Category Art

My Father and Easter…

TheDarkDisciples

EASTER ALWAYS MAKES ME THINK OF MY FATHER (seated far right).

Not only because today marks the (12th) anniversary of his passing. But also because, although he never sought out a career as an actor (as far as I’m aware), he was part of one of the UK’s first Black theatre companies called The Negro Theatre Workshop.

Founded in 1963 by the Trinidadian-born theatrical and literary agent, actress and cultural activist, Pearl Connor and her husband Edric (also a renowned Calypsonian singer and actor in his own right), they were pioneering and ardent campaigners for the recognition and promotion of African Caribbean arts.

In 1966 they produced an interpretation of the Easter story entitled The Dark Disciples, which was the first ever all-Black production televised on the BBC. It also represented Britain at the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal. My father was due to go on this tour, but had to decline due to a little forthcoming co-production of his own with my mother Sheila… 

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Introducing ‘AfroNOWism’: Five Funky Philosophies

I was that kid at school who was always restless.

‘Distracted’. ‘Boisterous’. ‘Excitable’. Just a few of the adjectives that were used to describe me in my school reports.

All this much is true, as I have always had a relentless energy and over-active mind and imagination.

I was, and still am a dreamer, and I know that I am not alone in these feelings.

I also have an abiding passion for ideas (both my own and others). And it is this passion that has driven me, to pursue a life as a creative professional in design and advertising, a collector and curator of Afro-pop culture, a columnist and more recently as an independent creative director and artist.

It has also led me on an internal quest to challenge myself and find an expression to encapsulate my creative approach.

A definition, that could underpin my ethics and help characterize some of my personality traits.

Traits, such as my insatiable appetite for thinking up ideas and putting them into action; my general impatience and high degree of self-gratification in wanting things done immediately; my refusal to wait for ‘opportunity’ and impulsiveness to just go out there and try to make things happen; my constant desire to challenge injustice, inequality, convention and the status quo.

I am what I am.

So in a humble bid to inspire and share with my fellow creatives, what I feel has been useful to me over the years, I offer you five principles that I try to live and design by, and which constitute my newly formed ‘AfroNOWism’ idea-ology:

AFRONOWISM_SQ

AfroNOWism © Jon Daniel

 

1. Seize The Time!

These words became one of the mantras of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, as coined by co-founder Bobby Seale. Together with Huey P. Newton, they created a grass-roots movement that inspired generations of people all over the world to take action and fight for their human rights. Someone once told me, you’re more likely to regret the things in life that you don’t do, rather than the things that you do. So what’s stopping you? I’m not saying don’t look before you leap, just be intelligent about your actions. The key to selling a concept, dream, idea or ideal is all in the ARTiculation.

 2. If you ain’t gonna get it on, take your dead ass home.

This P-Funk lyrical phrase, was coined by one of my greatest Afro Supa heroes and sources of inspiration. P-Funk is a complete and entire culture that manages to philosophically and aesthetically bind together a giant funk gumbo of; music and musicians; art and artists; and a plethora of super-cool funkativity masterminded by the most magnificent godfather of Funk, George Clinton. Fusing the greatest musicianship with black social commentary, psychedelia, sharp, satirical lyricism and general Afrofuturistic, cosmic creativity, it has informed my ‘through the line’ thinking and approach to branding and campaign communications on many an occasion and inspires me to bring my best game to all I do.

 3. Under-promise. Over-deliver.

When working with clients, one of the key virtues I’ve found is always to be attentive. As in life and friendships, listening is key. Be intuitive, and above all be honest. If you are confident and skilled at what you do, then you shouldn’t need to over-sell yourself. It’s far better to create a relationship based on honesty and mutuality, rather than one based purely on expectation and exploitation. Prepare both yourself and your client for whatever can happen and you’ll come back with ideas and designs that are resonant, robust and therefore deserving of reward and recognition.

4. Form Follows Funk.

In design, there is an old adage that ‘Form Follows Function’. It’s a principle that I also believe in and adhere to often. But in freeing myself more and more of the constraints of working primarily with commercial and corporate clients and now adopting a more personal artistic approach I’ve also found the joy in creating things fuelled much more by instinct than instruction. Designers tend to be quite anal. Well “free your ass and your mind will follow”. Now I trust myself that the wealth of experience that I’ve gained, will translate instinctively in anything I do. I question myself less and just let things flow. If it looks right, and it feels right (to me), it can’t be wrong.

5. Box outside the think.

Be Brave. Be Bold. Believe in yourself and fight for your ideas. Keep your eyes on the prize by constantly moving, bobbing, weaving and learning how to create and build momentum by exploiting the gaps between the question and the answer. You’ll triumph in the end.

 

 

 

4 Corners: An Interview with Gareth Jenkins

This month we find ourselves back in the Caribbean on the region’s fifth largest island, Trinidad or “The Rainbow Island” as it sometimes known due to its wide range of ethnicity, religion and culture. I’m proud to say that I have close family living here, most notably the relations of Karl Hudson-Phillips ORTT, QC, who was one of the island’s most celebrated figures, serving as a Queen’s Counsel, former Attorney-General and Judge of the International Criminal Court in a career spanning over 55 years. Our profiled designer, although still relatively young, is carving out an extremely distinguished career already, which has seen him, his business partners and their company, Abovegroup establish an enviable reputation for creative excellence, innovation and entrepreneurship in the business of branding, design and communications. A beacon for the emerging creativity that is coming out of the Caribbean, it is my absolute pleasure to be able to shine a light today on Gareth Jenkins.

Gareth Jenkins

Gareth Jenkins, designer and managing partner Abovegroup

What’s your background?

I am an Anglo-Trinidadian with a quintessentially Welsh name. My mother was born in Trinidad & Tobago, my father in England – both coming from diverse backgrounds themselves. They met at university in Wales before moving back to Trinidad – I think they thought it would be a bit more welcoming to mixed race children than the UK was in the 70s and 80s! So I spent most of my childhood in Trinidad, though I don’t particularly identify with any one culture or place to be honest – I feel like I belong everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Education-wise, I was a science and maths student at school in Trinidad (I was academically inclined, and as such wasn’t allowed to do subjects like art or design, which were considered the domain of those who weren’t going to amount to much) and then went on to study politics in the UK.  That was followed by a decade of living and working in London, mainly in the financial sector, until one day I woke up.

Fernandes

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

I was working at JP Morgan at the time (1998) and was fairly settled into a self-satisfied, vacuous kind of existence. One lunch break, I decided to take a rest from the usual fare, walked across the bridge and randomly into the Hayward Gallery. Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima happened to be exhibiting at the time. I stood there, absolutely transfixed. Here were these familiar, functional objects – alarm clock-type red LCDs, attached to small motorised cars, zooming around the floor. It was enchanting. Now this may seem pedestrian to someone with a background in the arts, but to me at the time it was explosive – the notion that an object so utterly mundane could be transformed into something so beautiful, so layered, by adding nothing more than an idea. After that nothing ever looked quite the same. Within a month I had quit my job and moved first to Los Angeles and then to Barbados where I began to experiment with graphic design. A good friend convinced me to move back to London where I began working in magazines in the late ’90s, before finally returning to Trinidad and starting my own design studio in 2001. In 2006 I joined forces with photographer Alex Smailes as the practice became more and more focused on what was now my core area of interest: the world of identity.

Beacon

What challenges did you face in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

Trinidad is blessed with a bounty of natural resources, which makes it quite wealthy by Caribbean standards. It’s a very entrepreneurial environment – at times it seems like everyone is on some hustle or another! It’s also one of those rare places where if you have an idea, and you know how to execute it, you’ve got a better chance of succeeding than not. That makes it a very creative place, certainly in what people do, but perhaps less so in the way they go about doing it. So we have some brilliant examples of creatives who have done well globally – writers, designers, musicians, artists, architects, film-makers and so on; but no real structure or systems in place which allow these successes to be built upon. It’s exciting, chaotic, and ultimately frustrating. It feels as if each generation has to start from scratch, tearing down the half-finished edifices of the previous one, only to eventually get bogged down in the Technicolor mess themselves. As you might imagine, our consultancy isn’t really a part of that culture. Our main challenge was, and still remains, educating clients. Often I first have to sell the importance of design, then the idea of branding and identity, before finally getting around to suggesting that working with me might be a good idea. When I first moved back, there weren’t many people around who were interested in design as a stand-alone profession, other than how it could be used in advertising. That’s not to say that there aren’t good designers in Trinidad & Tobago – far from it. You see, we have this carnival that is amazing – and all absorbing. It’s the tree that hides the forest. So it felt like most of the really talented people were being sucked either into advertising booze, or designing costumes in which to drink said booze. Unfortunately with it came a pallor of mediocrity. This created a paradox – if you knew what you were doing it was easy enough to get started and win new work, but once the business grew beyond a particular point, it was impossible to find anyone to hire. We couldn’t pay what the advertising agencies were offering.  And the agencies, flush on decades of huge accounts and sharing clients among the old boys’ network, weren’t letting us in. We turned to our culture instead.  We created this beautiful studio in a warehouse in East Port of Spain within what was then CCA, an international artists’ residency programme. Within a few months we had doubled in size, and then again a year later. I started a series of talks called Show & Tell (of course!) – as a way to get our team exposed to new ideas. When 100 people turned up to the first one I figured we were on to something. We would pack up our studio, deck out the warehouse, invite a mix of seemingly unrelated speakers, give them 15 minutes each, and then throw a huge afterparty.  Watching diverse audiences interact – young artists mixing – and getting on with – beekeepers , cocoa farmers and curious onlookers was really special. We blended local and international – people like photographer Martin Parr and DJ Diplo gave talks along with a growing crew of talented locals, including Keshav “Jus Now” Singh (musician), Laura Ferriera (photographer), Robert Young (fashion designer) and Wendel McShine (artist).  It was fun, fulfilling and ultimately successful in carving out our own space. I think the greatest challenge was our two-and-a-half year partnership with the regional Ogilvy office, from 2011-2013 (Abovegroup Ogilvy). Their challenge was creativity and culture; ours was access to the big multinational clients and steady cashflow (branding is a fickle beast, especially in the Caribbean). So we merged – a design studio with an advertising agency. People said it couldn’t be done, but why not? At first we were so enthusiastic – anything was possible, and indeed it was. But slowly but surely people returned to their old ways. I learnt the hard way that saying that you want change is easy (who doesn’t like new! shiny!); but actually changing the way people see themselves and their business proved impossible. Until then, I don’t think I had ever truly failed at something. Our best people began to drift away, disenchanted. Eventually we too had to give up – we picked up our stuff and walked out, taking our company and reputation with us. We are back on track now and I think our greatest challenge at the moment is staying small. The pressure to grow is always there, but for now, our plan is to keep focused on working with only a few clients at a time, trying to make things that make a difference.

