Tag: art

Soul of a Nation exhibition reminds us why black artists are important


 

Even though I’m writing this post during Black History Month in the UK, the Soul of a Nation Exhibition at the Tate Modern in London has been on since July. One of the first things I liked – black culture not relegated to Black History Month only. The interest in the exhibition was immense, I managed to go during one of the Uniqlo Tate Lates’ sessions and was glad I booked tickets beforehand.

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It was humbling walking through the white rooms of the Tate, transported back in time to the civil rights movement. I felt the fusion of emotions emitted from the vivid photos and colourful paintings. The artwork captured nuances in anguish, joy and triumph  of black people in America up to and around the Civil Rights Movement.

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Permission from the Tate Modern to take pictures of the exhibition.

The riveting exhibition is more than artists being subjective witnesses of a depressing and inspiring period of history. It’s an authentic capture of black history by those who could identify with the subjects emotionally, physically and psychologically (although the exhibition does have work from non-black artists too).

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Permission from the Tate Modern to take pictures of the exhibition. Benny Andrews: Did the Bear Sit Under a Tree

A black narrative by black artists.

It’s not impossible to for a non-black person depict a black narrative. However, expressing a reality that was yours or those of your family can only be most accurate through your own gaze. This gave the exhibition a different level of emotional authenticity that the work of black artists took centre stage. I was reminded that black people were standing firmly behind enemy lines during this period.

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Permission from the Tate Modern to take pictures of the exhibition.

In addition to the art work, there were also televised speeches by prominent people of the movement including writer and activist Angela Davis. A Black Panther Party member, she came to national prominence after being sacked from her teaching post at the University of California due to her claimed communist associations. Her passion for prisoners’ rights goes back to the 1970 free the ‘Soledad Brothers’ campaign, which led to her own imprisonment. This caused a catalyst of events, most notably the ‘Free Angela Davis’ campaign, which helped drive her acquittal in 1972.

Through the Soul of a Nation exhibition…

I appreciated the tenacity of black people, who created a movement renowned globally without the use of social media and so profound that I and many others are still writing about it in 2017.

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Permission from the Tate Modern to take pictures of the exhibition.

I appreciated the courage of black people, harnessing the strength to smile thorough oppression.

I appreciated the intellect black people exhibited when navigating a system that was setup to destroy them.

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Permission from the Tate Modern to take pictures of the exhibition.

And of course, when there seemed to be no hope, when it looked like there was no light at the end of the tunnel, I appreciated the fact that black people didn’t stop, many fought literally until death, for freedom, for equality, to be considered human.

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Carolyn Mims: Black Children Keep Your Spirits Free 1972.

Sadly, the exhibition ends on 22nd October, so if you’re in London whatever your race, I recommend it! Remember black history is world history so it’s for everyone!

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Image: Barkley Hendricks: Icon For My Superman (Superman Never Saved Any Black People) Bobby Seale 1969

 

After the exhibition we were (of course) carefully led by the way the exhibition was laid out, to the dedicated shop. This was actually quite a nice surprise because there was so much black literature, some titles I’d heard of and others I hadn’t. It was like being in a sweet shop but it was a book shop lol.

 

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Korlekie: Bringing craftsmanship to London’s fashion scene


The term ‘African designer’ can be ambiguous and reductive. Synonymous with tribal prints; the artistry and craftsmanship of traditional African techniques can often languish in the shadows of the fashion world. We caught up with London based luxury knitwear designer, Korlekie, to find out how she’s bringing these traditional techniques to the fashion forefront.

Why the name Korlekie?
I was born in the UK to Ghanaian parents. Korlekie comes from my father’s tribe, the Ga-Adangbe and means ‘Queen of Eagles’.

Is your African heritage expressed in your designs?
Being African is an intrinsic part of me, and I’m also inspired by other things. So, I wouldn’t say my designs are ‘African-inspired’ they just reflect who I am.

Is there an expectation to use prints in your designs?
Some people have a narrow view on what ‘African’ is and expect to see printed fabrics in my collections. When they don’t, they ask, ‘so what’s African about your collection?’ African textiles are more than just wax prints, which originally came from Asia and were exported by the Dutch who brought them to Africa.

A white designer born in the UK wouldn’t be asked, “so what’s British about your collection?”

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Korlekie luxury knitwear. Photo: Stoyanov & Jones.

Why knitwear?
I’m an artist and like to create my own fabrics; that’s how my passion for knitwear came about. Wax print fabrics can be restrictive; as they are repetitive, when you cut the fabric it’s difficult to get the prints to align. Through making my own fabrics I understand how the fabric works and have the creative freedom to make timeless, sustainable pieces.

