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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.

A Super Hero Identity Crisis

poster-supermanreveal

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about ‘superheroism’. Partly, because of my Afro Supa Hero exhibition currently on display at the V&A Museum of Childhood, that is centered around my personal collection of African diaspora pop cultural action figures and comics; but also because I see it as a theme that is gradually becoming more visible in society. A trend, I believe is primarily due to the phenomenal rise of gaming across all different platforms and devices. Virtual worlds offering momentary escapes from our real lives through new identities, avatars and alter egos. Sophisticated pursuits that are no longer purely the preserve of children, but also taken through to adulthood.

Although, I am not a big ‘gamer’ myself, I find this whole subject fascinating, especially when I relate it to the African-Caribbean experience in the UK and how many people of my generation; the 1960s first generation Britons, born of Caribbean parents; spent years searching for their own identity.

Even though a sense of displacement was something we shared with our ‘brothers and sisters’ in the Caribbean and the US, I believe our experience in Britain was quite unique. The patriotism, they showed for their respective countries, was a feeling that was often completely alien to me and many of my peers.

Here, we were a group of citizens who felt no more at home in the country of our birth, than we did in the homeland of our parents. In Barbados I was called a ‘Little Englander’ yet in Britain I was seen as a ‘bloody foreigner’. It was an identity crisis that took me years to come to terms with, and even to this day, I still tend to identify more with being a Londoner first and foremost, than being British.

It is experiences like these that have pushed me throughout the course of my life, starting in my early teens, to explore and embrace African Diaspora history and its legions of super heroes and heroines. It fuels my belief that uncovering the truth in ‘History’ is the great equalizer that can help address many of the negative perceptions that surround race, religion, sexuality and gender.

It also informed the approach that I took in creating my Afro Supa Star Twins™ that adorn my exhibition branding and merchandise.  From the outset, I wanted my characters to be accessible to everyone. I was deliberate in making them twins, one male and one female because of my belief in harmony and the equality of the sexes.

In terms of the Afro style, on one hand, and purely for selfish reasons, it embraces the main phase of my childhood; but on the other it was also a dynamic time of ‘Black self-pride’ and ‘Afro-consciousness’ as the formality of the 1960s civil rights and counter-culture movements, paved the way for the free form funkiness of the 1970s.

Although certain strides have been made in the depiction of black cultural heroes and heroines, one issue that still continues to linger is the assumption that a white super hero is for everyone, yet a black super hero is only for black people.  Actually, the ultimate global super hero right now should be from the Han Chinese community, if we are to take our cue from the latest global population statistics.

If we are to go by history, and embrace the scientific facts that suggest all life on the planet came out of Africa, then a super hero of African origin is an entirely fitting concept to be embraced by all.

I have no doubt, the continued portrayal of the white super hero savior of humanity is down to the historical legacy of racism and the continued white male dominated power structure within the worlds of media, television and film. Maybe once they are finally able to accept the ancient African roots of their identity, the world will be a better place for us all.

4 Corners : An Interview with Errol Donald AKA Pride

This month, while we face the winter blues of New Year, we stay home in London and in the warm company of someone I have been blessed to call a friend for more than 30 years. Mr Errol Donald, AKA Pride. We were initially brought together in our teens through a mutual friend, because of our love for George Clinton and all things P-Funk. Followed by a shared passion for design and creativity, as time passed and we developed our own career paths as creative professionals. Throughout that time I have always admired Errol greatly. Like some designer superhero, he effortlessly glided between the worlds of graffiti and graphic design, making his mark on both sides of the track. In the ‘80s, as his alter ego ‘Pride’, he was a founder member of one of Europe’s most celebrated and respected graffiti crews, The Chrome Angelz. He custom-designed t-shirts, like his classic ‘Nike/Spike’ design, which was a total game-changer in my opinion. Then followed a period working as a designer for the classic French brand, Michelin. And in more recent times, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly for a former graffiti artist, working for the international law firm, Hogan Lovells as an executive creative director. As a creative facilitator and educator, Donald has also worked with the Letter Exchange delivering lectures and workshops in graffiti and typography both here and abroad. And he continues to work tirelessly in the community sharing his mad skills and experiences with young people. There’s a lot in a tag, and in Errol’s case its truly fitting. Pride by name, pride by nature.Errol Donald

Errol Donald AKA Pride: creative director, lettering artist, lecturer

What’s your background?

I was born and raised in West London to Jamaican parents. I was fascinated by the many ways in which the youth of my elder brother’s generation chose to express their own identities. From music, politics, right through to fashion and attitude. Culture and creativity seemed to go hand in hand. In trying to be different, I drew inspiration not just from my immediate surroundings and largely Caribbean culture, but also from anything that seemed to challenge the norm, and so I became very curious about how culture was being expressed elsewhere. I studied graphic design at Camberwell School of Art and enjoyed the multi-disciplinary environment and emphasis on traditional practice. Around the same time, Hip Hop had made its way into the UK, and I was hooked! The references to popular culture, politics, and community, confidently expressed by my peers caught me at a time when I was ready to make my own mark as a creative artist. I quickly established myself within London’s Hip Hop community as a graffiti artist with The Chrome Angelz. As a collective, we shared a passion for the visual arts and traditional arts practice and sought to find a way of honouring the original pioneers of the movement, by developing a distinctly European aesthetic. It was a completely new and exciting education for me. I took a year out from my degree studies to paint, collaborate, and experiment. We were very active across the UK and in Europe, yet retained the freedom to carry out solo projects that took us all in new and interesting directions. The autonomy gave me the ideal opportunity to freely express my own ideas across a range of creative disciplines. The Spike T-shirt was a self-initiated project. I wanted to capture the tension between cultural and corporate identity in a single image. It was part of a series and was undoubtedly the most popular! I returned to complete my degree with a lot of confidence, and dedicated my final year to academic research that examined the creative, social, and wider cultural impact of graffiti culture.Chrome Angelz poster

Chrome Angelz poster

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

After graduating, I made the most of my mixed skillset and gained a lot of industry exposure through film, TV and advertising projects. I also began to play a more meaningful role in my community, working in the arts and education, and was invited on to the board of ACAVA, an arts charity based in West London. A few months later, I joined the in-house team at Michelin – a very traditional brand with a proud lineage. Though a little challenging at first, there I was able to utilise my range of skills and experiences and made the transition to commercial branding, which to me shared a number of similarities with brand-conscious nature of graffiti and hip-hop culture. I’ve gone on to enjoy a successful career in the business sector, leading creative teams for global brands across a number of industry sectors (energy, finance, property, law). I love the intercultural enagement the most, as there’s always a part of me that’s able to facilitate a sense of shared understanding.'Nike/Spike'

‘Nike/Spike’

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

As an artist, my early efforts to take graffiti art into (then new) spaces polarised opinion amongst graffiti artists, and the general public. Both audiences were wary of the impact that graffiti would have on their respective communities as it sought ‘acceptance’ in the public realm. As a design professional, my mixed skillset opened some doors, and kept others firmly closed. The familiar dilemma of tailoring my portfolio was worsened by the fact that clients were wary the negative impact on brand and reputation brought on by association with graffiti culture.TDK press ad

TDK press ad

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

My parents and my son, Wesley. Broadcaster and author Alex Pascal was the first to paint a picture of the world outside my window by weaving together culture and creativity. Books: Photographer Charlie Phillips’ – ‘Notting Hill in the Sixties’, Watching my name go by – Norman Mailer and Jon Naar, Getting Up – Craig Castleman, and many more! Not surprisingly, I’m drawn to maverick creativity. My tastes are quite varied and include everything from Thelonious Monk to P-Funk, Alvin Ailey to David Mamet and Ricky Jay. I also admire the wit of Patrick Caulfield and the works of designers Ron Arad, Philippe Starck and Terence Conran. It goes without saying that graffiti and hip-hop culture have provided many amazing moments. I was year into my degree and came across an article on the visionary artist and performer  Rammellzee. His unique theories on lettering and language left me mesmerised.Ties for Michelin

Ties for Michelin

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

My first exhibition at the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol means a great deal as it was my first gallery experience, and I think it one of the first shows in the UK dedicated to graffiti art. I’ve been lucky to work on a number of projects that I am passionate about. From my first press illustration for TDK, to branding Brixton’s Rough and Ready basketball tournament. I love type and lettering, and recently became a member of Letter Exchange, where I gave a lecture on the aesthetics of graffiti art to a mixed audience of lettering professionals, friends, and family members, most of whom had no idea of my ‘creative past’! In commercial terms, I’m very proud to have led the rebranding programme for  international law firm Hogan Lovells. I had already completed a number of similar projects for other companies, but the scale of the project, spanning different teams and countries made the project rewarding.Work in Bristol's Arnolfini Gallery

Work in Bristol’s Arnolfini Gallery

What would be your dream job or project?