Miquel

Who and/or what are your greatest inspirations and influences?

I’m largely self-taught, so knowledge of the greats came late in life to me. From a distance – Otl Aicher, Piet Mondrian, Michael Bierut, Peter Zumthor. I’ve always been inspired by the blend of strategy and design that Wolff Olins have mastered. Or the peculiar model of Pentagram. Closer to home, Jamaican magazine First was brilliant; locally Steve Ouditt, Eddie Bowen and Illya Furlong-Walker brought their own brand of genius to the generation before me. Architect Mark Raymond was a great guide and mentor at the beginning. Last but not least my business partners Alex Smailes and Marlon Darbeau and my family have been an endless source of ideas and strength. 

Atlantic

What is your best piece of work or the project you are most proud of?

I don’t think there’s any one project, but I’m proud of a few for different reasons. Rebranding Atlantic LNG (the biggest company in the region by revenue) was a real milestone in that it was the first time that a local agency was selected to work on something of that scale. Convincing a sceptical board – the heads of BP Trinidad and Tobago, British Gas and so on – that our solution was the right one – was the hardest, and most satisfying part for me. The Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival was a big success, done quickly, and has so far stood the test of time. Beacon Insurance was interesting in that in working with them on their branding, we began to unearth other aspects of their business that needed to change as well. It stalled the project for ages, but in the end something really meaningful emerged. To be honest though, I think the thing that I’m most proud of is how successful the people who have passed through Abovegroup have become. I’m not trying to steal the credit for that – they were well on their way before we met – but it’s rewarding to think that, in some way, we have helped shape the way they see the world by providing a kind of sanctuary for people with big ideas.

Film Festival

What would be your dream job or project?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and it’s to set up a Department of Design in Trinidad & Tobago, working across ministries to bring clarity in communications to what government does and how it goes about doing it. That would include all aspects of internal and external interfaces, workflows and digital; to things like signage, passports, currency and so on. Pie in the sky, right? Maybe not. You see I have this belief that us up-and-coming nations don’t need to wait until we have “arrived” to begin to focus on expressing ourselves clearly. We don’t need the GDP of Norway to appreciate how much better a beautifully designed passport is, or an easy interface to renewing a drivers’ permit. We don’t need a long history of type design to benefit from a unified system of road signage or an intuitive website. We can appreciate what we have without dampening our ambitions – our significant places and monuments aren’t properly identified, their stories buried or misunderstood. It’s no wonder that they are routinely torn down or paved over. I think sophistication in design doesn’t have to be merely an indicator of a nation’s success; it can be a driver towards that success as well. It works for emerging products, brands and corporations – why not nations?

Film fest

Who in your field do you think deserves credit or recognition?

Ossie Glean Chase is an absolute gem of a man who has had a phenomenal career. He’s a fantastic designer, artist, architect and social thinker. He’s quite well known in certain circles, but barely known in Trinidad, certainly among the younger design community. I have been lucky to meet with him on a few occasions and I always leave feeling that I’ve been speaking with someone much younger than me (he’s in his 80s).

Show Tell

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

The other day the head of one of our associate companies remarked that the problem with us was that we were dreamers, and that Trinidad didn’t like dreamers. If you hear that, you know that you are on the right track. Emerging nations need dreamers. Our problems can’t be solely solved by parroting what has happened in Singapore or in Switzerland. We need to have the self-belief to find appropriate solutions ourselves. As designers we have a responsibility to participate in this development. Design is not a natural priority – we have to push ourselves to the front, and insist that our way of thinking should be included in the process.

Casa

What’s next for you?

We recently launched HOME, the region’s first multi-purpose co-working space, in partnership with fashion designer Anya Ayoung-Chee in this beautiful house in Port of Spain. We’re looking to begin replicating this model in other regional cities later on in 2015. I’ve got a personal photography project that I’ve just started, recording the massive cultural shift that Trinidad and Tobago has seen by retaking a series of photographs my father took of beautiful colonial-era buildings in the 1980s. On top of that I’m shifting my centre of gravity back towards the UK at the end of 2015 to be closer to my family and explore new avenues. It’s an exciting time…

For more information visit http://abovegroup.com 

Network

EUROPE:

THE V&A PRESENTS ART AND EXISTENCE: AFRICAN AND ASIAN DIASPORA EXPLORED. An informal series of talks led by external practitioners and specialists in their field, who through art, design, media and technology, unpack the cultural and social landscape, exploring race and representation, often provocative, sometime challenging assumptions and perceptions of Africans and Asians and their Diaspora. All six talks are free, booking essential. The first two talks in January are as follows:

Recent Developments in Contemporary Art in Barbados Thursday 8 January, 14.00 – 15.30pm. By Dr Allison Thompson, Lecturer in Art History at Barbados Community College 

4 CORNERS: Designers from the African Diaspora (Africa, Caribbean, Europe & USA) Thursday 22 January, 14.30 – 16.00pm Jon Daniel, Independent Creative Director 

For booking information visit the V&A website

THE CARIBBEAN:

TVE (TRANSOCEANIC VISUAL EXCHANGE) is making an open call in search of recent artists’ films and videos to be included in an exchange between Fresh Milk (Barbados), RM, (Auckland) and VAN Lagos (Nigeria). Submitted works must have been completed in the last five years and must be made by artists practicing in the Caribbean, Africa or Polynesia. Subission deadline 16 February 2015. For more information visit the Arc magazinewebsite

THE US:

BEYOND THE SUPERSQUARE explores the indelible influence of Latin American and Caribbean Modernist architecture on contemporary art. The exhibition features more than 30 artists and more than 60 artworks, including photography, video, sculpture, installation, and drawing, that respond to major Modernist architectural projects constructed in Latin America and the Caribbean from the 1920s through the 1960s. Runs until 11 January 2015 at The Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx, New York 10456 T: 718-681-6000. For more information visit the Bronx Museum website. 

AFRICA:

UNCERTAIN TERMS is a group exhibition showcasing the work of 14 artists from across four continents. The exhibition brings together a group of artists who engage with changing dynamics, either in response to formal issues of materiality within their practice, or as a reaction to broader socio-political themes. In all cases the work is a reaction to dominant hegemonic structures. Whether it be through the direct questioning of western depictions of history, colonialism –and its attendant capitalist enterprises, as in the work of artist Frowhawk Two Feathers, or as in Nico Krijno’s work: which destabilizes the primacy of certain modes of production and the objects through which they manifest. Runs until 24 January 2015. For more information visit the What If The World website

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.

4 Corners: An Interview with Bro Ben

As October and another British Black History Month draws to a close, it gives me cause to reflect on the years since its inception in 1987. Culturally and technologically the changes in our society in that time have been immense. However, politically we seem to be going backwards rather than forwards as our basic freedoms and human rights come under constant attack and outrageous acts of prejudice, racism and violence become increasingly flagrant and frequent. Back then in the ’80s, our profiled creative for this month was making his mark as a graffiti artist and rapper as part of London’s burgeoning hip-hop scene. Creative roots which fed and nurtured him into one of the most talented, diverse and respected artists and designers of his generation. His integrity to his craft and commitment to his community, especially in encouraging young people, is awe-inspiring. As is his vast body of work encompassing art, design, illustration, photography, film, sculpture and music. But let’s be clear, this is no “Jack of all trades”. His work in each and every discipline he turns his heart and his hand to, is accomplished and features many landmark projects, which continue to influence to this day. So without further ado, let’s pass the mic to Mr Benjamin Wachenje aka Bro Ben.

Bro BenSource: Azita Firoozyar

Benjamin Wachenje aka Bro Ben. Artist, designer and filmmaker

What’s your background?

I grew up in Harlow on the outskirts of London. Being born in the mid-70s meant that I was just about old enough to be considered a first-generation hip-hop child. From the first time I set eyes on Malcolm McLaren’s Buffalo Girls video as a young boy I became submerged in hip-hop cultural expression. Although I enjoyed all of the various disciplines of the emerging hip-hop movement I found the spray can art element particularly fascinating and exciting to do. Spray cans only represent a medium but the art form is essentially typography fused with figurative and landscape painting on unconventional canvases. As a result of this early introduction into the combined arts I have continually resisted the notion that you have to specialise in one discipline. During the mid-90s I was fortunate enough to have been the first generation to be offered the opportunity to study for a ‘joint’ honours degree at The University of The Arts’ Camberwell site. So I chose to simultaneously study Fine Art and Graphic Design, where I furthered my understanding of layout, composition, photography, typography, painting and printmaking.

Breakin'+Convention+designBreakin’ Convention design

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

Prior to studying for a degree I had already satisfied many illustration and design briefs in the late-80s and early-90s. Before having computer access I had learned how to cut and paste using Pritt Stick and a scalpel, delete and tidy work with Typex and do laborious-hand rendered typography with Gouache paint or Letraset transfers. With regards to my illustration style, prior to owning a computer I would collage sheets of coloured paper together to make Illustrations. I got my first Mac in 1997 after volunteering at Alarm magazine. As a reward for my hard work and sleepless nights meeting press deadlines the publisher kindly gifted me an Apple Macintosh Performer 5600 Power PC. I quickly developed a technique to create my collaged paper illustrations in Photoshop. I had my first illustration published in VOX magazine in 1997 and this was followed by regular appearances in Echoes Music Weekly and Touch Magazine. In 1999 my illustration helped to enrich the branding of the DarkerThanBlue digital platform. After two years at DarkerThanBlue I returned to Touch Magazine as art director and also worked as art editor for THE FLY magazine.

Darker+than+Blue+designsDarkerThanBlue designs

 What challenges did you face in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

I had hundreds of rejected job applications after leaving university. While being unemployed I would occupy myself with imaginary briefs. I started to take the job application process less seriously and began to take risks with my covering letters which accompanied my CVs. On several occasions I just wrote raps/poems and I was surprised to find that this strategy appealed to some of the recruiting art directors who found this interesting and funny. As a result I became a frequent freelance designer at both Emap and IPC publishing houses. I also underestimated the power of referral. At least 50 per cent of my early work leads came from one friend, Russell Moorcroft. He was comfortable in putting me forward for a number of jobs because I had been at college with his wife Linda, who was able to give a confident character reference about my work ethic. But now the greatest challenge I face is to work as hard towards my own goals as I have in the past towards the visions and goals of my paymasters.