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Photo supplied by Korlekie.

Knitwear encompasses many things, including embroidery and beading.  I also use new technologies such as 3D printing.

You describe yourself as a luxury knitwear clothing brand. What does luxury mean to you?
Luxury is about quality more than wealth. It’s craftsmanship skills, paying close attention to intricate details that enhance and maintain the quality of design.

I use a range of fabrics to complement the theme of a collection. It can be anything from teddy bear fur to hand woven Kente cloth.

Your latest Pure Red collection symbolises “boldness and sensuality”, why did you go for this theme?
The collection is called ‘Pure Red’ because of what the colour signifies, power, passion, love, danger. Red is empowering and bold; Korlekie designs are statement pieces and celebrate the female body; they are not for the faint-hearted!

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Photo supplied by Korlekie.

 

How did you source the Kente fabric used in the collection?
We worked with a social enterprise called Nubuke Foundation in Ghana. We sent them our own unique colour ways and patterns to create artisan Kente cloths that were designed into kimono style jackets.

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Hard at work, the Ghanaian artisans, creating the Korlekie Kente fabrics. Photo supplied by Korlekie.
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The finished articles: Korlekie Kente. Photo supplied by Korlekie.

What’s the process you undertake when designing a garment?
Depending on the garment, it can be a long process. A tailored blazer can take around three days if the fabric has already been made and dresses can take around a week.

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Getting up close and personal with hand woven Korlekie fabrics. Right photo: @adsdiaspora, left photo: Hypemari

 

When a customer requires a bespoke outfit, it’s good for them to know what they want to express through their outfit, then I’ll do the rest.

What is the ethos of Korlekie?
Cutting-edge design celebrating sensuality with a traditional British and bold Ghanaian flair.

What are some of the signature designs, within your garments?
These range from leather braiding to expressive sensual knots. We also have accessories including head warmers, bags, belts and chokers.

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Rita Ora in Korlekie. Photo supplied by Korlekie.

You’ve dressed a range of celebrities including, actress Esosa from web series ‘An African City’ and singer/presenter Alesha Dixon, how did this come about?
Being in the right place at the right time and word of mouth, enabled those connections to happen. Alesha Dixon wore a sample of an emerald dress I made for her music video, which she also wore to the Brit Awards and ended up buying it because she liked it so much!

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Alesha Dixon in a bespoke Korlekie design. Photo supplied by Korlekie.

I’d love to make a dress for Solange; she’s really come into her own and has a distinctive style.

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Esosa E – An African City. Photo supplied by Korlekie.

Where can people get Korlekie garments?
We are online and do private consultations, when making bespoke pieces.

Any exciting developments on the horizon?
There are some new projects in the pipeline, so watch this space!

You can keep with Korlekie on social media and via her website.

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Hot Seat: Nicola Lespeare Cards


According to the UK Greeting Card Association, in 2015 we spent around £1.7 billion on greeting cards. We sent £564 million worth of birthday cards to each other, with Christmas Single Cards accounting for more than 10% of total retail value for all cards.

Cards are definitely popular in the UK; they’re a personal way to communicate a message. But is it always easy to find the right greeting card?

It was my sister’s birthday and I was looking for a card with a young black female on it. After trawling most of the big high street card shops, I couldn’t find one, Says Nicola Lespeare of www.nicolalespeare.com. There are cards out there for black people, but they’re not always easy to find and can sometimes look a little old fashioned. So, I decided to create a solution to my own problem!

Tell us about your latest business venture

Nicola Lespeare is a new greetings card brand, showcasing illustrations designed by me, of mainly black women. However, my Christmas collection, launching on 14th November, does include a black Santa and kids…Santa’s little helpers!

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I’ve already had people ask, “What about the black guys?!” I’m open to designing male illustrations and other family members but as I’m at the experimental stage with designs, I’m paying attention to what customers like before creating new designs.

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When did you start your business?

From inception of the idea in July this year, I officially launched on 4th September 2016, it was a crazy 6 weeks!

You’re originally from Nottingham why did you move to London?

After the recession, job opportunities were few and far between in the property industry. I came to London 5 years ago for new opportunities.

How did you start your business?

Although I have a background in fashion illustration, I was a little daunted. I’ve never run a business before. I designed my first collection of cards, emailed my friends to spread the word, and received fantastic feedback!

What is fashion illustration?

Sketching garments on models, using personal drawing techniques to make the outfit look stylish. I can also pattern cut and make garments too, but I’ve been there, done that and ready to try something new.