Through my company Mindspray, I want to expand my work as a facilitator and consultant to build sustainable links between education, vocational training and business. I’m passionate about collaboration and exchange, and would love to create a global initiative that drew both culture and commerce together.Work for Brixton's Rough and Ready basketball tournament

Work for Brixton’s Rough and Ready basketball tournament

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

Cornbread, Iz, Blade, Barbera 62 & Eva 62, Stay High 149, Tracy 168, Seen, Kase 2, Phase 2, Lee Quinones and Dondi are among the many important figures and pioneers of graffiti culture. Colin Brignall and Dave Farey – for Letraset! What more can I say? Tony Messenger, my tutor at Camberwell who allowed me to take a year out to follow my passion. Artists Simon Cooley and Rita Keegan were amongst the few practising artists to offer advice and encouragement as I swapped sable for aerosol. London’s hip-hop community during the ‘80s for doing things that I’ve never seen before. Or since. All the educators, academics, researchers and many others who have shared their knowledge and experiences with me. Too numerous to list here, all have helped to shape my understanding of cultures past and present, and deserve much credit.Taxonomy

Taxonomy

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

Always Be Curious.

What’s next for you?

I’ve just completed a creative campaign for the international charity Coaching for Hope, who use football to create better futures for young people in western and southern Africa. Supported by FIFA, HSBC, Hogan Lovells and nPower, the project will raise awareness around the challenges faced by young women and girls playing sport in South Africa, and aims to educate young women and girls about their rights to play football and remain safe when faced with discrimination and violence. By visiting townships and areas of high unemployment where the work is undertaken, my goal is to build awareness of the campaign and to extend the reach of the programme to other regions and countries where young women and girls face similar issues.Hogan Lovells identity

Hogan Lovells identity

Network

THE U.S:

My Rock Stars: Volume 2, the first American solo show by Moroccan-born artist Hassan Hajjaj. The body of work produced for this exhibition is a continuation of Hajjaj’s ‘Rock Stars’ series, in which the artist portrays his close personal friends in the guise of ‘rock stars’. Taking his pop-up studio through Morocco, London and Paris, Hajjaj’s approach combines the spontaneity of street portraiture with the language of fashion photography, creating an image that simultaneously evokes urban culture and the haute couture of glossy magazines. Runs until 22 February at Gusford Gallery, 7016 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038For more info visitwww.gusfordgallery.com

Albus is South African photographerJustin Dingwall’s solo exhibition made in collaboration with Thando Hopa. It explores the aesthetics of Albinism in contrast with the idealised perception of beauty. Albinism touches every ethnic group and is characterised by the insufficiency of melanin that determines skin and hair color. Rejected, prejudiced and discriminated individuals suffering from albinism in Southern Africa are likely to become targets and victims of physical attacks and mutilations. The project reflects the ability to look inside ourselves and re-invent norms of beauty. M.I.A. Gallery 1203 A Second Avenue Seattle, 98101 WA, USA. For more info visithttp://m-i-a-gallery.com

THE CARIBBEAN:

Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival 2014. Featuring a stellar line-up of international artists, this firmly established event on the global festival calendar takes place between 31 January and 1 February at Greenfield Stadium, Trelawny, Jamaica. For more information visit http://jamaicajazzandblues.com

EUROPE:

Tom Eckersley: Master of the Poster. To mark the centenary of legendary graphic designer Tom Eckersley’s birth, London College of Communication presents an exhibition of iconic Eckersley poster designs which celebrate his enormous contribution to graphic communication and design education in Britain. Exhibition Open: 11 – 29 January 2014, 10:00am – 5:00pm (closed on Sundays) London College of Communication, Elephant & Castle SE1 6SB.For more info visit http://www.arts.ac.uk/lcc/

Herbert Bayer’s Commercial Graphics, 1928-1938 is a special exhibition at the Bauhaus Archive dedicated to the work of the Bauhaus teacher – between his departure from the Bauhaus and his emigration to the USA. The exhibition showcases the commercial graphic work of Bayer during the Weimar Republic and in Nazi Germany, after his departure from the Bauhaus. With his work for Dorland Studio, Bayer continued to be one of the most successful and highest-earning graphic artists of the period. At The The Bauhaus Archive/Museum of Design, Klingelhoferstrasse 14 10785 Berlin Germany. For more information visit http://www.bauhaus.de

AFRICA:

ONOMOllywood, a collaborative project by photographers Antoine Tempé and Omar Victor Diop of twenty images inspired by iconic moments from great American and European films. Cinema as a universal art form transcends barriers, be they geographic, cultural, or racial. Iconic scenes have influenced popular culture globally. ONOMOllywood reimagines these famous scenes set in the dynamic cities of Dakar and Abidjan where hotels become the metaphorical juncture. As crossroads, they represent forums where cultures and people from around the world co-exist and merge in a permanent cycle of reinventions and reinterpretations. Onomo Hotel Dakar Airport Route de l’Aéroport BP 38233 Dakar, Yoff, Senegal. For info visit  http://www.onomohotel.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 Jepchumba

This month we journey to east Africa and the nation of Kenya, named after Mount Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa. It is in this country, we find a young intrepid woman who has scaled heights and accomplishments beyond her tender years. Listed by Forbes as one of the 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa 2012 and by the Guardian among Africa’s Top 25 Women Achievers, she continues to be a cultural ambassador speaking around the world and promoting her commitment to creativity, art and technology. A mission, exemplified by her own background as an African digital artist (with experience in digital art, web design and development, audio-visual production and social media strategy) and which led her to create the dynamic African Digital Art online platform. This is a collective and creative space where digital artists, enthusiasts and professionals can seek inspiration, showcase their artistry and connect with emerging artists. It is my pleasure to introduce you to the artist known simply as Jepchumba.Jepchumba

Jepchumba. Cultural explorer, ambassador and curator

What’s your background?

I am originally from Kenya, but I have lived all around the world. I am always interested in the intersection between creativity and technology. I am a digital artist and also the founder and creative director of African Digital Art Network.African Digital Art

African Digital Art

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

I have always had an interest in design and multimedia but I took a detour into political philosophy, majoring in critical social thought. It was difficult for me to communicate my ideas with words but I was inspired to describe my thoughts and ideas visually. I soon became obsessed with digital media, finding a new playground where I could easily translate my ideas into life. I pursued a masters in digital media and soon created and founded African Digital Art, a creative space dedicated to digital media enthusiasts and professionals from Africa.