Breaker+illustrationBreaker illustration

Who and/or What are your greatest inspirations and influences?

Most definitely hip-hop culture has been a great inspiration and has interfaced me with enriching experiences. But professionally my early mentor Everton Wrightshifted my paradigm as to what is possible. I had never come across a black man with dreadlocks who drove a nice car and owned a consultancy and design studio (Creative Hands) in the heart of the City. The walls of the studio were adorned with examples of high-profile work that overlooked the minimalist furniture, wooden floorboards and first generation G3s and iMacs that were dotted all over the loft-styled workspace. What’s more he had staff and was able to pay me. It was a mind-stretcher to say the least. I had never met a black man in Britain who had carved out a living for himself like that and being of black British descent this really resonated with me. Aside from that type of up close and personal inspiration I also take a holistic approach to the arts as a whole, so I might do a painting inspired by the music of Donald Byrd. I might do drawing inspired by Spike Lee’s films. I might make a short film inspired by a poem I have written. I might design a palette for a corporate brand based on a Monet pastel drawing. I also find inspiration in failure, depression and tragedy. I know that I am at my happiest when I am productive. I know that if I am not productive I will be depressed. I know that if I don’t find a lesson in a tragedy then the sorrow may envelop me. I know that if I don’t analyse my failures I will be destined to repeat them, so I stay positive and draw inspiration from life’s beauties and hardships.

FourFourTwo+cover+illustrationFourFourTwo cover illustration

What is your best piece of work or the project you are most proud of?

I am not a proud person. Sometimes I like my work momentarily on completion but as time passes I can only see how it could have been better. I get very uncomfortable when people praise my work.

PaintingPainting work

What would be your dream job or project?

My dream job would be to direct and produce a feature length film. As an artist without boundaries what better medium exists than film, to harmonise the spectrum of artistic disciplines? Within film you can fuse, literature, poetry, music, sound design, dramatics, theatre, dance, sculpture, photography, typography and graphics… I think the great filmmakers of this period will be remembered and revered in the same way we idolise the renaissance painters of the 15th and 16th Century.

Design+for+Jonzi-DDesign for Jonzi-D

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition.

As previously mentioned Everton Wright. Steve McQueen. His work asks questions in a subtle way. Also he feeds into the growing audience that want to see an unconventional artistic approach to film making. Kjell Ekhorn and Jon Forss (Non-Format). They don’t follow design trends and they have enough confidence in their vision to establish trends. Graham Rounthwaite. Editorial illustrations were seemingly becoming stagnant before he re-energised the discipline with his fresh fashion-led stylised characters that he placed in familiar urban contexts. Taki 183 and PHASE 2. Fathers of graffiti who were some of the first Street artists to break the cycle of incestuous, elitist art and bring it back to the everyday people. Blek Le Rat. The relatively unknown Parisian stencil artist, whose work inspired and pre-dates Banksy. Following a period of abstract impressionism art was losing its ability to communicate with the masses and could no longer effectively critique power or voice decent. With the emergence of Culture Jamming and Street Art once again artists like Blek Le Rat were able to comment on the social and political climate in a dissident and subversive visual language.

Touch+magazine+coverTouch magazine cover

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t follow in my footsteps – create your own pathway. If you try to get to where I am you will be disappointed when you arrive. Never limit your goals to what someone else has achieved, look beyond, focus on personal excellence. Try to be excellent at what is in front of you right now and then move on when the time is right.

Sleeve+art+for+TySleeve art for Ty

What’s next for you?

A workout. I have been sitting in front of my computer all day. Not good. You have to paint up close but then view from a distance to find out if your strokes are making sense. When I work out I can reflect on my creative goals from a distance. But for sure I will continue to illustrate, art direct and make space in my schedule to make films.

Network:

EUROPE:

STEVE MCQUEEN ‘ASHES’ is the Thomas Dane Gallery’s third solo exhibition of the acclaimed British artist and filmmaker’s works. For this exhibition, McQueen will present two new works. The first, entitled Ashes, 2014, is installed as an immersive projection with sound.  It was shot on Super8 film with a haunting verbal soundtrack, recently recorded in Grenada. Much of the footage dates from 2002 and was taken by the legendary cinematographer, Robbie Muller. The deceptively simple film was commissioned by Espace Louis Vuitton, Tokyo and shown there earlier this year. At No. 11, we will be showing an entirely sculptural installation ‘Broken Column’, which acts as a pendant to ‘Ashes’. Gallery hours: Tuesday to Friday 10am-6pm, Saturday 12pm-6pm.  Admission Free. Tel: +44 (0)20 7925 2505. Nearest Tube: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus. For more information visit www.thomasdanegallery.com

HOW GREAT THOU ART – 50 YEARS OF AFRICAN CARIBBEAN FUNERALS IN LONDON by photographer Charlie Phillips presents a sensitive photographic documentary of the social and emotional traditions that surround death in London’s African Caribbean community. Runs from 7 November – 5 December at Photofusion 17A Electric Lane
London
Brixton
SW9 8LA. Visit the website for more information

KERRY JAMES MARSHALL ‘LOOK SEE’ – an exhibition of new paintings oncurrent with the traveling exhibition Kerry James Marshall: Painting and Other Stuff, currently on view at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid. Runs until 22 November at David Zwirner Gallery, 24 Grafton Street London W1S 4EZ. Visitthe website for more information.

THE U.S:

A THEATRE OF COLOR: COSTUME DESIGN FOR THE BLACK THEATRE BY MYRNA COLLEY-LEE consists of more than 100 original costume designs, and over 80 production photographs, including full scale production images from several productions portraying the black experience from before World War II through the Pulitzer Prize-winning works of August Wilson. Exhibition runs until 4 January 2015 at Charles H. Wright Museum of African History.Visit the museum’s website for more information

AFRICA:

TEMPORARY BUT PERMANENT: PROJECTS The act of being present, and following the construction of a permanent work of art within a public space, is for Hobbs/Neustetter a complex and political condition where one is literally exposed to myriad forces and opinions. A temporary action on the other hand– while no less complex or political, unfolds with a different sense of time in relation to development and production, and often displays more social dexterity regarding audience and site. The works presented inTemporary but Permanent, through their exploration of xenophobia, forced migration and urban degeneration, stand as a particular instances of these symbolic translations. Developed in countries as varied as Martinique, Norway and Mali, Hobbs/Neustetter employed photography, video, mapping and participatory processes in order to present and record such interventions and ultimately effect radical changes in society. Accompanying this selection of works is Hobbs/Neustetter’s post performance video installation of their Tate Modern Commission for the December 2013 Sud Trienniel in Douala, Cameroon.Visit the Museum of African Design for more information

THE CARIBBEAN:

LAST SUNDAYS @ NATIONAL GALLERY of Jamaica features special exhibitions from 11.00am to 4.00pm, with free admission for all free tours and gallery-based children’s activities. There are often special films or special performances and the gift and coffee shops are also open. Contributions to the donation box are welcomed. For more information call 876.922.1561, or visit the website

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.

4 Corners: An Interview with Lemi Ghariokwu

According to the lyrics of the late, great pioneering Afrobeat musician and cultural icon, Fela Kuti, ‘Music is the weapon of the future’If that’s the case, then this month’s profile designer’s work is a laser cannon. There are very few artists and designers, whose work transcends merely being the superficial packaging of the music, and becomes the visual embodiment of it. And Lemi Ghariokwu, or Lemi G as he is often known is such an artist. As a pioneering sleeve designer in his homeland of Nigeria, he has created an enduring legacy of highly potent, and political visual statements that gave Fela’s music added power and impact. So let’s hear it from the man himself in his own words. Shoot Lemi G.

Lemi Ghariokwu, artist and record sleeve designer

Lemi Ghariokwu, artist and record sleeve designer

What’s your background?

I’m a self-taught fine artist, graphic designer and illustrator. I did not receive formal training from an art school so I’m coming straight from my heart and soul through the streets into the arts. No degrees but I got pedigree! That’s my background.

Peter Okoh Patience Rhythm Band, front cover, 1973

Peter Okoh Patience Rhythm Band, front cover, 1973

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

Destiny is the key to my life and pre-destination unlocked when in 1974 I did my own version of a Fela Kuti cover as practice. A journalist saw my cover, was impressed and took me to meet Fela. Soon after I had the opportunity to do my first Fela cover, which received rave reviews and gave me instant recognition. I was then a teenager seeking my path in life and Fela pointed me in the right direction to become a professional record sleeve designer. In the early days, I used to be commissioned do live drawings at TV studios. My first ever cover design was for my uncle, Peter Okoh and his band, Patience Rhythm Dance Band for Decca Records in Africa, but unfortunately it was never published. So officially, my first published record cover was for an album called World Affairs by an artist called Tessy Allan. I’ve worked with many musicians all my life. I would have been a musician if it wasn’t for the Art.

Tessy Allen World Affairs, cover, 1974

Tessy Allen World Affairs, cover, 1974

What challenges did you face/overcome in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

The first challenge was to school myself to acquire the skill to be very professional in my work. I checked out any arts and designs I came across, asked questions from experienced artists and designers, did short stints in three advertising agencies in a bid to overcome the challenges. As soon as I was ready, my association and eventual collaboration with Fela Kuti put me on a pedestal and a very good footing to achieve one of my ambitions as the pioneer of professional record sleeve designer in Nigeria. I’ve made a career spanning 40 years of this.

Fela Kuti, Alagbon Close

Fela Kuti, Alagbon Close

Who and/or What are your greatest inspirations and influences?

I’ve always been inspired by things around me; everyday movements of people, state of the nation and the world at large. My greatest inspirations and influences come from individuals who are advocates for equality and justice, contributors to the advancement of society and human progress and most especially facilitators and catalysts for positive change. Also, I fell in love with album sleeve design while at secondary school. The album ‘Woyaya’ by Osibisa was the first to catch my attention. Designed by the renowned British sleeve designer Roger Dean, I was inspired by his other works such as the logo and album artwork for groups like Yes. Back then, only in my wildest dreams could I ever imagine I could become a record sleeve designer too. I also loved the album cover artwork of the acclaimed p-funk, Parliament-Funkadelic cover artist, Pedro Bell. Many people have suggested to me that there is a strong similarity in our work.

