Sharine Taylor on Michael Ford and the role of architecture in hip hop

Back in 2019, Sharine Taylor interviewed Michael Ford, an architectural designer and the founder of the Hip Hop Architecture Camp, to discuss the intersection of architecture and hip hop culture:

One of the things that I notice is that a lot of the times when house and home are showcased through hip hop music videos, they embody the ethos of modern architecture. Is that an observation that you’ve also noticed as well?

That’s true. Even if you look at, not just movies, but music videos, for example, Drake’s “Hotline Bling” that had a very modernist take to it. But hip hop, I won’t say that all of the movies or music videos that show housing or architecture are always modernism. I think hip hop is a global culture and just due to the fact that it is a global culture, many of those backdrops are different. Belly had a lot of modern architecture, but if you look at movies today or music videos, there’s a lot of different styles that are being shown.

Black Panther‘s release brought the discussion of Afrofuturism back to the forefront, so it’s a variety. One thing that modernism does provide that some of the other styles don’t is that modernism is, you can argue, about removing ornamentation and stripping things down to the bare essentials — which is problematic in and of itself and another discussion completely. What are the bare essentials? But it allows the artist and the work to really resonate within that space where the architecture is present. Again, there’s not as much ornamentation, so an artist normally takes presence in the shots.

(h/t Nicolas-Tyrell Scott)

An interview with 'Women of Colour in Japan' director, Amarachi Nwosu

Women of Color in Japan Documentary | Women Navigating Life and Culture in Tokyo through Creativity

For Tokyo Weekender, Cezary Jan Strusiewicz interviewed Amarachi Nwosu, the director of ‘Women of Colour in Japan’ and two of the documentary’s co-stars, Uzochi Okoronkwo and Ameya:

Women of Color in Japan focuses on three people. There’s Ameya, a Japan-born filmmaker, photographer, writer and co-founder of the visual media collective Ikix Studio. Uzochi Okoronkwo is a Nigerian-American stylist and owner of the vintage online boutique KO Vintage. And then, there’s Tiffany Cadillac, a Tokyo-born DJ, singer and producer of Japanese and Jamaican descent. We talked with Ameya, Nwosu and Okoronkwo about their lives in Japan as women of color and about how their work, vision and their very existence can help to spread awareness of the ever changing fabric of Japanese society.

It’s a good interview with interesting insights from all three covering everything from the treatment of women of colour in Japan to the collective struggles of WoC and Japanese women within the country:

9. Do you think non-Japanese WOC should be involved in the struggles of Japanese women?

Ameya: I think WOC in general should be allies to other minorities in this country. Whether that is Japanese women, LGBT, or less-able-bodied people, etc. None of us are free until we are all free. If we work to support each other, then we can create changes on a national and perhaps international level.

Related to Japanese women and PoCs in Japan: A blog post about Japanese geishas and kimonos, Seitō – a 1911 Japanese magazine exclusively for women, and Living While Black, in Japan

bell hooks (1952–2021)

bell hooks has passed away at the age of 69. It’s a tragic loss to the world and she will be sorely missed but her work in writing, feminism, and activism lives on. I remember reading her essay ‘Plantation Mistress or Soul Sister‘ for my dissertation and how it changed a lot of my perspectives on Black music, Madonna, and Blackness as well as giving me new ones.

Below are some links to obituaries, dedications, and essential reading for those unfamiliar with her work. In the words of Raquel Willis:

If you’re just learning about bell hooks, there’s no shame. You can always read her words and meet her on the page.

Articles and papers

Videos

Books (note: links are from Bookshop but aren’t affiliate links)

A blog post about Japanese geishas and kimonos

I found these articles in October and thought I’d share them.

The first one, from Vogue, is an interview with a Japanese kimono culture expert and she shares her beauty and wellness secrets some of which had been followed by “Geishas and Japanese women over 100 years ago”:

On her detailed skincare routine

“In the morning, firstly, I wipe my face with cotton soaked in plenty of rose water. Secondly I apply a serum, toner, and the Kyoto Secrets’ Beni Balm on the lip, around the eyes and smile lines to reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles. Lastly, I apply an oil and sunscreen. At night, when I wash my face with fluffy soap foam, I use a silk puff to gently caress the foam away. Fine Japanese silk helps to smooth the skin. From the aristocrats of 1100 years ago to the Geishas of 100 years ago, it is understandable that they used to wash their faces with silk cloth to keep their smooth fair skin. Other than sunscreen, it’s almost the same routine as in the morning but I put on a face mask regularly. The neck and the backs of the hands show our age easily, so I take the same care of my face. I use a silk puff to cleanse my body and slather body lotion all over.”