How did you get started as an illustrator?

After graduating in Fashion Design a while back, I freelanced for a few years before working full time in a variety of office based roles to support myself. I’ve been in Operations Management for a few years but now want to return to my creative roots. I have no intention of going back to fashion design, but started drawing again. I didn’t foresee designing cards so it’s been a brilliant discovery for me.

I read a book called, ‘Be a Free Range Human’, which talks about remembering the passions of your younger self. Mine was drawing, so I went to a stationary shop got some pens and started drawing again.

The most challenging thing about running your business?

Setting up a website! I didn’t know anything about buying a domain name, finding a host etc. When first designing the cards, I realised that water colours didn’t photograph or print well. I had to work out how to make the illustrations pop and look great, which involved a lot of trial and error. Working full time while setting up a business is never easy, but I’m determined to make the business a success.

I went on a steep learning curve; I wasn’t even on social media at the time!  

The main highlight of running your business?

Selling my first card! I was so excited when I got my first order via social media. Overall, the whole journey has been a highlight, especially as I set it up in a short space of time and the response has been amazing reaching all the way to NYC!

What’s the nicolalespeare.com ethos?

To design memorable celebration cards reflecting aspects of black culture, characteristics and trends. My vision is to become a brand synonymous with high quality black celebration cards, where people of African/Caribbean heritage can choose from a diverse collection of cards & gifts for every occasion.

Do you do bespoke cards?

Not yet, but I’m considering doing personalised cards in the future.

Any exciting developments?

There’s a wedding and Valentine’s Day collection coming in the New Year, which I can’t wait to start working on.

Where can we get your cards?

On my website nicolalespeare.com. Cards are posted within 24hrs all over the world; prices start at £2.49.

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The ‘Patsy’ Birthday Card

Any other card illustrators that inspire you?

I try not to look at what other card designers are doing, I want to maintain my own creative style. I’m inspired by anything around me…a piece of fabric, a person’s hairstyle that I’ll see on the bus, hot air balloons – which helped inspire the first collection.

Do you have any tips on starting a business?

Your social media game needs to be on point! It’s easy to become insular and paranoid that someone will steal your idea if you put it out there, but share it with friends and family because you need feedback. Most ideas are alterations of what’s been done in the past, but only you can put your own unique spin on it. What’s most important is that you act and keep progressing to reach your goals.

You can also follow Nicola and her cards on Twitter @nicolalespeare.

 

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House of Meena: SS16 Collection – WOW


Talk about finding a gem! I just happened to stumble across the Meena design label; established over 5 years ago. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to find the Nigerian fashion house and its Creative Director, Uju Offiah. As soon as I saw the SS16 collection, I was like, “WOW”.

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The Lagos based designer has showcased previous work at regional fashion shows, Music Meets Runway 2011, Arise Magazine Fashion Week 2012 and the 2012 MTN Lagos Design & Fashion Week. However, it was at the Heineken Lagos Fashion & Design Week 2015, where she revealed her SS’16 collection of structured dresses and custom made prints, that stopped me in my tracks while surfing the net. The SS’16 lookbook, entitled ‘Ochiagha’ from the Igbo language, translates into ‘Neoteric Warriors’.

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According to Meena, the collection was inspired by ‘Nsibidi’ – a pre-colonial symbolic method of communication among the Igbo people, in the south eastern part of Nigeria: Symbols were arranged in clusters telling a story of victory, resilience, love & hate, peace and unity of Nigerians.

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The collection artistically evokes unity and peace in spite of the recent challenges and insurgencies in northern Nigeria.

Neoteric:

A modern person; a person who advocates new ideas (noun).

Belonging to recent times; recent (adjective).

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Credits: PHOTOGRAPHY: Lakin Ogunbanwo (@lakinogunbanwo) | ART DIRECTION: Lakin Ogunbanwo & Uju Offiah | Model: Aduke (@adukebey_) of@bethmodelafrica | MAKE UP: Stella (@stellasaddiction ) | HAIR: Bernard (@bernardsmiless )

 

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Chrisitan Louboutin’s nudes become more inclusive


It’s been a couple of weeks since Christian Louboutin announced the extension of his nude range of shoes from 5 to 7 different shades. A much welcomed announcement to shoe lovers (who can afford the luxury price tag), as it portrays an inclusive mind set in the luxury fashion industry. The range is labelled from Nude #1, which some describe as “porcelain,” and Nude #7, described by others as “deep chocolate.”