Fela Bus

Fela Bus

What is your best piece of work or the project you are most proud of?

Well, I have many ‘best’ pieces of works! My mostly proud of project is the body of works of 26 album cover designs I did for Fela Kuti’s musical career. I’m very proud of the Fela Bus, a mural on wheels I did for the Fela On Broadway show. Being a part of the Kalakuta Museum project as the curator is also a shine!

Fela Kuti, Beasts of No Nation

Fela Kuti, Beasts of No Nation

What would be your dream job or project?

My dream project would be to have a platform on a TV reality show dedicated to discovering and nurturing talents in visual arts and design. This I believe will help to promote visual art and design as a laudable profession and encourage individuals born with artistic talents in my society.

Fela Kuti, Yellow Fever

Fela Kuti, Yellow Fever

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition, and why.

Honestly I’m not sure I know anyone and that is sad, but let me explain. Things are different in Nigeria. When I started, I think I was the only one doing what I do. There were other artists, who worked for the likes of advertising agencies etc… as illustrators, but the few there were seem to have all disappeared. Nowadays, you have people who are not necessarily artists, but are technically-minded and computer literate, creating album cover designs. They tend to work from their own photography in cyber cafes, manipulating the images and creating the designs for many of the new breed of Afrobeat performers and recording artists. Frustratingly, they never seem to credit their own work on the sleeves so you never know who they are.

Fela Kuti, Zombie

Fela Kuti, Zombie

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

My best advice to anyone is not to follow in someone else’s footsteps but to learn from their story. First and foremost, you need to find out who you are. Self-discovery and mastery is the key to life. Check out what you are really good at or what your strongest flair is. Work vigorously on developing that talent by honing your skills. Be consistent, principled and ambitious. May time and chance meet you at the point of your need for opportunity to shine. Good luck!

What’s next for you?

I keep working to remain relevant and very contemporary doing avant-garde works in a bid to consolidate my legacy. For 2015 I’m planning to publish my memoir and have a retrospective exhibition to mark my diamond jubilee.

For more information visit: http://lemighariokwu.wordpress.com

Network:

EUROPE:

DISOBEDIENT OBJECTS. From Suffragette teapots to protest robots, this exhibition is the first to examine the powerful role of objects in movements for social change. It demonstrates how political activism drives a wealth of design ingenuity and collective creativity that defy standard definitions of art and design. V&A Museum, London. Exhibition runs until 1 February 2015.

For more info visit www.vam.ac.uk

AFRO-POLIS will be hosting alongside the Frieze Art fair, a 5 days experiential exhibition (15 – 19 Oct 2014) entitled – the African Renaissance. Held in and around Hoxton Square at various locations including the iconic former White Cube Gallery once the home of YBA Artists such as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. In addition to being able to see and buy art and design by some of the leading African artists and designers, The African Renaissance features an innovative and interactive set of activities, which include workshops, debates, panel discussions, keynote lectures, live performance, and themed dinner.

Click here for more information on purchasing tickets.

THE U.S:

IMAGINARY POSSESSIONS: The first substantial presentation of his recent work at a U.S. museum by pioneering filmmaker, director, and theorist, John Akomfrah. ‘Imaginary Possessions’ presents three distinct films and a new commission that deftly excavate the fragmented identities of colonial subjects while challenging the received codes of cinematic representation. Runs until February 1st 2015 at the Eli and Edythe Broad Museum, East Lansing, Michigan 48823.

For more information visit http://broadmuseum.msu.edu

AFRICA:

DESIGNING AFRICA: Exploring Provenance and Materiality interrogates two particular areas of design – visual communication and material exploration. Designing Africa showcases the work of visual artists Momodou Ceesay, Clari Green, Pwavidon Mathias and Brian Omolo with origin as the underpinning theme. How do we define where we come from? By communicating their origins, present, future and imagined states they redefine the identity of Africa through printmaking, graphic design and illustration.

For more information visit the African Artists’ Foundation website

THE CARIBBEAN:


THE TRINIDAD & TOBAGO FILM FESTIVAL (TTFF) 2014: 
Founded in 2006, the trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff) is an annual celebration of films from and about Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean and its diaspora. The Festival also screens films curated from contemporary world cinema. In addition, the ttff seeks to facilitate the growth of the Caribbean film industry by hosting workshops, panel discussions, seminars, conferences and networking opportunities. Festival runs 16 – 30 September.

For more information visit http://www.ttfilmfestival.com

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.

4 Corners: An interview with Emory Douglas

As a black teenager growing up in East Sheen, I was inspired by the historical contribution of the Black Power and Civil Rights Movement in the US, and influenced by leading black political figures and community activists such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King; Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown; Huey Newton and Bobby Seale – and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in particular. The Black Panthers’ base in Oakland, California was a universe away from the genteel, suburban niceties of south west London, but as an aspiring artist and designer I could not help but be captivated by the powerful and evocative imagery they projected and the striking graphic designs they created. Both the medium and the message had a profound influence on my development as a creative professional and certainly instilled a desire to use design as a tool to promote and tackle social issues and human rights issues that continues to this day. The Black Panthers’ pioneering political visual communications were the handiwork of a truly gifted and visionary man, who served the party as Minister for Culture from 1967 to 1980. A man who in my wildest dreams I could never have imagined that I would one day have the honour of interviewing and the pleasure of introducing you to today. Brothers and Sisters please pump your black, gloved fists up for Mr Emory Douglas.

Emory Douglas

Emory Douglas, Revolutionary Artist, Designer and Minister of Culture of The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (1967-80).

What’s your background?

My art background is basically as a self-taught artist with a minimum of professional training. I attended City College in San Francisco off and on from around 1964 to 1966 and majored in Commercial Art.
That educational practice introduced me to the basic graphic designing elements such as figure drawing, sketching, illustration drawing, lettering, layout and design, pre-press production, the offset printing process, the basic animation process and how to critique and evaluate one’s work. This was my only academic graphic design training prior to my actual on-the-job training.Free+All+Political+PrisonersSource: Emory Douglas

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

As a youth I was in and out of detention centers, I will say for illegal activity not sanctioned by the state. While there I would do mostly landscape art – nothing with any social meaning. A year or so after I got out I decided to attend City College of San Francisco. The councillor at the detention center heard of my decision to attend college and suggested I take up art. When I went to enroll I mentioned to the college councillor
I would like to major in Art and he suggested I major in the Commercial Arts, which I did. Thereafter the whole idea of my going to school was to try and break into commercial art by becoming a designer, art director or illustrator. I heard of people who were making good money in those fields so I wanted to join them. However,  after a while I began to see and realise that there was really only an elite few that made it and became successful and they were mostly the white students, particularly the ones who had relatives or close family friends with ties to the commercial art field. While at college I developed my graphic art skills to a professional level, where they would send me out on job assignments. I worked at a silk-screen factory where I learned the silk-screen printing process. I also worked at a downtown store in San Francisco where they sold fine wine goblets and silverware doing layout, cutting and pasting of advertisements and preparing display signs for their store window displays. Also there were paying jobs that came in from various departments at the College for graphic design work such as sign lettering and technical illustrations where I along with other art students who had developed our skills to a basic professional level were offered these jobs.Malcolm+X+SpearsSource: Emory Douglas

What challenges did you face in achieving your ambitions to break into the industry?

Certainly there were challenges, because this was at the height of the Civil Rights movement. Firms weren’t hiring blacks, so it was particularly difficult for African- Americans and there were many racial biases and obstacles to overcome. But at the same time that’s how I got involved in political artwork. For example, the whole time I attended City College there was only me and sometimes one other black person who were enrolled in the Commercial Art classes of about 20 students per class. Also there were graphic styles that I created which one of the instructors expressed to me wasn’t commercial enough, so for a while I had to go along with that whole framework of how they programme you to produce artwork for your portfolio with a certain commercial style that was considered acceptable when it came time to looking for a job or going for job interviews. The graphic styles I personally used I had to just put that to the side until later on. I remember one time as a class assignment to create a magazine layout I created one similar to EBONY magazine (the most prominent African-American magazine of the time) and the teacher pulled me aside and said how much he appreciated what I had done. But he added that to be honest with me, it would be another 10 years or so before ideas like mine would be accepted. Eventually it was the Civil Rights, and human rights pressures and campaigning against discrimination that began the process for black people getting into the commercial arts industry during that period.Paper+BoySource: Emory Douglas

Who and what are your greatest inspirations?

As a youngster growing up it was my mother – she was legally blind and worked hard as a single parent.
 There was an artist I knew named Charles Bible, he lived downstairs from where I lived and he would mass-produce multiple paintings of the same image of Malcolm X every year for the anniversary celebrations of Malcolm’s life. I would talk to him about his assembly-line production process and his painting technique and he would explain both of them to me. The information he shared became very helpful when I began doing some portrait paintings over the years. There was also the Black Arts Movement (BAM), which I made artistic contributions to during and prior to my joining The Black Panther Party in late January 1967. Then there was this calendar I would see as a child at my aunt’s house. Every year it featured artwork by a black artist named Charles White, which had a real impact on me. Politically, I was inspired by the politics and artwork that was being created at the time – particularly the work of the Cuban poster artists of OSPAAL (Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America), and from China, Vietnam, the Anti-War movement and Palestine. The Cuban artists used to remix some of my artwork they saw in the Black Panther Newspaper and created some amazing solidarity posters that they would share around the world – that was very exciting and inspiring.End+to+RobberySource: Emory Douglas

What is the project you are most proud of?

I would say the best piece of work would have to be a volume of work that maybe tells a story – and therefore it would be my body of work for The Black Panther Party. But there are also volumes of work that I’m doing today that I feel strongly about and that I am pleased and satisfied to be able to make a statement on current issues and in a more contemporary way than what I did back then.Free+LandSource: Emory Douglas

What would be your dream project?

If I were younger, my dream job would probably as the head of a company, art department or organisation dealing with basic human rights and enlightening and educating people and using art as a language to communicate with people.Black+PantherSource: Emory Douglas

Who in your field do you believe deserve credit or recognition?