On home remedies

“I apply Sakekasu (white liquor solids produced during the process of making Sake) that is used to make a face mask. The hands of Sake craftsmen, even men in their sixties, are white and beautiful, and many of them look like women in their twenties! Kyoto is the best place in Japan to make Sake, so we can get a lot of good quality Sakekasu. Women in Kyoto have been using face masks with Sakekasu for a long time, which makes their skin look moist.

For my hair mask, I use a mixture of eggs, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, honey, etc., depending on the conditions at the time. Especially for the special hairstyles I do for Kimono, I use more oil or spray than usual. Applying this hair pack before shampooing my hair will loosen up the hardened hair smoothly.”

The second one looks at the “Niigata Geigi”, a group of geishas from Furumachi in Niigata City, far from the more commonly known region of geishas (Kyoto):

Niigata’s geisha tradition dates back more than 200 years to the Edo era (1603-1867) when the city was a major port on the Kitamaebune (literally, “north-bound ships”) shipping route that connected Osaka with Hokkaido. Thousands of cargo vessels made this journey each year. As the capital of Japan’s largest rice producing area, Niigata became the busiest port on the Sea of Japan coast. By the early Meiji Era (1868-1912), Niigata was among the wealthiest, most populous parts of the nation.

A thriving entertainment district grew up in the Furumachi neighbourhoood of the city to cater for the countless wealthy merchants and other visitors. Geishas (or geigis, in the local dialect) began performing at Furumachi’s many teahouses, ozashiki (banqueting halls) and ryotei (luxury restaurants). Politicians and even members of the Imperial family figured among the clientele. By 1884, nearly 400 geigis were performing in Furumachi.

Related to kimonos and Japanese female culture: Chiso is a 466-year old Japanese kimono house and Seitō, a 1911 Japanese magazine exclusively for women.

'We Are History' examines the links between art, colonialism and climate change

We are History | Trailer

For gal-dem, Lauren Dei spoke to the artists behind a new exhibition called ‘We Are History. The show, curated by Ekow Eshun, displays art that tells the stories of colonialism and its pivotal role in global warming and the harsh realities of climate change.

Featured artists include Alberta Whittle, Otobong Nkanga, and Malala Andrialavidrazana.

“We have a saying in Barbados charting the timeline of hurricane season,” Alberta tells gal-dem via phone call.“‘June – too soon, July – stand by, August – come it must, September – remember, October – all over.’ In 2021, the hurricane season began in April. Climate colonialism means the hurricane seasons are growing longer and longer, leaving the country on tenterhooks for over half the calendar year.”

An early scene in the film shows the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in 2019. The camera pans above the wreckage of the decimated Bahama Islands. An estimated 13,000 homes were severely damaged or lost during the Category five storm that left the national airport underwater and saw over 6,000 evacuees rescued by air. 

Head over to Somerset House to see We Are History, which runs until 6th February 2022.

Zinesters of colour discuss the forgotten origins of their work

Christine Fernando spoke to a group of zine-makers of colour for USA Today.

Zines have long been a way for marginalized communities to share stories, spread information, build community and organize movements, several archivists and zine-makers said. Often, they offer historical records of communities that have been ignored in other publications. But many zine-makers (“zinesters”) of color say their communities have only recently received credit and gained visibility for their contributions.

One of the interviewed zinesters described her feelings of isolation at zine events:

Marya Errin Jones said she’s often one of the only Black women at some zine festivals and events. White people often skip her table because “they assume my zines are only for Black and brown people or are about a topic they weren’t interested in or don’t want to talk about,” she said.

She added: “It’s always isolating. Sometimes you wonder, ‘What am I doing here?’”

The last time I went to Nottingham Contemporary, I spent a lot of time in their zine section, reading through the various DIY magazines and diaries that people left behind. They were unique and uncensored views into their lives and the groups they were part of. I loved them (I even emailed someone to compliment their work and took photos to read later.) It’s imperative that zinesters of colour get the love, space, and recognition they deserve and don’t get pushed out by the sanitised homogeny of the mainstream.

Vintage pulp comics as lesbian love stories

Jenifer has always been intrigued by portraying lesbian stories in this style, especially when she discovered the effects of storytelling in comic books. The form goes beyond simply having fun, and resonates with her in a more decisively profound way. “I always wished to see lesbian stories and art when I was growing up, and the lack of that was what ultimately motivated me to illustrate my own,” she explains. “So, I always recall that old desire as a source of inspiration.”

Black LGBTQ+ art related: Brasilândia: a platform for Black and LGBTQIA+ communities in São Paulo and Nana Duncan on Black British LGBTQ+ communities deserving better on-screen portrayals

(via It’s Nice That)

Katori Hall wins Pulitzer Prize for Drama

Congratulations to Katori Hall for winning the award for her comedy “The Hot Wing King”.