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

When I began there were not many known African digital artists. African digital art was not recognised. This was the impetus for me to create my own platform. It was difficult as a digital artist myself to find contemporary African inspiration and identify with the projects that were profiled internationally. African Digital Art has now become a source that not only inspires me daily but Africans across the continent and the world. It has been incredible to see African visual culture come alive online. Today I still have a personal struggle, mainly because of my role as a curator. It is difficult at times to step out of that role and dabble into my own projects. I think I am too self-aware and conscious of how my work is informed by so many great artists that I interact with. I have found that good periods of isolation can help inform my work so I consciously dedicate some time to spend offline so that I may develop as an artist on my own.Attack

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

This is an impossible question to answer. To be honest I am inspired and influenced by the artists that we feature on African Digital Art everyday. Just check out the site and you will see how hard this question is. I find myself going through phases where I immerse myself into different mediums – photography, film, animation. But I am fascinated by craftmanship and artisans as well, artists that deal with physical materials like wood and steel.

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

African Digital Art remains today the best project or work that I have ever been involved with. I have witnessed how it continues to influence people from Africa who might have never been exposed to the possibilities that digital art and media provide. We have interviewed and featured thousands of projects from more than 32 countries in Africa and I am humbled by how much of a resource it has become to so many people around the world.Baobab

What would be your dream job or project?

I am currently obsessed with interactive art. My dream project would involve a large scale interactive art installation somewhere in Nigeria. I am a big fan of Nollywood and Nigerian movies. I love their outlandish story lines, dramatic visual effects – perhaps it is because I can be quite dramatic myself. It would be awesome if I could create an interactive installation that celebrated some of the great features of African film and television and the Nollywood industry.

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

I have a great appreciation for the forefathers/mothers of film, art and photography in Africa. There a great many pioneers who revolutionised design, media and film by sharing their vision with the world. These are a few. Malick Sidibé – renowned African photographer; Saki Mafundikwa – Father of African Graphic Design; Moustapha Alassane – Father of African Animation; Ousmane Sembène – prolific African film-maker and writer; Bisi Silva – Curator of African Contemporary Art.Insomnia

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

The best advice is I can give is to constantly put yourself in environments where you are uncomfortable. It is important to stretch your limits and push past the boundaries of your creativity. Whenever you find yourself complacent or your work tedious and imaginative its time to make a move. Curiosity and discomfort have proven to be powerful tools that have shaped my career.

What’s next for you?

I hope to catch that flight to Lagos and do that interactive dream project.Hair

Network

THE U.S:

Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 and the March on Washington, 1963. The exhibition will be on view from Dec 14, 2013 to Sept 7, 2014 in the NMAAHC Gallery at the NMAH. It will be accompanied by a series of public programs and lectures exploring the social and political currents that shaped these events and their meaning to modern Americans. For more info visithttp://nmaahc.si.edu/Exhibitions/ChangingAmerica

THE CARIBBEAN:

Rebel Salute 2014 Music Festival Serving up a strict vegetarian menu complemented by a diet of cultural roots rap from Reggae’s finest. In tandem with this, is the concept of a drug-free, violence-free and non-alcoholic event. It is family event and children under the age of 12 are free. Due to the increase divergence of today’s music, events like Rebel Salute will give a children the opportunity to meet artistes and learn some of our music that are no longer played on our radio stations.  Takes place on the 17 & 18 January at Richmond Estate in St. Ann, Jamaica. For more info visitwww.rebelsaluteja.com 

EUROPE:

‘SPEAKER’ Vigo presents Zak Ové’s first solo show with the gallery following on from his recent participation in Glasstress at the Venice Biennale. Ové works between sculpture, film, painting and photography, often collaging the various elements using found, cast and recovered materials. He is interested in reinterpreting lost culture and mythology using modern and antique materials, paying tribute to both spiritual and artistic African and Trinidadian identities which have been given new meanings through Trinidadian carnival and the cross cultural dispersion of ideas.  Until 2 January 2014. Vigo Gallery, 21 Dering Street, London, W1S 1AL For more information visitwww.vigogallery.com   

OSPAAAL Posters Show Displaying a private collection of over 40 Cuban OSPAAAL posters. Kemistry Gallery, 43 Charlotte Road, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3PD From 5 December 2013 to 25 January 2014. For more info visit http://kemistrygallery.co.uk/ospaaal/

AFRICA:

The Future White Women of Azania Saga. A solo exhibition by Athi-Patra Ruga. One of a handful of artists, working in South Africa today, who has adopted the tropes of myth as a contemporary response to the post-apartheid era. Ruga has always worked with creating alternative identities that sublimate marginalized experience into something strangely identifiable. Among many notable creations to date has been the ambivalently gendered Beiruth, whose name, with its Middle-Eastern associations, evoked ideas related to Edward Said’s Orientalism and the Illuwane, again an ambivalent sexual entity rooted in Xhosa Mythology. But Ruga is now bringing a new set of mythical characters a little closer to home. In The Future White Women of Azania he is turning his attention to an idea intimately linked to the apartheid era’s fiction of Azania – a Southern African decolonialised arcadia. Runs from 27 November 2013 – 8 February. For more info visit: www.whatiftheworld.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.

SUPERMANDELA. Let the spirit live on!

Although I never had the privilege of meeting ‘Madiba’, I was fortunate to be in South Africa in 1994, just a month before South Africa’s first ever multi-racial elections since the Apartheid regime had finally been dismantled. At the time I was working professionally as an Art Director for a mainstream London advertising agency, Still Price Lintas; and embarking on my first foreign shoot to make a series of TV commercials in Cape Town. Tensions were running high from all sectors of the society, as no one knew what actions might emerge as a result of this new democracy. But on 10 May 1994 in Pretoria, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first Black President. It was also around this time that I started building my collection of African diaspora action figures and comics. A collection, that I have been able to realise as an exhibition called ‘Afro Supa Hero’ and which is currently on display at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London until 9 February 2014.
'SuperMandela' © 2013 Jon Daniel. All rights reserved.‘SuperMandela’ © 2013 Jon Daniel. All rights reserved.
I actually came up with the idea for this image, ‘SuperMandela’ several years ago, but had never got around to putting it down until now. I believe much of the ethos of my ‘Afro Supa Hero’ concept is perfectly embodied in the spirit of Mandela. A man of such inner strength, wisdom, vision, courage, and conviction, he brought a divided nation together and commanded the world’s attention and respect. That’s power! Or in the words of the man himself, Amandla!

4 Corners: An interview with Bryan Bullen and Trevor Bullen

This month we head to the ‘island of spice’, Grenada. A beautiful, tropical idyll I am proud to claim as my maternal ancestral home. I visited Grenada three times during my childhood; the last time being in 1983, when I was 16, just after the US and allied Forces invasion (or intervention depending on your political point of view). Having weathered years of upheaval, either due to the internal forces of politics or the devastating external forces of Hurricane Ivan, I am genuinely excited at seeing this small and lush realm of the Commonwealth starting to blossom in many areas. From the heroic Victoria Cross-winning exploits of Sergeant Johnson Beharry on the battlefield, to the world-class performances of Kirani James on the sports field. Another field of expertise that may not be so readily associated with Grenada is architecture. And it is this discipline to which we turn our attention to now, and in particular a partnership that is at the forefront of Caribbean architecture and garnering a reputation for progressive work and design excellence. Introducing the award-winning talents of Bryan Bullen and his business partner and cousin, Trevor Bullen.Bryan and Trevor Bullen

Bryan Bullen & Trevor Bullen Founders, CoCoA (Caribbean Office of Co-operative Architecture)

What’s your background?