There are many, therefore I prefer not to drop names because I’m sure to remember later that I forgot to mention many others I should have, who are also amazing artists and great communicators through their art.ObamaSource: Emory Douglas

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Whatever you do stay focused and practise your craft. And if you’re doing political artwork or social commentary art make sure you know the basic politics of whatever social issues that may concern you. Have fun! Don’t do it because it’s a fad, do it because you believe in it and understand that the creative process will be an ongoing life long journey.Endangered+SpeciesSource: Emory Douglas

What’s next for you?

To continue doing what I’m doing, creating artwork that deals with quality of life issues, basic human rights violations and concern for the struggles and challenges of oppressed peoples in this world.

For more information visit www.emorydouglasart.com.

Big thanks to Maurice Cherry of Revision Path for his help in facilitating this interview.

Network:

EUROPE:

‘RETURN OF THE RUDEBOY’ is an original exhibition created and curated by prolific photographer and filmmaker Dean Chalkley and creative director Harris Elliott, which showcases a sartorial subculture through a series of portraits, installations and set pieces. Runs until 25 August 2014 at Somerset House, Terrace Rooms, Strand London WC2R 1LA. Admission FREE. For more information visit www.somersethouse.org.uk.

KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: PAINTING AND OTHER STUFF is an exhibition of the work of the American artist across venues in Madrid and Barcelona. The exhibition is divided between two venues. At the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid there is a focus on historical works and paintings, while the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona includes more recent works, not only in painting but also in other media such as drawing, photography, video and installation. Exhbitions run until 26 October 2014. For more information visit www.fundaciotapies.org.

THE CARIBBEAN:

40 VOICES is an exhibition encompassing film, photography and an art installation in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Culturama event in Nevis Culturama (Nevis ). Through open, emotive and unguarded interviews of forty Nevis residents, 40 Voices aims to create an empowering film that will capture a snapshot of the feelings, opinions and attitudes of Culturama into one seamless loop. The exhibition runs from Sunday 27 July – Sunday 10 August 2014. For more information visit www.culturamanevis.com or chantimedia.com.

THE US:

DESIGN FOR SOCIAL IMPACT, an exhibition offering a look at how designers, engineers, students, professors, architects and social entrepreneurs use design to solve the problems of the 21st century. The exhibition features projects that address a variety of challenges in the areas of Shelter, Community, Education, Healthcare, Energy and Food & Water. Each category highlights solutions taking place locally, as well as ways in which these challenges are being addressed around the world. The exhibition is on view at Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) through to 3 August 2014. For more information visit www.museumofdesign.org. 

AFRICA:

21 ICONS: PORTRAIT OF A NATION, a poignant and inspiring multi-media exhibition by 21 Icons and Mercedes-Benz South Africa, opened on Youth Day, 16 June 2014 at the Museum of African Design in the Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg. In celebration of 20 Years of democracy, the two-month long exhibition features portraits and short films of 21 of South Africa’s greatest social masters including Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Sophia Williams De Bruyn, Ahmed Kathrada, Nadine Gordimer and George Bizos. 21 Icons: Portrait of a Nation: Presented by Mercedes-Benz South Africa will be on exhibition at MOAD for the first time, through to 17 August 2014. For more information, please visit www.moadjhb.com/21icons.

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.

4 Corners: An Interview with Malene B

This month we take a slight departure into a different field of design. Carpet design to be exact. Dynamic, bold, colourful and contemporary textile creations inspired by the designer’s travels, far and wide, they have made their mark on the floors of a host of prestigious residential and commercial environments around the globe. Born in The Bronx, New York, of West Indian parentage, our profiled award-winning designer now runs her business from Brooklyn and is a regular guest speaker at design and interiors events on the global cultural calendar. So without further ado, over to you Malene B. The floor is yours.

Malene B

Malene: carpet designer/president and design director of Malene B Carpets.

What’s your background?

My heritage is Caribbean-American; my mother is from the island of St. Vincent and my father is Jamaican. I’ve always had an interest in colour, painting and design since childhood. Eventually, my interest turned into passion and I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, graduating with a BFA in Textile Surface Design and an Associate Degree in Fashion Illustration.

Malene B

How did you get started?

After college, I worked for a textile importer and then a carpet manufacturer.  From the carpet company, I learned all aspects of their business and decided to create a custom carpet company to showcase my specific design aesthetic.

What challenges did you face in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

One of the biggest challenges I faced was starting a business during a recession. We overcame this by staying focused, keeping a positive attitude and relying on my aggressive networking skills. Our company’s motto: Since we’re starting at the bottom, there is only one direction to go…UP!!!

Malene B

Who and what are your greatest inspirations and influences?

I am most inspired by the people and places encountered during my many travels. Those experiences are the essence of my brand and because of them, I am able to share a part of their life story through my designs.

What is your best piece of work or the project you are most proud of?

My collection titled Signature. It was the first carpet group in the Malene B brand.  It debuted five years ago and it still continues to ‘wow’ people.

Malene B

What would be your dream project?

My dream is to design a collection for industry giants like Anthropologie and Crate and Barrel, and to work with David Adjaye on residential and commercial projects…His work is beautiful and visionary.

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition.

All the owners and designers in the rug business. They continue to be a wonderful source of support. To name a few; Tania Johnson, Inigo Elizalde, Jan Kath, Judy Ross and Warp & Weft.

Malene B

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t be a follower…create your own path!

What’s next for you?

Its time to expand into other product categories. I’m working on a crowd-fundraising campaign, which will help finance the development of new products. The campaign will allow customers to pre-order specific limited-edition items and the collection will consist of beautiful theme driven pillows, throws, carpets, tile and more.

Malene B

For more information visit www.maleneb.com.

Network

EUROPE:

‘BRITISH’ is a photography exhibition that explores the multi-cultural nature of British identity by Zadoc Nava. Taking his own iconic ‘British’ T-shirt, a celebration of multicultural ‘Britishness’, as his starting point the fashion designer Wale  Adeyemi commissioned photographer Zadoc Nava to document the changing face of Britain. Using the street as his studio, Nava has produced a series of compelling portraits that reflect the diverse nature of contemporary British society. Runs until 29 June 2014 at The Print Room, 34 Hereford Road, London, W2 5AJ. Admission FREE. For more information visit www.the-print-room.org.

THE CARIBBEAN:

REGGAE SUMFEST 2014 will be the 22nd annual staging of the festival in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Staged annually during the third week of July, the festival is now an established staple on the Jamaican entertainment calendar, attracting patrons from all across the globe, as far away as Australia, Europe, the USA and the African continent.  Festival runs from July 13-19, 2014.  More information at at www.reggaesumfest.com 

THE US:

A SUBTLETY OF THE MARVELOUS SUGAR BABY. Creative Time presents the first large-scale public project by Kara Walker. Sited in the sprawling industrial relics of Brooklyn’s legendary Domino Sugar Factory, Walker’s physically and conceptually expansive installation responds to the building and its history. The exhibition is open until 6 July, Fridays 4-8 pm, Saturdays and Sundays noon to 6 at Domino Sugar Factory, South 1st Street @ Kent Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY. For more info visitcreativetime.org/projects/karawalker/

AFRICA:
Zanzibar International Film Festival 2014. Recognised as the largest film and arts event in East Africa, the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) offers a themed selection of African and international cinema. The festival also features a series of performances, discussion channels, workshops, exhibitions, live music concerts, cultural tours and workshops. This year’s theme is ‘A Common Destiny’, and the selection of films will be chosen depending on their power to ignite common experiences in their diverse audiences by reinforcing awareness of shared experiences, history and culture. Ngome Kongwe (Old Fort), Zanzibar City, Zanzibar. For more information, please visit www.ziff.or.tz

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.

4 Corners: An Interview with Mo Woods

If race equality progressed at the same rate as technology, we’d be living on an amazing planet right now.

Yet, here we are in 2014 and there is little doubt that the playing field for people of colour looking to break into the world of design and visual communications is still not level. However, our profile designer this month is one man who has managed to break through and scale heights that befit his 6’ 10” frame.

A self-confessed perfectionist, and prodigious college basketball talent, whether working previously with the likes of design legends such as Pentagram or now as senior visual designer with technology giant Yahoo, he always brings his best game. And as co-founder of a pioneering social project that is helping introduce under-priviledged, inner-city kids to the world of design, he’s someone we can all certainly look up to.

Please be upstanding for Mr Maurice Woods.

Maurice Woods

Maurice ‘Mo’ Woods, graphic designer, co-founder of the Inneract Project and senior visual designer, Yahoo.

What’s your background?

My roots are in visual communication design. I received a Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree and a Master’s Degree from the University of Washington in Seattle. This is a great programme that taught me crucial fundamental skills I still use today. If you are at all serious about being in this business it is imperative that you find a good school with solid teachers that push you and have a good mix of other talented students.

CultureBusThe CultureBus logo was designed while at Pentagram

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

Well, my trajectory was not typical. I got into design via basketball. I was granted a basketball scholarship to play at the University of Washington, and after realising I might not make it to the NBA, I had to decide a major. My mother actually suggested I try graphic design, because I ‘liked to draw’. From her suggestion I took an intro to graphic design course. After the first class, I was hooked. I knew I wanted to be a designer.

What challenges did you face in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

I don’t think I thought of getting into the profession as a challenge. I think I had a personal challenge, and that was to prove that I could be good enough to work with the best designers in the business. I guess you can say that basketball had a profound influence on me. In a way, I think it was the competitiveness that sports ingrains in your spirit that makes you want to win, all the time. I was that way, although I never expressed it. It was more of an inside goal I had to reach. I would do anything I could to achieve the success I believed I could achieve.

Miles+DavisEnvisioning Blackness in American Graphic Design Poster Series, 27” x 40”

Who and what are your greatest inspirations and influences?

I have a ton of influences. There have been a lot of people who inspire me, not just creatively, but through encouragement, sincerity and advice. I would say that some of my biggest design influences are Doug Wadden, Tony Gable, Kit Hinrichs and Chris Ozubko. I became very close to all of these guys and collectively, I learned a lot of what I now know through them. Doug Wadden and Chris were teachers of mine in both undergraduate and graduate school. They always gave me good solid advice, pushed me to move forward, and were a part of my growth in key phases of my career. Tony Gable, from a creative standpoint, was the first African American designer I encountered. Ironically enough, I stumbled across Tony’s work as I was entering into the school of design. I saw a poster he did at a poster shop. I asked the owner of the shop and he told me about Tony, and I connected to him through this way. Much like my trajectory into design, key experiences in my life I believe shaped the career path I have now. Tony, ‘til this day is still a good friend. Kit Hinrichs was an important person. I learned a lot from him. He probably does not even know it. I always tried to learn from everything down to the way he presented, to his incredible work ethic. Kit has been in the business for a very long time and ‘til this day still is usually the first one in the office and one of the last people to leave. I found that to be extremely inspirational and a trait I felt I needed to learn from. Especially from someone who has had a career as good as he has. 