Darnella Frazier also received Special Citation for her filming of George Floyd’s murder which feels weird to comprehend and Mikki Kendall hit the nail on the head in this piece for CNN:

This year, the Pulitzer Board’s announcement that Darnella Frazier — the teenager who filmed the killing of George Floyd — had won a special citation feels like a big moment, but not necessarily a celebratory one.

Floyd’s death is not something to celebrate, obviously, and despite the narrative of martyrdom and so-called sacrifice assigned to him posthumously, the horrifying truth is that he was murdered in front of a community. He did not choose to give up his life to change anything, and sadly in many ways, his death at the hands of police was just one part of the story.

(via Variety)

Zakiya Dalila Harris on her debut novel, 'The Other Black Girl'

Novelist Zakiya Dalila Harris spoke to Orange County Register about her new book ‘The Other Black Girl‘, racial diversity within fiction, and influences on her work such as James Baldwin and Jordan Peele:

Code-switching maybe matters less now than it would have two years ago because of George Floyd. On positive days, I think these conversations are allowing Black people to speak up more. On negative days, I think that’s only because it’s in vogue for now and you can only speak up so much. 

We know why diversity is important in a lot of ways, but I wanted my book to look at how it influences each person on an individual level.

Q. Were you worried about pulling the rug out from under readers or was that the goal?

It’s my first book, so I’m not saying it’s perfect. But I love twist endings and “The Twilight Zone,” and “Get Out” was definitely an inspiration. I definitely knew where it was going when I started writing. I love the end of “Night of the Living Dead,” which is so realistic about Black experience. It’s still America, so stuff is going to happen to you if you’re Black. 

People asked, “Are you sure about this ending?” Yeah, I think it’s pretty necessary. Any other ending wouldn’t be as impactful. I really want people to talk about what happens to Nella and what could her [White] co-workers have done if they’d really been listening. 

When I was a kid, I used to love the Goosebumps series, and they had a choose your own adventure and I loved that there were multiple possible endings; I left some things open with this book so readers can think about it. I didn’t want to tie the ending in a neat bow. 

Stephanie Williams on Granny Goodness's Blaxploitation villain traits

Granny Goodness, created by Jack Kirby, made her first appearance in Mister Miracle Vol. 1 #2. Most know her as the ruthless older woman who runs the orphanage on Apokolips like a daycare lady from Hell. Granny uses torture techniques and brainwashing to create some of Apokolips’ most fearsome warriors — most notably among them, her Female Furies. Her appearance could be considered to be devoid of sex appeal — almost always scowling, a bulky athletic build, forever covered from neck to toe. Ultimately, this depiction serves to make her less sympathetic, because “pretty privilege” even exists in comics. Also, her name is Granny, and, as we all know, women of a certain generation are not supposed to be desirable and function best as bitter older women. 

Related to Black writers and comics: Charles Pulliam-Moore on DC Comics’ Black Supermen and Parenthood Activate! – comical short stories about life as a parent

(via syfy)

Julie Adenuga on Catfish UK and the new rules of romance

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures but Catfish was a rare exception. Even though I know it’s predominately fake and mostly for clout-chasing, it was still wild, messy, dramatic and fun. Now we’re getting a UK version, co-hosted by Julie Adenuga, and she spoke to gal-dem’s Adwoa Darko about the show and romance.

The presenter wants viewers to watch the show through an empathetic lens. “Anyone I said ‘I’m hosting catfish, UK’ to, their first reaction was ‘oh my gosh, it’s gonna be so funny’. That’s their first reaction. And I look at them,” she says before pausing. “These are real emotions.” She also understands how the road to dating someone is often paved with half-truths as she’s had a few people lie to her about knowing her two brothers without knowing she’s related to them (“now you look like the biggest clown of all time”).

We all learnt the rules of the game from Nev: reverse Google image search people if you’re unsure, video call them, ignore people with only one picture because it’s 2021 and everyone has a camera phone. However, through working on the show Julie reveals she’s learnt a new one: “Tagged photos really became our friends. We’ve had profiles sometimes when we see they’ve got 2,000 followers and only one person has tagged you. What’s going on there?”

Bad times for Adwoa, though, who opened the interview with an admission: she had been catfished.

gal-dem: Lets start with the fact that I was catfished

Julie Adenuga: When did this happen?

I met this guy from Ghana right. I was thinking ‘rah we’re gonna do up Kente get ready’. He said he’s single and later he drops that he has kids and an ex-wife that has gone off and married somebody else, and the kids are in Ghana. We go on the date and this man is doing the most, he’s like toasting to us and I’m thinking ‘rah is this me yeah?’