We are Grenadian, first cousins and have spent part of our formative years in the Caribbean, choosing to repatriate after a number of years living outside of the region. We were fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to train at renowned architectural schools in the United States (Bryan studied architecture at The Southern California Institute of Architecture and Trevor at Harvard). Additionally, we honed our skills through work experience in North America and Europe. Our decision to return to the Caribbean to practice has been shaped by our love for the islands, Caribbean people, and the quality of life which it offers. Our practice, which spans over a decade, has been an enjoyable but challenging journey. With our work, we are constantly testing, probing and exploring the many simple and complex issues involved in the making of architecture for the specific context where we live. In the early years of our practice we completed many residential, and commercial projects, however, our practice has grown to include the design of institutional and civic buildings, in addition to masterplans for larger projects. Our office has been fortunate enough to win architectural competitions over the last few years of which we are currently designing the new Grenada House of Parliament.Grenada House of Parliament

Grenada House of Parliament

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

If we are to dig deep into our backgrounds perhaps having both grown up in households with creative influences has been of primary importance. This has provided a very good platform for our development. Before studying architecture we have had prior experiences in the making of furniture, sculpture and objects which have taught us a lot about materials, building processes, and general methods of construction.  Our love for design and passion for creative work has fuelled our desire to engage in the practice of architecture where our creations can positively influence the lives of others, both at the micro scale of the individual and the macro scale of popular culture. We see this as both a privilege and a responsibility.

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

This is a complex question as there are many challenges which we have encountered in our practice. On the one hand, there are the technical and construction challenges of living in a small place where we must contend with low-technology and the additional effort required for quality control during the building process. We are challenged to design our buildings to be efficient in terms of cooling and energy consumption due to the high cost of electricity. Quite often materials are not readily available, so a greater degree of planning is required in the execution of projects. Additionally, as most building materials are imported they are generally costly, requiring us to use local materials to cut down on costs. We have embraced this in our work, and where possible integrate local materials such as timber and stone in the design of our buildings. With the great push today towards creating green buildings with a low carbon footprint, although we promote such principles, our decisions are made for practical reasons and our desire to make sensible choices. Also on the technical side, the harsh tropical marine environment presents a challenge where on top of designing to suit the requirements of hurricanes, and seismic activity, the sun, sea and salt air are primary factors to overcome. With the practice of architecture in the Caribbean today much of the discourse is centered on identity and what is deemed an ‘appropriate’ language for regional architecture. Many regional architects have chosen to adopt a post-colonial language, which we do not necessarily subscribe to. Our pursuit has more to do with engaging the tropical environment, solving issues of the site and programme, whereby, the outcome and issues of tectonics and overall language is developed out of research, and experimentation which allows our buildings to be naturally shaped through this process. Much of the historical references in our work would be spatial referencing, for example, the idea of open-plan living and outdoor spaces such as verandas, or the allowance of air flow through our buildings facilitated by louvers, and the placement of the spaces which permits our buildings to stay cool, or be protected from the driving rains. In this case, the initial challenge for us was acceptance of our contemporary sensibilities, which as I said previously is generally outside of the typical post-colonial agenda.Jadrosich Residence

Jadrosich Residence

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

We are Modernist at heart and have certainly been schooled in this vein. That said, we do believe that our work should be grounded in its specific context. What interest us most are individuals whose work can provide solutions which express a pure thought and executed as such. Artist such as Robert Smithson, Richard Serra and James Turrel are inspirational. Many of the quintessential Modernist architects such as Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Oscar Niemeyer, Richard Neutra, Louis Barragan have all provided positive directions in the development of contemporary architecture that we have a great appreciation for. Some of the recent practitioners such as Glen Murcutt, Peter Zumthor, Aires Matheus also offer a lot in their practices. These architects are creating work which is deeply rooted their place, with a clear expression that transcends their localised conditions and speak to a wider global audience.Munding Residence

Munding Residence

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

To pin-point one specific project is difficult as there are always decisions made over the course of designing a building, which we think – what if we had chosen to execute in a different way. We frequently discuss the evolution of our buildings from the time of construction to when they are occupied over years, and the changes they undergo. They can take on a life of their own, sometimes in ways, which we may not have expected. For example, when we visit some of our previous projects and see how the landscaping and gardens can allow our buildings to sit comfortably in the landscape, they can have a very different presence than when construction has just completed. Perhaps it is more important to focus on are the specific ideas and the solutions to problems. What gives us the most pleasure is to know that we have made the right decisions given the specific programs. The Munding residence is a case in point. Our first design for the project appeared a good solution and the client was very happy with it.  After visiting the site on numerous occasions and experiencing the force of the wind we revised the design by changing the exposed veranda space and swapping it for a protected courtyard. Additionally, we devised a double skin of sliding glass doors and operable vertical timber louvers, which allowed us to control the wind without compromising the view of the site. At first our client did not understand this decision, but thankfully he went along with it, and we know today that he appreciates that this decision was made as it has facilitated a usable outdoor space that the original design did not. What is most interesting for us was our decision to provide that the doors of the courtyard were designed to slide completely open creating a fluid space with the main living area. This expresses a great deal about our spatial sensibilities and our pursuit of buildings with open-plan living that we hope can be one with the tropical environment.Munding Residence

Source: Brian Lewis

Munding Residence

What would be your dream job or project?

A dream job would be one which our work can have a significant and positive effect on the lives of people. The project does not necessarily have to be a large facility as our current Parliament project, but, could be a small building, which can resonate and speak volumes in terms of its social impact. Our design for a beach changing facility is one such project – tiny in scale, but, with a strong iconic stature that is imbrued with deep cultural references. What is also enjoyable is the process of collaborating with other architects and creative people. We believe that the production of good architecture requires a team and understanding between the architect, owner and those who are involved in the building process. We have in the past collaborated with other architects, designers and artists, whom we feel have brought further richness and freshness of ideas to our projects which we appreciate very much as it adds greater strength and credence to our work.GBT Changing Facilities

GBT Changing Facilities

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

The late regional architects, Roger Turton of Trinidad and Tobago, and Barrisford Wilcox who practiced in Grenada in the 1970s and ’80s. Both were extremely talented individuals with highly personalized styles. Their work exemplifies many aspects of open-plan living, good quality of indoor and outdoor spaces, and general compatibility of building with the natural environment. We very much appreciate their endeavor to create architecture that is suitable for its place, yet, not bounded by the restrictions of post-colonial rhetoric.

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

Practising architecture requires 100 per cent commitment and consistency of work on a daily basis. It is the everyday work, a step-by-step process that will be the most important over the long term of architectural practice. It requires patience, determination and self-belief. As difficult as this can be at times, it can also be rewarding to see your work come to fruition and have positive effects on the lives of people.Calabash Heaven and Earth Spa

Calabash Heaven and Earth Spa

What’s next for you?

As with all practitioners at this time, we are seeking out the many possibilities for work, and are constantly looking at our business model to ensure that we stay busy. We are currently engaged in the design of a series of case study houses.  Our intention is to partner with others within the building industry, including land owners and financial institutions, in an effort to get projects built. We are inquiring regionally and beyond for perspective jobs, which we can tender on.