NikeFrom a series of concepts developed for a project for Nike on an all-black basketball team that thrived in the United States in the period between 1904, when basketball was first introduced among African Americans on a wide scale organized basis, to 1950,

What is your best piece of work or the project you are most proud of?

Hmmm, I get asked this a lot and the answer is none. I am actually very bad with this. There is not a single project that I feel was just right. I am a bit of a perfectionist. I always see way I could have made a project better. It is a curse and a blessing at the same time. However, the thing I am most proud of, currently is the Inneract Project. This is a free programme I started to expose inner-city youth and communities to careers in design. It is my life’s work. It inspires me because I have seen the work we do impact the lives of young people. As Inneract Project continues to grow, I get excited about the potential of our program developing a greater appreciation of design in the schools and inner-cities.

RobotsRobots exhibition that took place at the Experience Music Project Museum, Seattle. Designed while working at Pentagram

What would be your dream job or project?

My dream design job was to work at Pentagram Design. I worked there, so now I am working at Yahoo. There, I am working on my next current interest, interactive design. I consider myself very fortunate to able to work at this company.

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition.

Most of the people I think would deserve the credit, already have the credit. Those who I know who don’t get enough credit, don’t care. I am one of those people. I, like so many others, do it for the love. But, make no mistake, we want to get paid fairly to do it too.

FistImage created as part of “Envisioning Blackness in American Graphic Design” project.

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

The best advice I can give someone is to make goals for yourself, and never stop working til you get there. It sounds sort of like a cliché, but it’s not, really. It is actually pretty simple, and pretty much proven to net you some success. I wanted to be the best, and my competitiveness and work ethic would not let me give up. I practice my skills everyday. If I am putting together a Word doc to send to someone, I am thinking about the format. When I am at home, and moving things around in my house, I tend to think about composition, balance and symmetry. I admit, it is a compulsive behavior, but those little things have helped me fine-tune my skills and now I can work rather quickly and effectively when designing something for someone. It is the daily practice that enhances your skills — working everyday to get better.

What’s next for you?

The next step for me involves my fascination with technology, interactive design, education and community awareness. These areas of interest will more than likely influence the next big thing I do. We will have to see what happens next.

For more information visit www.inneractproject.org

Network:

EUROPE:

Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK is the UK’s largest ever exhibition of mainstream and underground comics, showcasing works that uncompromisingly address politics, gender, violence, sexuality and altered states. It explores the full anarchic range of the medium with works that challenge categorisation, preconceptions and the status quo, alongside original scripts, preparatory sketches and final artwork that demystify the creative process. Open until 19 August 2014 at The British Library, 96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB. For more information visit www.bl.uk

THE CARIBBEAN:

Anything with Nothing: Art from the Streets of Urban Jamaica. The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to present an exhibition of street art from Kingston and environs. The exhibition is on view at the National Gallery until 11 July. National Gallery of Jamaica, 12 Ocean Blvd, Block C, Kingston, Jamaica, (W.I)
For more information visitnationalgalleryofjamaica.wordpress.com

THE US:

When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American South queries the category of ‘outsider’ art in relation to contemporary art and black life. With the majority of work having been made between 1964 and 2014, the exhibition brings together a group of thirty-five intergenerational American artists who share an interest in the U.S. South as a location both real and imagined. Runs until 29 June 2014 at Studio Museum of Harlem, 144 West 125th Street, New York, New York (212) 864-4500. For more information visit www.studiomuseum.org

AFRICA:

Rotimi Fani-Kayode Retrospective: Autograph ABP presents the first major Rotimi Fani-Kayode museum retrospective in Africa. Rotimi Fani-Kayode’s photographs constitute a profound narrative of sexual and cultural difference, seminal in their deeply personal and political exploration of diaspora, desire and spirituality. In his large-scale colour and black and white portraits, the black male body becomes the focal point of a photographic enquiry: ancestral memories and a provocative, multi-layered symbolism fuse with archetypal motifs from European and African cultures and subcultures, inspired by what Yoruba priests call ‘the technique of ecstasy’. Runs until 18 June at Iziko South African  National Gallery,  Cape Town, South Africa. Visit autograph-abp.co.uk/exhibitions/solo-exhibition for more information.

POPCAP 2014 Call for Contemporary African Photography. Now into its third year, POPCAP ’14 welcomes contemporary photographic portfolio submissions for its annual competition. Five winners will be selected by a panel of 18 international judges. The winners will all be invited to exhibit their work internationally at five open-air POPCAP exhibitions in Basel and Berlin during the European month of photography and with the Cape Town Month of Photography, Lagos Photo Festival and Addis FotoFest. Deadline 1 July 2014. You can apply here.

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.

4 Corners: An Interview with Barrington Braithwaite

This month we head to a very unique part of the Caribbean, Guyana. It is unique in the fact that it is not an island, but a sovereign state situated on the northern coast of South America. Historically known as the ‘Land of Many Waters’, its heritage can be found flowing through the veins of many notable people, including Baroness Valerie Amos, Lord Herman Ouseley, the late Bernie Grant MP, David Lammy MP, Trevor Philips and pioneering US activist Shirley Chisholm. Many artists and entertainers have roots in Guyana, such as the distinguished playwright, poet and author John Agard; British-based actors Norman Beaton, Carmen Munroe, Ram John Holder and Cy Grant; and musicians such as Phil Lynott,, global superstar Rihanna and Eddy Grant, the platinum-selling musician and entrepreneur. It was Eddy who first mentioned the name of this month’s profiled creative to me, speaking with pride and reverence about the work of his fellow countryman. And who similarly I am proud to bring to your attention now. Introducing the graphic artist and illustrator, Barrington Braithwaite.

What’s your background?

I’m from roots that have produced folk in the arts and media. It’s kind of infra dig though, to talk about folks when the discourse is about self. I spent the formative years of my life with my godparents at Mahaica, rural Guyana, after my Adam and Eve went separate ways. There I was given the opportunity as an only child in their care to explore my imagination. My godparents encouraged my interests and only after their deaths did I realise that I had a privileged initiation to life – I actually have five sisters and four brothers. I was lucky that the Forbes Burnham post-independence Government of the 70s was developing youth-training organisations and bringing experts from overseas in different fields to train the youth of that period. I was interested in art or, I should say, I was compelled by this passion. However I became part of a young settlers co-op group after school in 1974 and there did courses in co-op management and field practices. The Cold War temperature was impacting on Guyana, I left the co-op and worked on the waterfront to survive, until I was encouraged in around 1981 by my friend ‘Fat Boy’ Herbert Archer, a poet, to take my portfolio – which wasn’t much – to Dr Denis Williams at the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology to negotiate a way out of the dog-eat-dog waterfront world. He engaged me and placed me through the training of a scientific illustrator, but I couldn’t help who I was and while on one particular archaeological site in the Northwest of Guyana’s Rain Forests, I wrote my first two stories to be illustrated. I was supposed to go to Scotland to complete my training but it was decided that if I went I wouldn’t return, so disgruntled I left the museum, and worked freelance as a commercial artist at the Guyana Chronicle. With the support of editors I developed and published several comic strips and serials. With a young family I started an advertising service to keep the pot boiling, and have maintained that while developing and self publishing my graphic magazines.

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

As far back as I could remember I was enthralled by comic books and most of all telling stories using that medium. While in school I became the class artist. This fame extended even to higher forms, from helping with class art assignments to doing rip-offs of commando comic books in four-page exercise-book middle-page pull outs. These were sold for a penny. I had to wait until 1981, when I was employed by Denis Williams. I presented him with an illustrated story I had done named The Shrouded Legacy. He took me and my story down to the national newspapers who I think he bullied to accept it, and I was guided through my first contract and received my first cheque. When it hit the Sunday pages I received in the weeks that followed great harassment from friends who then pointed out my errors which were many. I had used the only drawing pen I had, didn’t understand the concept of lettering or word balloons and was not a good artist qualified for publishing by the standards of the day. Eerie, Creepy and the Warren Publishing line had enveloped our horizons. I prayed for my series to finish and the torment to stop. I did not fold up and it took years with my wife as the female model and some old muscle magazines for the males to develop my skill, this was a weird mix and with the critical help of my buddy Andy Anderson I emerged with the Elder comic strip, that through negotiations the newspapers carried. As I said before, the policy of the Government back then was to encourage the local arts, but there were standards to be met. I had decided by 1983 to develop a medium for the talents that were directing my thoughts. I had no idea at the time of the necessary independent support systems that were needed to make this happen, I concentrated on making my artwork meet the acceptable standards. In 1988 I published the trilogy of The Shadow of the Jaguar. In the ‘90s I wrote and illustrated The Legend of the Silk Cotton Tree – this went from graphic magazine to stage play in 2010. I work under the Company Name Spectrum Creative Productions and administrate a small advertising service, and have done work for UNICEF, the West Indian Cricket Board and other agencies. The goal of a pure graphic magazine publishing outfit continues to propel the production of several new projects that are yet to be published.

What challenges did you face in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

There is no publishing industry in the CARICOM belt and the comic book industry is even further away from this reality. The most unexpected and vicious opposition to my work as a self-publisher did not come from competition, but from those who had appointed themselves the custodians of proper culture in Guyana. These were characters that were more British than the English who had ruled British Guiana. The idea of an Afro Guyanese hero was offensive I think to both the caricature class and the PPP government. The Shadow of the Jaguar strip in the National Chronicle Newspaper was dropped after the PPP Government was elected in 1992. I had long concluded that Guyana was not the world and since I had always trained my art along the guidelines of a holistic illustrator’s universe, I proceeded now as artist activist resident in my country. The challenges also lay in understanding the rules of protecting one’s work on the international market place, and having a working understanding of contract law. With the rise of new technologies to apply that to production, also charting a network for collaborations wherever the veins progressively lead. Venture capital has always been the unpredictable Cerberus, from a working-class hemisphere talent as me. Cultivating and honing one’s talents and creative skills were the first of the labours, next lay the support forces, space for work, raising a family and no external finances, rising above this is a task of pure will. Only the perseverance, the muse that from its inception was the driving force, delivers the irrational incentive to face these factors towards the realisation of the real fulfillment that is having the complete means present to publish as I see fit the full studio of works that encompasses the last 35 years.