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Louboutin’s first nude range launched in 2013, and three years later he’s broadened his horizons. I think the range should have been comprehensive from conception but at least attempts have been made to increase the Louboutin nude shoe collection. Luxury fashion may be accessible for a select few, but there are a diverse range of people who dabble in the luxury fashion bubble.

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“The nude collection is dedicated to people who want to have great legs, to have a great silhouette,” – Christian Louboutin

I’ve always been uncomfortable with the description “nude” because I didn’t see options which matched my skin tone, and that was a problem. I felt that it was false advertising, not just from Louboutin, but from any fashion retailer who used the term, alongside a limited product line.

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Previously, Christian Louboutin has explained that according to him, “nude is not a colour, it’s a concept”.

What do you think?

Could this be the start of a much needed evolution in the fashion industry? Some designers are pushing the boundaries of fashion in a positive direction, #NudesForAll.

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(Diversity) Undercover – the new BBC drama


I was intrigued by the hotly anticipated 6-part drama, Undercover, staring award winning/ Oscar nominated Sophie Okonedo and award winning Adrian Lester. Not only because they are talented actors and the intriguing story, but in a rare feature on British television, the two leading actors are black.

Hmmm, interesting…

What’s even more powerful is that their characters and the story isn’t hinged on their ethnicity. Without giving too much away, it’s an intense story written by award-winning playwright Peter Moffat, about undercover police officers, the death penalty, injustice, scandal, blackmail, love & marriage, deceit, neurological/mental and terminal illness and much more…

Undercover displays middle-class people of colour in prominent careers, but most importantly in real life situations doing normal things, that anyone can relate to.

They joys and the struggles of life.

After watching the first episode, I was torn by my own emotions of suspense, sadness, pity, disbelief, happiness and shock.

In recent months there’s been a spotlight on the lack of diversity on TV; from black (British) actors being stereotyped for certain roles and even having to go abroad (mainly to America) to get jobs.

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“Somebody’s skin colour isn’t a character trait”. – Adrian Lester

Photo: Des Willie/BBC

Previously, Sophie Okenedo (who is of Jewish and Nigerian descent) stated that she receives more scripts for American productions, than British ones. She spoke about how welcomed she felt in New York, when performing on Broadway alongside Denzel Washington, in “A Raisin in the Sun.”

Moffat admitted that the casting of black lead actors was not planned from the beginning, but came about as the story evolved.

Some may argue that why is it worth talking about the actors being black, it’s 2016?!

Exactly, it’s 2016 and there’s still some way to go until we see a fair representation of Black/Asian and other minority groups on British television, but steps are being taken. It’s not completely gloomy, there have been black actors in British productions, including EastEnders, Luther and the ‘90’s sitcom Desmond’s, but is diversity starting to be fully uncovered on British TV screens? Of course diversity doesn’t begin and end with Black people, as the UK is a nation with a rich immigrant culture. Other ethnic groups have the same resources at their disposal to make their voices heard.

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Denzel Washington and Sophie Okonedo in ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ in New York. Barack and Michelle Obama were reportedly in the audience.

Photo: Sipa USA/Rex

Earlier this year, Chief Executive of the BAFTA awards, Amanda Berry admitted that there was still a lack of diversity on screen and behind the scenes. She claims it’s the film industry’s fault for not making roles for ethnic minority actors. Which translates into fewer ethnic minority actors being nominated for awards.

“Not enough films are being made with diverse talent in front of the camera.”

After taking a few minutes getting over the fact that the two lead character were black (yes, I admit it – growing up in England, I’ve watched British TV my whole life and this was a rare occurrence), I became completely submersed in the gripping story. Sophie Okonedo’s intense acting pulled me into her character, Maya, where I could feel what she felt. After that I didn’t focus on anyone’s skin colour, I was just transfixed by the acting, by the story, and the story is the main attraction.

I was also impressed by the acting of the children during the first episode, not because they are black, but because they were compelling and highlighted young British acting talent.

I can’t wait until episode 2, my Sunday nights at 9pm are planned for the next 5 weeks! Here’s the trailer for the BBC1 series Undercover.

 

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Hyperrealist Art – A Nigerian Perspective


When I first saw these pictures on social media, I thought they were photos. As soon as realised they were actually paintings, I understood why social media was going crazy over them!

The oil paintings by Lagos-born Nigerian artist Oresegun Olumide, is definitely making us all take note of Nigerian artists. Working as a professional artist since 2005, water features prominently in Oresegun’s work because “water has no enemy”. The African art scene is taking shape and reaching beyond the shores of the continent. African artist are having their say.

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Oresegun Olumide artwork

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