perhaps most important is exchange. Bringing language, culture, art, knowledge, belief and music to meet with the language, culture, art, knowledge, belief and music of other continents. Creating something new, powerful and relevant that heralds all of its constituent parts while casting a wider net of inclusion. Respect, fundamentally, running through it all.

Afri-love is about that respect for what came before (to avoid the use of that contentious term “tradition”), learning and taking forward what is still germane and beneficial to growth; leaving behind what is inappropriate and counter-constructive; drawing knowledge and inspiration from whatever other sources are available in our experience; and using our imagination, creativity and passion to make something new.

Something that reflects our individual histories and journies first. When we zoom out and look at the greater tapestry of which we are a tiny but crucial thread, the collective story emerges. In perhaps the most interesting, eclectic and spontaneous fashion yet.

Undoubtedly, the most conspicuous pattern is the energy that connects every person who feels Afri-love. It’s almost irrelevant where you’re from. That yearning to touch the ground, smell the soil and feel the sun’s embrace. To join the dance, both invisible and real. To love your brodas and sistas despite their weaknesses and bad judgement. To be that village that is concerned with the growth of every child.  The village that hunts and gathers together and celebrates that collective action with a feast.

It may all sound quite utopian. Perhaps, the one truest sign of  the presence of Afri-love is the optimism that we can make our vision a reality: Africa rising to realise its full potential*.

* Borrowing from the stated vision of African-led UK charity Stand Up for Africa.