Network:

THE U.S:

The Shadows Took Shape is a dynamic interdisciplinary exhibition exploring contemporary art through the lens of Afrofuturist aesthetics. The 29 artists featured in The Shadows Took Shape work in a wide variety of media, including photography, video, painting, drawing, sculpture and multimedia installation. Participating artists include Derrick Adams, John Akomfrah, Laylah Ali, Edgar Arceneaux, Sanford Biggers, Edgar Cleijne + Ellen Gallagher. Opens Nov 14, 2013 – Mar 9, 2014 Studio Museum of Harlem, 144 West 125th Street, New York, New York (212) 864-4500 For more information visithttp://www.studiomuseum.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

10th Annual Bahamas International Film Festival (BIFF) The Bahamas International Film Festival is a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing the local Bahamian community and international visitors with a diverse presentation of films from around the world. In addition to offering films that might not otherwise be released theatrically in the Bahamas, BIFF will provide a unique cultural experience and set of educational programs and forums for exploring the past, present and future of cinema.  Runs from 5-13 December 2013. For more info visit http://bintlfilmfest.com

EUROPE:

Patrick Lichfield’s Caribbean This is the first exhibition of Lichfield’s Caribbean images, many unpublished, representing all genres of Lichfield’s photography. Ends 7 December 2013. The Little Black Gallery, 13A Park Walk, London SW10 0AJ
For more info visithttp://www.thelittleblackgallery.com/shows/patrick-lichfields-caribbean

IN THE CITY  Graphic Design & Sound Art Exhibition P21 Gallery is excited to present In the City, an absorbing graphic design and sound art exhibition which provides a rare glimpse into four Arab cities. The exhibition will be a first of its kind in London to showcase a series of commissioned and pre-existing works from an eclectic line up of established and emerging Arab designers, illustrators, video, and sound artists. In the City transports the audience through four enigmatic, but overlooked Arab cities – Alexandria, Algiers, Baghdad and Nablus – by recapturing and reimagining elements of those cities. Runs til 15 December 2013
For more info visit http://www.p21.org.uk/inthecity.aspx  

AFRICA:

Native Nostalgia The Museum of African Design (MOAD) is excited to present its first full-length exhibition, running through 9 February. The group exhibition is an exploration of nostalgia in five African countries; Senegal, Nigeria, Algeria, Benin and South Africa. This exhibition tells the stories of bygone eras – positioning them firmly within present day narratives. Through architecture, construction, cartography, photography, communal archives, and historical reenactment, each artist and participant has a conversation with a past through which they did not live by juxtaposing design elements with those of today. Native Nostalgia explores both why young African artists are interrogating the continent’s difficult past, while also probing whether it is possible to be nostalgic for something one has not directly lived. For more info visit: http://www.moadjhb.com/visit/

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 Everton Wright

In October, we in the UK celebrate Black History Month. The tradition started 26 years ago and provides a small, but well established window of opportunity to focus on the achievements of primarily African and African-Caribbean people in the UK. Befitting this historical date in the calendar, I wanted to take the opportunity to pay tribute to someone who I feel has made a significant contribution to the art and design landscape.

Everton Wright is one of a handful of designers of African-Caribbean origin who has successfully run and sold his own mainstream London design consultancy. He created highly influential, impactful and celebrated work, particularly in the fields of music and popular culture, that remains relevant and respected to this day. Wright is a man, who, through his thirst for the new, continues to evolve his art, which defies age or categorisation.Everton Wright

Everton Wright: Creative entrepreneur and artist

What’s your background?

I am a British artist, with parentage from Jamaica. My works is a conscious ‘mash-up’ of drawing and sculpture, combined with digital film and live installations. The work explores the intricate connections between the body and our experience of the modern environment, and this is communicated through bold interactive art, also using urban and rural landscapes as my canvas. I studied graphic design at Middlesex University, received a first class degree, and continued on to train as an artist in mixed media painting at Central St Martin’s College of Art, where I did my foundation. I also trained in film and video production at Four Corners London. As an award-winning creative director, with a professional background in commercial graphic design, I founded consultancy Creative Hands, which was responsible for creating some of most iconic and memorable music brands and imagery of the late eighties. The company ran for 17 years and was sold in 2004. Over the last nine years, art has become my focus, with the creation of Evewright Studio. I have participated in several group and solo exhibitions with my Walking Drawings project. In 2012 one of my ‘Walking Drawings’ installation prints was exhibited at the Royal Academy of Art.Jamiroquai illustration

Jamiroquai illustration

How did you get started?

I started as a junior designer at a company called Design Solutions based in Soho in 1988. The best thing I learnt there was how to be logical with my thought processes when solving design problems. I had creative energy in abundance back then and being in such an environment helped me focus and taught me a lot about the process of how design and creativity was bought and sold. The industry was still very young and graphic design was beginning to be taken seriously by all type of businesses. You could say there was the beginning of bit of a design boom.Work for Talawa Theatre Company

Work for Talawa Theatre Company

What challenges did you face in getting into the industry?

There were not many black designers, let alone companies owned by black designers, when I started out. The industry is still very light in that regard today. So when I set up Creative Hands, it was quite a challenge getting started and growing the company. Overcoming some clients’ perceptions was another barrier we had to deal with. When clients saw the quality of work we produced they would call us in but when I arrived in the offices we had to first overcome the negative stereotype as black men. On more than one occasion a receptionist would mistake me for the courier picking up and delivering a package. I always maintain a high creative output and would always go the extra mile for my clients. The saying that you are as good as your last job ran true for us. We were based in the now-famous Hoxton Square area, but when we were there, only designers like Malcolm Garrett or Neville Brody were our neighbours. Hoxton was a place where not many people wanted to be but it suited me because it had an edge, which is still there today. I believe the Hoxton Hotel is where one of our old offices used to be. The challenge was to develop an impressive and diverse client roster, from music and arts to corporate. I was happy to say that I was able achieve that and eventually sold the company, successfully exiting, which for any business, especially design, wasn’t an easy thing to achieve.Work by Everton Wright

Work by Everton Wright

Who are your greatest inspirations?

Not quite everything, but there’s a lot! Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’a ‘Rumble in the Jungle’Jean-Michel Basquiat, Chris Ofili’s ‘Dung paintings’,  Melvin Van Peebles’ Blaxploitation movies, the Lucian Freud painting of the Queen, Neville Brody’s ‘The Face’ magazine design, Bob Marley’s ‘No woman no cry’, Francis Bacon’s screaming paintings, Damian Hirst’s Shark in a Tank, British landscapes –  especially the Scottish Highlands, Studio One Reggae, Peter Saville’s New Order Record sleeves, Usain Bolt’s 9.58sec 100 metre world record, Steve McQueen’s film Hunger, Turner nominee Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, invisible Black People, my son and granddaughter. My influences are wide ranging I could go on and on. Art, art history, photography, film, sculpture, performance, typography, paintings, all types of music and sound. Drawings have been the foundation my creative practice and I am rarely seen without a sketchbook. Having a good foundation at St Martin’s really helped formulate the way I look at the world. When I started my degree one of my tutors gave me a book on Milton Glaser.  I just loved the way he was able to work between art and graphics, which gave me a much-needed doorway into how I approached graphic design. When I started to work professionally I have always incorporated the same ideologies, which mean you use whatever appropriate medium to solve a client solution. So even now my art studio works on a wide range of projects. I incorporate everything from film with sculpture and digital installation using coding, to creating public interaction projects with drawing and performance, to traditional design and print. It’s just creative expression to me, the medium I use is irrelevant.Red green experiments

Red green experiments

What is the project you are most proud of?

I find my current Walking Drawing films and project very special. I never try to look back at my designs; however seeing the Jamiroquai campaigns I produced still gives me a buzz. We designed the band’s first two albums in the ’90s and the branding became quiet iconic, it got our name out there. I recently moved house and found all the original artworks produced by hand with the mark up instruction attached, complete with a series of huge flyposters. The ‘Spliff Man’ poster for ‘Space Cowboy’ is still my favourite, even though I don’t smoke. That whole project got us noticed. It is much harder now for young designers with the scaling down of the music industry and marketing budgets. There are fewer places out there where talented young creative can get their work seen.Campaign for Jamiroquai

Campaign for Jamiroquai

What would be your dream job?