Who and what are your greatest inspirations and influences?

I was enthralled by the Sunday cartoons and comic books and I had inherited artistic and the scribe’s talent. Then my greatest influences came from the debates in my father’s workshop about local legends, aspects of Caribbean history, Biblical accuracy against movie stuff and other subjects that preoccupied my serious conversations into early manhood. Some of these subjects required research, like when I thought [at about ten years old] that the Ten Commandmentsmovie reflected things that had happened in Spain – it isn’t funny bro. Reading brought me new ideas and information and in discussion with my peers they rebuked me that I should do comic strips about our topics – a herculean task, but an inspiration. Realising that my talents can fill a vacuum with edutainment tales and characters was the greatest inspiration that propelled me into this career.

What is the project you are most proud of?

I would like to think that I’m currently working on my most valued project. I first attempted the current project, which in its concept presents WWII and then links it to other historical epochs in a mystical way, because this project has some moons to go – I can’t get into the details. What I can say was that I started it around 1984 and I had shown Dr Williams the first concept issue. He proposed to purchase it for the Department of Culture’s Library, I was been trained as a scientific illustrator and was finding it difficult to survive on the Government’s stipend. He then asked me where I was taking the story, what were the elements I wanted to explore? I explained to him what I wanted to do, what had gripped my imagination. He shook his head and explained to me that I should give the ideas about 20 years to grow because I didn’t have the information at the time, he asked me some questions, to which I replied, he then answered them for me to illustrate his point then assured me not to bother with Hollywood and to cover both African and European history deciphering the in-between propaganda that is inserted in historical works, by cross reading. Reading that included the metaphors of the mystery systems, and Dr Williams concluded prophetically, that I’ll know when I’m qualified to address the topic. Yes I was pissed, but convinced by his questions and his counter-answers that I didn’t know as much as I thought, to do this work of fiction. I was mentally oriented that I must be conditioned to face the exploration, and exploitation of ideas with an understanding of the subject, whether it’s the geography, architecture or costumes. With the medium of graphics one has to come close to accurate. The origins of conflicts cannot be taking for granted either. For example – the current Ukrainian issue, where did it start, was it in the Middle ages, the Stalinist era, or with the Nazi era? A framework for a fictional work has to be grounded in a mythic or historic reference sphere , from there, the poetic license can be applied. So that attitude towards work compels research for development and if you’re operating outside of a major budget , then the work is on you and it will take time, lots of time. Dr Williams was right; I couldn’t do honest work on the subject matter of the graphic series now in progress without a wealth of historic time travels, and a working knowledge of religious beliefs across migrations into their modern innuendos. Because it’s not yet protected I can’t provide insights, except to say it’s my pet project. I’ve just finished a recent pet project that I’ve been working on for years, a graphic novel on the Haitian Revolution, a whopping 123 pages, hand coloured and compartmented into five sections. From the period of composing the first page, outside of the years of research, it took three years to complete and now it’s the stuff of nerves to work out the deal that will take it to pay-day. This can be considered my current showpiece, because it was never done before. But as time goes the showpiece changes with the season.

What would be your dream project?

The greatest achievement as a job for me is to be able to work on set designs and costumes for one of my graphic works turn into a movie, then with enough money I’ll finance research into a lens that can peer into the stuff dogs howl at.

Who in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition?

That list would begin with my parents, whose genetics gave me a certain persuasion, then my muse, who’s out there and whispers and guides in some uncanny, save the moment coincidences, I’m still searching the science magazines on the data of the human brain to see if they’re any clarifications that suit my muse experiences – none so far. Mr Hunter, the head master of the school I attended on the rural east coast of Demerara in my formative years, was a tremendous influence. My godparents Abel Burke and Elizabeth Cumberbatch, who raised me in my formative years until their demise when I was about 14 years old, had indulged my curiosities for toy soldiers, comic books and had engaged me in conversations about the travels of Odysseus and Aesop’s tales, they can be credited with shaping the foundations of my later creative career development. My buddy Andy Anderson, who was my personal critic on the evolution of my art, the long after-school debates on technique in the Art room of Queens College. My Mother Grace lived outside of Guyana, my father was the resident parent, and Hubert Braithwaite never stood in the way of my boyhood interests, though he guided me towards the illustrated Classics and coerced me to read my first novel which was the Louis L’amour book ‘To Tame a Land ‘, my dad read lots of western novels,. he did subtly guide me towards Architecture and furniture design, he built houses and had a furniture making operation, which I found exciting but was mundane in respect to the creative stuff that was compelling me. My wife Donna and children Michelle, Taharka and Makeda who were all seconded for model services over the years, and as the photographer when I had to be the model for immediate anatomy fixes. They endured my on-the-job hastily applied lessons on the model or photography specifics, they snarled and scratched and I growled, until we got it done. When I started in the media, at the Chronicle there were people there who were interested in the unveiling of local graphic storylines, and there are names I must include: Claudette Earle the Sunday editor, Godfrey Wray another editor, Adam Harris, Frank Pilgrim and Ulric Captain, all managers at Chronicle, the latter who I was working with to expand to the Caribbean to have a general pull out graphic publication When the Government changed. My pal Poloma, now Professor Poloma Mohammed, a playwright and writer herself who was always there, and David Granger [Brig. Rtr] whose publications on local history gave me the opportunity to interpret much of our local history in graphics. These are the pivotal persons who have come to thought in related fields. And finally the late Poet ‘Fat Archer’, and the small businesses with an interest in the arts who always supported my graphic projects.

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

I would hope that certain systems are in place with the activism of myself and others to make the acceptance of the local graphic storyteller friendlier and with a greater respect for the value of the work produced. The road of the illustrator, painter, poet and writer is not an easy one, the more talented the artist is, will mean the more challenges, and with originality must come the strength to defend the new explored territory. Young aspirants to the graphic arts must understand that they’re embarking into a serious field, especially if they are going to write their own creative or documentary projects. They must, apart from honing their talents, mastering the areas of anatomy, materials and technique, have a historic understanding of the evolution of the field, from the caves to the current top guns, whose work continue to inspire and move us onto our own. For me it was the unknown artists who did the Commando comics, then on the local Guyana scene it was Rudy Seymour who did the first local comics I knew. I later engaged the work of Tom Feelings. Frank Frazzeta , Bernie Wrightson, Will Eisner all came after I had the gift of Treasure Island illustrated by Newell Wyeth. Old magazines led me to the French and Europe, Eugene Delacroix, Dore’ and the guy who in my view jump-started the modern fantasy art trend: William Blake. But this reservoir of knowhows about the field wouldn’t be enough. The practicing artist has to understand the legal world of copyright, to protect from being sued for violating the commanding piece of art or photography you adopted verbatim into your stuff, or if the situation is vice versa, then copyright becomes your best friend. This wouldn’t be complete without a working understanding of contract law. Contract law is a significant crossroad process that will build or break you – from experience I can tell you this. Your talents can work for you or for some other wiseguy, based on what you know when you leave the environs of your muse and enter the entangling vines of the rainforests out there.

What’s next for you?

The next limb on the tree of life I’m reaching for is for the fruit that enables me to launch internationally the pivotal four graphic series I want to place on the market, this would entail the cash-flow to recruit back-up talents and publish the first two unhindered, then the other two series mentioned. This would open the door to introduce, based on the response of license relationships solicited or attracted explorations into comparative mediums, that would allow realising the exploration of other latent ideas for different audiences. Without further whimsical elaborations, the above capture what lies ahead.

A very special thanks to Patrice Hinds for his help in facilitating this interview.

Network

THE U.S:

Serigrafía surveys the powerful tradition of information design in California’s Latino culture, featuring thirty influential silkscreens from the 1970s to the present. Beginning in the late 1960s, graphic art created at and distributed by artist-led collectives, or centros, contributed significantly to the public discourse. Emerging in concert with the civil rights movement and demanding political and social justice for marginalized groups, these prints confront political, economic, social, and cultural issues on both a personal and a global level. Runs until April 20, 2014 at Pasadena Museum of California Art. For more information visit http://www.pmcaonline.org/

THE CARIBBEAN:

Rincón International Film Festival. On a mission to support and promote culture and the arts in Puerto Rico through the medium of film, the festival seeks to inspire student, future and current filmmakers in the art of filmmaking.From7-13 April 2014. For more information visit http://www.rinconfilm.com

EUROPE:

Japanese Poster Art : Cherry Blossom & Asceticism. Intended as a cultural contribution to the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Switzerland, the exhibition presents the history of the poster in Japan, where this medium is primarily known as an artistic statement and image advertising. Works by three old masters, Shigeo Fukuda, Kazumasa Nagai and Ikko Tanaka – from a generous donation to the museum – are to be seen alongside posters from 1950 to the present day. Here the special aesthetic of Japanese graphic designs reflects the dialogue between Eastern and Western visual culture. Runs until 25 May 2014 at Museum für Gestaltung Zürich.