No one has ever toasted to us. This is live.

Read the rest of the interview to find out what happened and stream the Catfish UK promo below.

Meet Catfish UK Hosts Julie Adenuga And Oobah Butler | Catfish UK

Sophia Tassew's Khula jewellery brand is dope

Sophia Tassew with 4 models wearing Khula earrings

Last year, I said I wanted to showcase more Black content, particularly creative endeavours and projects that deserve all the spotlights and this is the perfect example of that.

Khula is a jewellery brand by Sophia Tassew, a plus-size content creator from South East London. You may recognise her name from an earlier blog post I wrote about A Quick Ting On—she’ll be releasing a book about her experiences in 2022. In an interview with Bricks Magazine, she called Khula “a sort of homage to my parents who come from Ethiopia and South Africa.”

I’ve always wanted to have my own earring collection or design something. I always thought it would come in the form of a brand collaboration but it didn’t and still hasn’t so I decided to start it myself and learn how to make earrings. Also, as a plus sized girl, growing up, my fashion and style journey was tedious. You were forced to shop for clothes that were meant for people three times your age or the mens section. The only thing I could always rely on were earrings. They’ve been my savouir (sic) many times as well as a small representation of who I am and where I come from. So much growth has happened between then and now and that’s exactly what Khula means in Zulu, grow. 

Sophia runs Khula completely on her own, working very long nights and making her vast collection of earrings by hand, as well as packing and posting the products herself. It’s the epitome of a one-woman team.

I especially love the late 60s/70s vibe from the designs, which she said inspired her alongside her roots from East Africa and South Africa:

Taking inspiration from my heritage and putting that into my brand makes me feel so much closer to my roots in a way that I know how, and a language that I understand which is jewellery. I’m very interested in Black people from different eras and celebrating them and their looks.

If you can, please support Khula and buy something from the store when the next batch drops. And follow both the Khula brand and Sophia on Instagram.

(featured image taken by Chad McLean from Instagram [his website])

Renowned's John Dean on Zoom calls with Angela Davis

Angela Davis wearing a Renowned t-shirt featuring herself

Renowned is a streetwear brand created by John Dean III and in his interview with In The Know, he discussed how it all began and his Zoom calls with Angela Davis.

I had the opportunity to have a Zoom meeting with Angela Davis. It was amazing. Talking to her is like talking to fairy godmother; this icon—she’s a feminist, philanthropist, scholar, the total representation of culture. For her to wear my t-shirt and send me a picture just shows how powerful the t-shirt was but just also how the messaging is effective.

Angela Davis appears in her own exclusive Renowned line alongside the likes of Huey Newton and Kathleen Cleaver.

Stream the interview below.

John Dean's streetwear brand, Renowned, is a celebration of Black heroes and Black culture

The Black Caribbeans of the Harlem Renaissance

claude mckay

As the son of a Black Jamaican woman and Black Bajan man and an admirer of the Harlem Renaissance, I was intrigued by this JSTOR article by Matthew Wills.

Black Caribbeans in the Harlem Renaissance examined some of the Black Caribbeans that had an influence on the 1920s movement including:

  • Claude McKay (Jamaica)
  • Eric Waldron (British Guiana; raised in Barbados)
  • Arturo Schomburg (Puerto Rico)
  • Wilfred A. Domingo (Jamaica)
  • Marcus Garvey (Jamaica)

Domingo himself argued, “West Indians were better prepared to challenge racial barriers in the United States” because they came from countries in which “Blacks had experienced no legalized segregation and limitations upon opportunity.” The brutality of American racism, so very different from that of imperial Britain and France, shocked them into action. In the 1920s, of course, “the great colonial empires were alive and well, but the intellectual seeds were already being sown for their eventual dismantling.”

Almost a quarter of Harlem’s Black population was foreign-born in the 1920s. They included, most famously, Marcus and Amy Jacques Garvey. Garveyism, with its “ideological mixture of Black pride, diaspora consciousness, and defiance of white racism” was foundational to the growth of Black nationalism in the United States, the Caribbean, and the world.

Of course, this only covers the Black Caribbean men. There were plenty of influential Black Caribbean women in the Harlem Renaissance such as:

  • Hermina Huiswoud (Guyana)
  • Amy Jacques Garvey (Jamaica)
  • Maymie de Mena (Martinican and French Guianan grandparents)

“This freedom from spiritual inertia characterizes the women no less than the men, for it is largely through them that the occupational field has been broadened for colored women in New York. By their determination, sometimes reinforced by a dexterous use of their hatpins, these women have made it possible for members of their race to enter the needle trades freely.”

Wilfred A. Domingo, Gift of the Black Tropics

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