I’m lucky. I’m currently doing my dream job playing with sand and film cameras. Making art is the most interesting and engaging thing for me at the moment. I have always been a person who has enjoy the exploration of ideas and with the merging together of media in all forms it’s the most exciting time to be a creative – and especially an artist. Clients are also more open minded as to new ways to reach audiences with the exponential growth of new media. With Evewright Studio I am building a dynamic art practice and I am now working on a new series of Walking Drawings from Africa across the diaspora. It’s a challenge but I suppose that’s my dream project at the moment and I always go for that dream.Walking Drawing

Walking Drawing

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

Graphic designers: Henry Obasi At PPaint; best animator: Osbert Parker (Bafta-nominated several times); illustrator: Benjamin Wachenje; advertising: Tre­vor Robin­son OBE at Quiet Storm; photographer: Franklyn Rodgers. Don’t get me going on artists or you’ll run out of space!Work by Everton Wright

Work for Darker than Blue

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

Go for anything with technology, especially mobile – ‘there’s gold in them there hills’. Do what you set out to do. Then go do something else. Keep moving and keep innovating and don’t be afraid to be being creative. Clients expect designers to be a little crazy, that’s what they pay you for.Jamiroquai icon

Jamiroquai icon

What’s next for you?

I am a full-time visual artist working in a variety of media from sculpture to film and have been developing a series of installations call Walking Drawings, which I hope to exhibit next year. A Walking Drawing is a large-scale drawing undertaken by Evewright with a combination of freehand and mechanical tools on a vast landscape (canvas) of at least a quarter of a mile in the early hours of the morning. The drawing then becomes pathways and people of different ages, genders and cultures all dressed in black or colours are led on to it and invited to walk its lines in various formats and patterns. The public are invited to walk these lines to engage with, and experience a drawing in a new way to become participants in the creation of the artwork rather than an observer. This unique and evocative art installation consists of three films shot on Redcam, a series of 12 large scale prints and a floor installation sculpted with ten inch in height figures out of waste metal. For more information  and to see the film trailers go to: www.evewrightstudio.comand www.evewright.com And of course I’m designing all the print for the exhibition.Walking Drawing with horses

Walking Drawing with horses

Network:

THE U.S:

Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960–1980 chronicles the vital legacy of the African American arts community in Los Angeles, examining a pioneering group of black artists whose work and connections with other artists of varied ethnic backgrounds helped shape the creative output of Southern California. The exhibition presents approximately 140 works by 32 artists active during this historical period, exploring the rising strength of the black community in Los Angeles as well as the increasing political, social, and economic power of African Americans across the nation. Until 11 November at MoMA PS1. 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, NY
Hours: Thurs–Mon, Noon–6:00 PM. For more information visit www.momaps1.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

Stir It Up Film & Music Festival. A showcase of some of the best work coming from film and music industry professionals from African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, the festival offers performances, screenings and workshops. Additionally there are conferences on film and music, as well as other topics relating to Caribbean culture and world music. November 1, 2013 @ 8:00 am – November 30, 2013 Rose Hall, Montego Bay, Jamaica.

EUROPE:

Kehinde Wiley: ‘The World Stage’: Jamaica is the internationally recognised, African-American artist’s first ever solo exhibition. The exhibition features Jamaican men and women assuming poses taken from 17th and 18th Century British portraiture, the first one in the ‘World Stage’ series to feature portraits of women. The show runs until 16 November at the Stephen Friedman Gallery, 25-28 Old Burlington Street, London W1S 3AN. For more information visit http://www.stephenfriedman.com/exhibitions

AFRICA:

Afropolitain, a solo exhibition of images by Ananias Léki Dago presents works from three specific series that were developed over a six year period : Shebeen, Mabati and Bamako Crosses. While travel, or rather the discovery gained along the way, is essential to the work of Dago, Afropolitain is a visual notebook of encounters that have fed his numerous journeys. Documented in black and white, in these intimate experiences we see through the usage of acute details of the everyday, how Dago articulates his questions on the urban environment. Until Nov. 24  Fondation Charles Donwahi pour l’Art Contemporain  06 BP 228 Abidjan 06 Boulevard Latrille, face Eglise Saint Jacques Abidjan II Plateaux, Ivory Coast.  For more info visit http://fondationdonwahi.org/index.html

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 Archie Boston

As summer officially draws to a close here on British soil, we head to the sunny climes of the US and specifically Los Angeles to interview a man I am proud to call a friend and whose contribution to the design and advertising landscape is immense. I first interviewed Archie Boston two years ago, (in fact it was my first-ever professionally published interview) and discovered a man with humour, humility, passion, creativity and deep sense of integrity. Values that shine through in his body of work, and in particular a series of uncompromising self-promotional adverts he created with his brother Brad. Two years on, his courage and conviction remain resolutely intact, as I’m sure this interview will testify. Over to you Brother Archie…Self-promotional poster for Boston and Boston

Self-promotional poster for Boston and Boston

Archie Boston

Boston served two terms as president of the Art Directors Club of Los Angeles, is one of 35 design pioneers named by Graphic Design USA magazine and was honoured as Outstanding Professor of the Year in 2004 at California State University Long Beach, where he has taught for over 33 years. He published his memoir, Fly in the Buttermilk in 2001, created historical documentaries on 20 Outstanding Los Angeles Designers, in 1986, and is the first African American recipient of the prestigious AIGA Fellows Award.Self-promotional poster for Archie Boston Graphic Design

Self-promotional poster for Archie Boston Graphic Design

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

I received my BFA degree in Advertising Design with Honors from Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, California.  My first job after graduating was as an art director at Hixson and Jorgensen Advertising.  My second job was as a partner in, Boston & Boston Design, where I worked for two years, then returned to work at Ketchum Advertising as an art director for eight years.  I received a Masters Degree in Liberal Arts from the University of Southern California in 1977. Then, I opened Archie Boston Graphic Design and became a Professor at California State University where I worked for 30 years until I retired from teaching in 2009.Self-promotional poster for Boston and Boston

Self-promotional poster for Boston and Boston

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

My biggest challenge was racism.  However, rather than be on the defensive, My brother Brad and I went on the offensive and published promotional pieces that were provocative, memorable, daring and different. That approach shock the establishment, but opened the door to many unbiased clients who admired our courage and worked with us in spite of what others thought. However, another problem was that there were many mediocre designers and clients who were afraid of working with a minority firm that they thought we were too talented for the work they did.We've Come Too Far to Turn Around

We’ve Come Too Far to Turn Around

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

My greatest influences were art directors and designers like Georg Olden, Lou Danziger, George Lois, Saul Bass, Paul Rand, Brad Boston, Herbert Lubalin, Jack Roberts and Robert Miles Runyan. My greatest inspiration was and still is Jesus Christ, My Lord and Savior. I cannot think of any designer that was the same, yesterday, today, and forever.  Great design is timeless.Christmas card

Christmas card

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

I am most proud of my first book, Fly In The Buttermilk, memoirs of an African American in Advertising, Design & Design Education. This book should be a must-read for anyone in advertising, design or design education. This book will be around for future generations of designers who believe in the gospel of good design. I am also proud of the interviews I videotaped in 1986 of 20 Outstanding Los Angeles designers, while on sabbatical.  Some of the designers featured were Saul Bass, Louis Danziger, Marvin Rubin, Jim Cross, Jack Roberts, Ken Parkhurst, Robert Miles Runyan and many more.Cover for Boston's Fly in the Buttermilk book

Cover for Boston’s Fly in the Buttermilk book

What would be your dream job or project?