3rd Curacao International Film Festival 2014. 2 – 6 April 2014 at The Cinemas Curaçao‎
1 Baden Powellweg
 Willemstad, Rotterdam. For more information visit thecinemascuracao.com

AFRICA:

Fashioning Africa is set to bring some of the continent’s most exciting contemporary designers to Johannesburg. The multidisciplinary exhibition explores the history of African fashion and surveys the current landscape of fashion in Africa. The exhibition runs until 27 April at the Museum of African Design. Admission: R 30
 Museum opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 10.00am – 5.00pm. For more info visit http://www.moadjhb.com

Nine Fine Design Pioneers

This month, in recognition of the US celebration of Black History Month, Four Corners breaks from convention to profile not one person, but nine people. Taking a moment to reflect on some of the historical achievements of African-American creative pioneers. The short biographies presented can in no way do justice to these esteemed people, but instead are designed to stimulate your natural curiosity to look further into the contribution made by these extraordinary men and women. Although all of the people featured here are no longer with us, they each made an indelible mark on the cultural and creative landscape and blazed a trail for others to follow. #Respect.Stamp featuring Madam CJ WalkerStamp featuring Madam CJ Walker

Sarah Breedlove, aka Madam CJ Walker, cosmetics designer, marketer and entrepreneur (1867-1919)

Way, way before Oprah, there was Sarah Breedlove, or Madam CJ Walker as she is more commonly known. The first child in her family born free from slavery just after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, this incredible woman made her fortune designing, developing and marketing a highly successful range of beauty and haircare products for black women via the business she founded, Madam CJ Walker Manufacturing Company. Regarded as the first US female self-made millionaire, Walker proved herself to be a great philanthropist, using her wealth to support many black organisations such as the NAACP plus a number of schools, orphanages, individuals, and retirement homes. Her achievements have been celebrated by many prominent institutions, most notably, The National Women’s Hall of Fame and on a postage stamp as part of the USPS Black Heritage USA series. For more information visit www.madamcjwalker.com.O, Sing a New Song (1934), by Charles DawsonSource: University of Illinois  O, Sing a New Song (1934), by Charles Dawson

Charles Dawson, illustrator and designer (1889-1981)

As one of Chicago’s leading black artists and designers in the 1920s and ’30s, Charles Clarence Dawson made his name creating illustrated advertisments for beauty products and many of the major black businessmen and entrepreneurs of the day, including the pioneering black filmmaker, Oscar Micheaux. Born in Brunswick, Georgia to hard-working parents, and a student of Booker T. Washington’s famed Tuskegee Institute, he more than paid his dues working a variety of odd jobs to pay the tuition to become the first African American admitted to the Arts Students League in New York. He later went on to attend the Art Institute of Chicago, was a founding member of Chicago’s first Black Arts collective (the Arts & Letters Society) and an integral part of the New Negro Movement in the visual arts or more commonly referred to as the ‘Harlem Renaissance’. For more information visit www.aiga.org/design-journeys-charles-dawson.Into Bondage (1944) by Aaron Douglas, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, WashingtonSource: Sarah Stierch  Into Bondage (1944) by Aaron Douglas, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington

Aaron Douglas, illustrator and designer (1889-1975)

Another leading figure and architect of the Harlem Renaissance, Aaron Douglas’ bold geometric and angular illustrations alongside the philosopher, Alain Locke’s insightful prose, featured prominently in the landmark 1925 publication, The New Negro. His work enabled the formation of a new visual language that embraced a distinct African heritage. It was a style that found its way onto many a publication cover and would later become known as ‘Afro-Cubism’. His work also translated beautifully into designs for wall murals, the best example of which is calledAspects of Negro Life’ created in 1934 for the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library, or as it is now called, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. For more information visit www.aiga.org/design-journeys-aaron-douglas.The Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport (1961), Paul Williams was consulted on the designSource: brew books The Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport (1961), Paul Revere Williams was consulted on the design

Paul Revere Williams, architect (1894-1980)

At the height of his career, Paul Revere Williams was popularly described as the ‘architect to the Stars’. This is an incredible accolade and achievement, not least for someone who was orphaned at a very young age, but also as a African American growing up through times of some of the most overt racism imaginable. In spite of all this, and encouraged by a foster mother who nurtured his education and artistic talent, he let his work ethic and perfectionist nature speak for itself. Earning academic awards, winning competition prizes and the respect of  both colleagues and clients along the way, he founded his own architectural practice in 1922 and became the first African American member of the American Institute of Architects in 1923. For almost 40 years, his home designs were commissioned by the Hollywood elite of celebrities, movie stars and powerful and wealthy Californian individuals. For more information visit www.paulrwilliamsproject.org.Pan American Unity Mural (1939), created by Diego Rivera with Thelma Johnson-StreatSource: Joaquin Marinez Rosado Pan American Unity Mural (1939), created by Diego Rivera with Thelma Johnson-Streat

Thelma Johnson-Streat, painter, illustrator, muralist and textile designer(1911-1959)

Against all the odds, this exceptional African American ‘Renaissance-woman’, gained recognition from an early age through her Art. A passion, which she expressed through many different channels and subsequently gained recognition for all of them. Whether working with celebrated Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera; becoming the First African-American woman to have her work exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art, New York; as a teacher and activist promoting cultural diversity through art; or performing a dance recital for the King and Queen at Buckingham Palace in the 1950’s; it was all done with her customary grace, style and sophistication. For more information visiten.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thelma_Johnson_Streat.Emancipation Proclamation stamp (1963), by Georg OldenEmancipation Proclamation stamp (1963), by Georg Olden

Georg Olden, designer and art director (1929-1975)

A man very much after my own heart, Georg Olden produced outstanding commercial work for some of America’s biggest corporations. As CBS’s Head of on-air promotions, in the early days of television, he pioneered the field of broadcast graphics, supervising the identities of programs such as I Love Lucy, Lassie and Gunsmoke, under the wing of leading art director, William Golden. If that wasn’t enough, he turned his attention to advertising, winning shelfloads awards and mentions in Graphis and Art Directors Club annuals continuously. In fact, the Clio Awards statuette of which he won several, was designed by him in 1962. He was the first black American to achieve an executive position in major corporation and also went on to become the first African American to design a postage stamp; a broken chain commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Not bad going for the grandson of slave. For more information visit www.aiga.org/medalist-georgolden.Mr Magoo. The Mr Magoo animated series was directed by Frank BraxtonSource: Kevin Dooley Mr Magoo. The Mr Magoo animated series was directed by Frank Braxton

Frank Braxton, animator (1929-1969)

Let’s paint the scene. America. The 1950s. And Jim Crow laws of racial segregation are still in place. How the hell does a black animator get his foot in the door as an animator at Warner Bros Animation? Well, the story goes that animator Benny Washam walked into the office of his production manager Johnny Burton and said, ‘I hear Warner Bros. has a racist policy and refuses to hire blacks.’ A furious Burton wheeled around in his office chair and shouted, ‘Whoever said that is a liar! It’s not true.’ ‘Well then,’ said Washam, ‘There’s a young black animator outside who’s looking for a job. Guess he’s come to the right place.’ That man was, of course, Frank Braxton, who went on to become part of the team at the legendary Chuck Jones unit at Warners. Many of Jones’ amazing cartoons of the 1950’s would contain substantial contributions from Braxton. He also served as a director for The Bullwinkle Show, Mr. Magoo, Charlie Brown TV specials and early Cap’n Crunch  commercials. For more information visit jimhillmedia.com/columnists1/b/floyd_norman/archive.US Embassy in Tokyo (1976), designed by Norma Merrick SklarekSource: jarsyl US Embassy in Tokyo (1976), designed by
Norma Merrick Sklarek

Norma Merrick Sklarek, architect (1928-2012)

As a first generation African-American, born in Harlem to Trinidadian parents, Norma Merrick Sklarek would go on to accomplish many more ‘firsts’, building an unparalleled career as a pioneering women architect. She became the first African-American director of architecture at Gruen and Associates in Los Angeles in 1966. Sklarek became the first black woman to be elected Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1980. In 1985, she became the first African-American female architect to form her own architectural firm: Siegel, Sklarek, Diamond, which was the largest woman-owned and mostly woman-staffed architectural firm in the United States. For more information visiten.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norma_Merrick_Sklarek.Fairchild Channel F (1976), designed by Jerry LawsonSource: Mulad Fairchild Channel F (1976), designed by Jerry Lawson

Jerry Lawson, video games designer (1940-2011)

His name may not be as synonymous with the gaming industry as PlayStation and Nintendo, but Jerry Lawson’s innovative technological design and engineering work helped pave the way for them to follow. For Jerry made history when he created the first ever cartridge-based video game console, The Fairchild Channel F. Hailing from humble beginnings in a housing project in Jamaica, New York, his passion and talent for technology was to take him far, becoming Head of the Fairfield Channel F project where he and his team designed many of its prototyped components. Always looking to push the systems capabilities beyond just cartridge gaming, they put together a daring initiative called TV Pow, which was the first, and only video game played via broadcast television. For more information visitclassicgames.about.com/od/classicvideogames101/p/JerryLawson.

Network:

THE U.S:

Acasa 16th Triennial Symposium On African Art at the Brooklyn Museum will consider the full range of topics related to the arts of Africa and the African Diaspora currently being addressed by ACASA members, from considerations of the archaeological and archival contexts of historical African art to examinations of emerging artistic practices on and off the continent. Like the accomplished Lega elder who once used a three-headed sakimatwemtwe figure, ACASA members look to the future and the past, simultaneously. For more info visit www.acasaonline.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

Bermuda International Film Festival (BIFF) 2014. Since its inaugural Festival in 1997, BIFF has remained steadfast in its mission statement: to advance the love of independent film in a community welcoming to filmmakers and filmgoers and to encourage and inspire young Bermudians to capture their very special narrative through the lens of a camera. This year’s festival runs from 21-27 March.  For more information visit www.biff.bm.

EUROPE:

Still Fighting Ignorance & Intellectual Perfidy: Video Art From Africa presents a selection of African video art that stands beyond the clichés that remain associated with the dark continent and the postcolonial image. It seeks to bring viewers closer to idiosyncratic readings of African video art and its thematic concerns, which are largely ignored. Runs 13-30 March at BEN URI Gallery & Museum, London, United Kingdom. For info visitwww.benuri.org.uk.

“Haute Africa” – At Photofestival Knokke-Heist 2014. From March up to June 2014, Knokke-Heist will once again focus on contemporary photography. The highlight of the festival is the outdoor exhibition, entitled “Haute Africa”, in which international leading artists and photographers such as Martin Parr, Wangechi Mutu, Zanele Muholi, Viviane Sassen, Yinka Shonibare and many others offer an alternative perspective on the contemporary African continent.For more info visit fotofestival.knokke-heist.be/en

AFRICA:

‘Du Bois in Our Time’ Final presentations of works by Ghanaian and UK artists, Bernard Akoi-Jackson, Adwoa Amoah, Ato Annan, Yaganoma Baatuolkuu, Serge Clottey, Kelvin Haizel, Kwesi Ohene-Ayeh , Mawuli Toffah, and Mary Evans. Mullti-media and site specific works will be presented in the Du Bois Museum and Mausoleum after several months of reflecting on the legacy of civil rights leader and Pan-Africanist, W.E.B. Du Bois, in our present era.
Opening events will include a discussion, talk with artists and scholars, poetry and workshops over the 2 days. The entire programme of ‘Du Bois in our time’ Accra was sponsored by the Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne. For more info visit www.nubukefoundation.org

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.