This might sound wacky, but my dream project would be to spread the gospel of design spirituality throughout the world. We, as designers, don’t talk about religion and how it influences our creativity. Many of us think that it has no place in our profession. I disagree. I consider myself an apostle of design. Apostle means advocate, follower, believer, supporter, devotee, or scholar. Surely, after all my years in advertising, design and design education, I qualify for this position. So why don’t you follow me in spreading the gospel of design?Christmas card

Christmas card

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

I believe my brother, Brad Boston, deserves recognition because he was a better designer than I.  He was like John the Baptist.  He baptised me into design by making me do my assignments over as a student.  I followed his advice until it was time for me to step out in faith.  The rest is history. Marvin Rubin, my other instructor, at Chouinard Art Institute, who helped me to see the reality of the business, encouraged me to be daring and imaginative.  Marvin also rented Brad and I space in his office until we moved into our own. Nick Mendoza, my friend and former classmate, who founded the first Hispanic advertising agency in Los Angeles, Mendoza Dillion and Associates.  He went on to become a creative director at Young and Rubicam and from there to become an international director of television commercials. I cannot end this section without mentioning, Louis Danziger, my mentor, however, he has received his recognition many years ago and is still considered an ‘Art Center College of Design treasure’. Finally, I believe that God deserves credit and more recognition in this field.  You might think that he is not a person but I believe that He is in all of us.Work for Pentel

Work for Pentel

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

My advice is to be honest. Be happy. Be Yourself. Be courageous. Be imaginative. Be passionate about your work. Be the best that you can be.  Follow your intuition. Don’t settle for mediocrity.  Work hard. Read. Question the establishment. Don’t worry about being politically correct. Respect your teachers.  Enter your work in student design competitions, to find out what professional judges think.  Remember, throughout your career to always strive to do excellent socially responsible work.  And finally, don’t take yourself too seriously.Self-promotional poster for Boston and Boston

Self-promotional poster for Boston and Boston

What’s next for you?

Since I turned 70 years old last month, my perspective has changed about design.  I want to add spirituality to every aspect of my life, including my design.  I have created some controversial work that was not politically correct and in some cases blasphemous. However, I still stand by that work. Now, I see life differently.  I would like for future design generations to consider trusting in a higher power.  I believe that God has led me down my path and there were bumps in the road, but I never would have made it without Him.

Archie. The Apostle of Design

You can visit Archie’s website at www.archbosgd.com.

Network

THE U.S:

2013 Aiga Design Conference: Head, Heart & Hand will celebrate the best in design and explore three interrelated aspects of the profession: design strategy, social impact and craft. This event will provide a platform to the participants to discuss about some focal points such as design for social impact and design as craft. The conference will take place October 10-12 at Minneapolis Convention Center. For more information visitdesignconference.aiga.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival: First held in August 2007, the popularity of theCaribbean Sea Jazz Festival has soared since its inception. This two-day event will this year be held on the 4th and 5th of October 2013 on the small island of Aruba. Initially inspired by a number of other such festivals like the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Netherlands and Saint Lucia Jazz, Caribbean Sea Jazz’s goal is to create a stage for local and regional music talent, showcasing them alongside big names in the Jazz world. Running on a small budget, this wonderful event is not just about music, but also exhibits the best of the Aruban community. For more information visitwww.caribbeanseajazz.com

EUROPE:

Afro Supa Hero is a snapshot of a childhood and journey to adulthood, shown through a personal collection of pop cultural heroes and heroines of the African diaspora. Jon Daniel’s action figures, comic books and games offer an insight into the experience of a boy of African Caribbean heritage growing up in 1960s and 1970s Britain, in search of his identity. Runs from 14 September – 9 February 2014. For more information visitwww.museumofchildhood.org.uk

AFRICA:

Ghana Fashion & Design Week: An impressive range of local and international designers and exhibitors will be participating in the upcoming second annual Ghana Fashion & Design Week. The event will bring together Ghanaian and International fashion, media and industry professionals and fans. Selected designers from around the globe will deliver an exciting selection of creative designer’s collection during the catwalk shows, with a diverse range of Exhibitors hosted at the contemporarily styled PopUp Exhibition Salon during the event. The event will welcome international press, media, and buyers. The catwalk show is scheduled to take place over two days from the 11-12th October 2013. For more informationemail:info@ghanafashiondesignweek.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 Sindiso Nyoni aka R!OT

‘Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny…’ This opening line to Bob Marley and The Wailers classic track, ‘Zimbabwe’ (from the album ‘Survival, 1979) aptly sets the scene for this month’s destination and profiled graphic artist.

Born in 1984, he is a product of his country’s Independence, which was realized in 1980. In his own words he was ‘born free from the segregation and colonial repression’ that blighted Zimbabwe’s past, but still ‘grew up in turbulent times characterized by the internal conflicts of the Shona and Ndebele factions’.

Experiences like this must surely go some way to explain how his tender age belies the depth and range of his work. And the impact he has made not just continentally, beyond the land-locked borders of his homeland, but also internationally in North & South America, Europe and the Far East is equally impressive.

Sindiso Nyoni aka R!OT, over to you.Sindoso Nyoni

Source: Kamo Mogashoa

Sindoso Nyoni, AKA R!OT, graphic artist/designer

What’s your background?

I am an independent graphic artist, born and raised in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I am the seventh child in a family of nine. Zimbabwe is widely known for its unique craftsmanship in the arts, from sculptures, masks, traditional ornaments to music and drama. As well as Zimbabwe being a ‘once’ booming African economy, this allowed for me to be exposed to abundant forms of art and popular culture as a four-year-old in the late 80s. I was so inspired from all these surroundings, and it was then that I developed a love for drawing. I haven’t stopped since. This developed into creating my own limited series of handcrafted comics in primary school, right through to high school, where I took art classes at a Catholic institution in Bulawayo. It was here that I was first introduced to the art of communication design by a retired New York Graphic designer, who had relocated to the continent, to teach art. She gave me invaluable insights into the profession and I left Bulawayo for Johannesburg in 2005, enrolling in a four-year communication design course while working as a barman and freelance artist/designer in order to pay my way through college. In 2008, I graduated from the University of Johannesburg with a BTech degree in Graphic Design.Freezim artwork, part of the Voices in Freedom exhibiton in Mexico (2010)

Freezim artwork, part of the Voices in Freedom exhibiton in Mexico (2010)

How did you get started in design?

After graduating, I moved to Cape Town where I joined an illustration studio as an intern and collaborated on projects for brands such as Fifa, Nike, Adidas, Smirnoff, HP, Shell and Audi. During my time with the collective I was part of the illustration teams on some Cannes Lion-winning campaigns. Prior to this, during my time as a student, I got into activist art and poster making. I became involved in exhibition showcases, and In 2010 I was part of the global Voices in Freedom poster exhibition alongside several international activist artists. After spending two years working as an illustrator, I relocated back to Johannesburg, where I spent almost two more years working as an art director/designer for an advertising agency. I continued to showcase art via invitational involvements and in 2011 I took part in the Piñatarama 2.0, (Art piñata) exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City. I also got to exhibit frequently in group shows locally, and in 2012 I was selected as a participating artist at the Art Takes Times Square exhibition on New York Times square. In 2013 I took part in the Dizajn Afrike (Contemporary design in Africa): Dyalli Association exhibition in Croatia. This exhibition formed part of the ‘Week of Africa’ celebrations in Croatia from the 22nd of May. In the same year, Outdoor ad company JCDecaux, in association with Icograda showcased 50 posters by 50 designers on digital billboards in London’s Cromwell Road for World Communication Design Day. The world’s most promising design talent was chosen to exhibit their work created to the theme of ‘1Love1Word’. My piece, entitled Amandla – All power to the Dreamers, represented South Africa. In late 2010 I developed R!OT, an alias that explores a subversive African ‘street’ style under which I have been operating as an independent graphic artist and illustrator since.Adidas shoe-box work

Adidas shoe-box work

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

During the short space of time in which I have been operating as a creative, I have treated failures, challenges and obstacles as stepping stones to getting to where I would eventually like to be. The first obstacles encountered came early in my college years, when I moved to Johannesburg. I had to freelance and double up as a barman/waiter to raise tuition fees to pay for my degree. Once this was achieved the second goal was to step into the industry and make a mark or name for myself. This proved difficult, in an industry which already has so many gate-keepers. At that time not too many creatives of colour were prominently visible. So, getting some sort of recognition has been a challenging long process, but a challenge that I’ve learnt a great deal from. Growing up in the turbulent times of Zimbabwe inspired my artwork as well, which reflects the social wounds left by a bitter struggle against colonial repression and of course the internal conflicts of the Shona and Ndebele factions. The link to social activism is what denotes my ‘African’ design aesthetic. By combining images and text to inspire people out of placidity my work attempts to tackle some of Africa’s most pressing issues in the form of visual art. Sadly most of the time our industry spends its time promoting commercial products rather than issues that really matter. This is compounded by the fact that as an emerging creative on your career path, in order to get noticed you have to have some big-name brands in your portfolio. In the professional creative industry, there is seldom any room for social communication. Briefs and concepts are often commercially driven, creating a dilemma faced by creatives today, ‘work for charities is cool but doesn’t pay the bills.’ I personally feel that it is a great value for creatives to know that they have tools and the ability to effect massive change, and not always within a for-profit organization. This is why I do not use my skills to support brands or companies that I feel have a negative impact on the world we live in. I feel that as creatives we have a duty to contribute to our communities using art that addresses social issues, advocates awareness and change, which can ultimately open minds to act towards making a difference.Poster design for documentary My Africa Is

Poster design for documentary My Africa Is

Who are your greatest inspirations and influences?

My mother is my ultimate role model. Her outlook on life raised me in the direction and career path I took from an early age. The arts and the various branches of creative activity have also always been a love of mine, with early memories of comic book art and vintage animation as influences. I respect and admire many international and local contemporary artists such as Jorge Alderete, Chaz Maviyane-Davies, Thami Mnyele, Dumile Feni, Emory Douglas, Jean Michel Basquiat, ROA, Pierre Bernard, Jonathan Barnbrook, and Tomer Hanuka (to name a few.) I am particularly intrigued by artists that blend the digital and traditional processes successfully. I also draw inspiration from disciplines outside my profession. These include music, cinema and literary influences from African authors such as Dambudzo Marechera, Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. The work of film visionaries such as Melvin Van Pebbles, Spike Lee, Emir Kusturica, Guillermo Del Toro, Lars Von Trier, Martin Scorsese and even the surreal work of Alejandro Jodorowsky, has also often left a profound impression on me. I studied Graphic design to attain a solid foundation in traditional communication design. I believed that understanding the art or skill of graphic design might inform more unique visuals to go along with what I would later specialise in.Book cover design for When a State Turns on its Citizens: 60 Years of Institutionalised Violence in Zimbabwe, by Lloyd Sachikonye

Book cover design for When a State Turns on its Citizens: 60 Years of Institutionalised Violence in Zimbabwe, by Lloyd Sachikonye

What is the project you are most proud of?

I recently created a poster which was selected as part of the Mandela Poster Project 95 exhibition collection. The project aims to raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital and the pieces will form part of the facility’s interior design as well. The poster is part of a collection by designers from around the world who paid tribute to and celebrated Nelson Mandela’s contribution to humanity. My submission for the series is entitled The Boxer and is a depiction of a young Nelson Mandela inspired by the critically acclaimed Spike Lee film Do the right thing. The piece particularly pays homage to one of the iconic characters in the film, Radio Raheem whose story about life, and how Love defeated hate echoes Mandela’s philosophy on human rights, forgiveness and reconciliation which contributed to the abolition of Apartheid in South Africa.The Boxer, poster print for the Mandela Poster Project 95

The Boxer, poster print for the Mandela Poster Project 95

What would be your dream project?

I’m quite an avid film and cinema buff so it would be pretty cool to get to work on an important cinematic project. I’ve always been interested in independent cinema, so to be involved in a project of that nature is definitely on my ‘to do list’ for the not so distant future. I would particularly like to collaborate with filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, who I feel is an all round interestingly amazing individual with an intriguing insight and outlook on life. In my opinion, he’s a very important creative.Ghost (Xenophobia), self-portrait based on experiences as an immigrant in South Africa

Ghost (Xenophobia), self-portrait based on experiences as an immigrant in South Africa

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

Fellow Zimbabwean (and Johannesburg-based) fine artist, Kudzanai Chiurai has been producing some really great provocative work in the past couple of years. I also admire the intricate and heavily detailed, artwork of illlustrator/conceptual artist and graphic designer Linsey Levendall. Soweto-born and Johannesburg-based Mzwandile Buthelezi, AKA Hac-One, is a street/graphic artist who is committed to growing authentic African design styles, and travels around the continent to build networks of creative people committed to using design to make a positive change. Loyiso Mkize is a young visual artist from the Eastern Cape in South Africa who uses art to enrich the world with visions that dare to break the world’s facade and inspire a greater tomorrow.Protect & Serve - a piece commenting on controversy surrounding the South African Police Service

Protect & Serve – a piece commenting on controversy surrounding the South African Police Service

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

Contrary to popular belief there are no short cuts in this game and hard work always pays off, so pay your dues. I also feel that as long as you enjoy what you do, you’ll never have to ‘work’ another day. Its all about creating the ideal job and not waiting for it to come. So in a nutshell, ’Go create!’Zulu Diva, test illustration for South African musician Toya Delazy

Zulu Diva, test illustration for South African musician Toya Delazy

What’s next for you?

I’d like to continue creating, and be able to inspire generations after me to create.Logo for the Natural Hair Appreciation Society

Logo for the Natural Hair Appreciation Society

You can see more of Sindiso Nyoni’s work at www.studioriot.com.

Network

THE U.S:

KKK – Kin Killin’ Kin is a powerful and thought-provoking series of images that reflect artists James Pate’s deep love and even greater concern for the epidemic of youth violence in the African American community. The exhibition runs until 20 November 2013 at The DuSable Museum of African-American history. 740 East 56th Place, Chicago, Illinois 60637. See more at:www.dusablemuseum.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

New Roots: This exhibition features 10 emerging artists: Deborah AnzingerVarun BakerCamille CheddaGisele GardnerMatthew McCarthyOlivia McGilchristAstro SaulterNile SaulterIkem Smith and The Girl and the Magpie. These artists were selected by the National Gallery of Jamaica curatorial team, which was headed by Nicole Smythe-Johnson, O’Neil Lawrence and Veerle Poupeye, from an initial shortlist of over 30 artists under 40 years old who were either born in Jamaica or of Jamaican parentage or who are active there. Opened on 28 July at National Gallery of Jamaica in Kingston. For more information visitnationalgalleryofjamaica.wordpress.com

EUROPE:

Ellen Gallagher: AxME at Tate Modern, London. One of the most acclaimed contemporary artists to have emerged from North America since the mid-1990s, Ellen Gallagher’s gorgeously intricate and highly imaginative works are realised with a wealth of virtuoso detail and wit. This is her first major solo exhibition in the UK, providing the first ever opportunity to explore an overview of her twenty-year career. Tickets Adult: £11.00 (without donation £10.00 )
Concession: £9.50 (without donation £8.60). Exhibition runs until 1 September 2013. For more information visit www.tate.org.uk

The AACDD 2013 Bargehouse Festival. From September 18 – 23, 2013 the Exhibition of the AACDD (African and African-Caribbean Design Diaspora) Awards is the final accolade celebrating the best of the outstanding creative talent of black artists and designers of the 2010, 2011 and 2012 AACDD exhibitions. Visit The Bargehouse
Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, 
London SE1 9PH. For more information visit www.aacdd.org

AFRICA:

Meaning Motion. How does movement make meaning? This question is asked by two highly innovative interactive digital artists, Tegan Bristow and Nathaniel Stern in the exciting exhibition. Until 18 August 2013 at Wits Art Museum, Corner Jorissen St & Jan Smuts Ave, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, SA. Admission free. For more information visit www.wits.ac.za/ons.html

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 .