Thursday, February 25, 2010

Contemporary Tribe


I started my day with the meeting that never happened. CEO’s, Directors, Business men, they all have this habit. Meet at One, don’t be late, these are important clients, get there, sit down, get told to come back tomorrow at the same time. I’ve never been stood up, but I imagine this might be an inch of how it feels, frustrated, a bit used, and taken for granted…supremely pissed off.
I need to shoot, it’s my day’s goal now. It’s been a week and I think what I am experiencing is some kind of side effect, my eyes need to breathe the fresh air of creativity.

THE CONCEPT:Get African…The art of the African Face Paint. Used for so many reasons it is like a symbol worn openly to express your intentions. Empowerment, fear, the hunt…lets reclaim it. Sometimes it is a mark for a tribal ritual, or an expression of status either way I want to reclaim this element in the contemporary mindset. And what are the signifiers, signs patterns colors…

Black is for life
Red is Violence
White is Peace
Yellow (the color of old bones) is Death
Green (under the eyes) is for empowering Night Vision

But it is all relivant right, to you and what You feel, what you want to represent.
These are all common examples which run through a mass of tribes…and why shouldn’t we reclaim this…Ask the spirits or simply just represent that ancestry. Can we not use this art form in a way which empowers us beyond the physical…taps into our psyche, soothes our spirit and just liberates?

Recently Gloria and I went out, faces painted and feeling beautiful about it. Every dot exactly where I want it to be, small circles touching my brow and moving with its shape and curves, highlights, peaks, my body, beautifully shaped. I am a goddess, peaceful but powerful, I don’t like to be touched by those who do not deserve, and that is what I channel into my paint. I want to look right through your intentions.

And… It was only a matter of minutes explaining our makeup before our friends were after a touch…Why? For the same reason I asked Gloria to paint me…I wanted to feel it. Feel the spirits of that which came before me…wear them proudly and tell everyone what I was feeling. Sexy, Excitable, and Aware of my power….and they did.

Let’s bring it into the contemporary: I want these portraits to show something, The Warrior Princess within, or perhaps the Virgin still inside. Whatever it is it needs to be rooted in the essence of who you are or who you want to be, wearing it for everyone to see and fear, love, respect, sexualize whatever you want.

      Rachel Amito      Nancy Kacungira      Rachel Calnan
           Peace                         War                    Virginity

OMG she has gone crazy: No I haven’t! Try it, play make believe if you must but the fact will always be the same, Everything is what you make of it, if you put good energy in you will always get good energy out…

So I am waiting for the next model to finish with makeup. I am loving the vibes and feelings, I think I want to use these images to make a collection…The contemporary tribe…Feels like thunder…Right now we are making a Warrior Princess…Today I think I’m in Love…

But this is only the beginning, I want to do this shoot again but move away from the portraits…and bring in an element of fashion, clothes and real life situations. Put the viewer into a place where they see the superficial, the spiritual and the self all at once....that is my next project goal…
The end result is what pleases me most…unedited but still capturing the mood, it can only get better from here….

For inspiration check out Incredible tribal fashion, TribalPhoto, Artistic Things

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

And The Beat Goes On.....

9th February 2010
And the Beat goes on...
6th Feb Bob Marley’s Birthday, there was a thick mist above the Blood Brothers crib.  The night was filled with artists who were feeling the love and remembrance of a Revolutionary man.  
Kampala has a beat.  It runs through the tarmac and maram roads.  It’s like an electrical pulse that’s got your back.  It surges every time you try to cross a traffic ridden road, or every time your boda swerves a little too close to the ground to dodge a pothole.  It’s a pulse, those tiny strokes of luck that make you hopeful.  That’s how I’m feeling right now, lucky from the soil up. 
 I’m looking out the window of Club ROUGE. Waiting for Spoken Truth to start. For those of you who don’t know, Spoken Truth is an event that happens Two Tuesdays in a month at Club Rouge on Jinja Road, Next to the Railway Station.  This is a poetry night I am really excited about. Artists, Poets, Mc’s, Dancers congregate in one progressive space to share their expression with one another.  The night so far has been good and now we are trying to bring out the best of all elements.  I am especially interested in the poetry.  Its seamlessness and elegance, and its ability to put you inside a story with the sound of someone’s voice.  
This week begins with a mass of work ahead of me.  I start a shoot on the 10th hopefully. It is set to be a week full of travel and accomplishment.  I am looking forward to learning and working with a photographer whose work I have never seen before and hopefully get a chance to pick up my camera as well and shed some light on the shoot with my style.  It’s hard though, being a woman and an artist out here, that’s why platforms like Spoken Truth are appreciated and you have to take every oppertunity you get to show your abilities.
Spoken Truth is going to be fun, I’m organising a shoot for all the poets while the event is happening.  There is hope for a Spoken Truth book, DVD and Audio CD. So today is the day to come dressed to represent. I’m most looking forward to expressing my level of creativity, allowing the mind to move past the guidelines of someone else’s agenda.  The idea is to funk it up. And we have...

Artists breed life and inspiration with every movement. The shoot has gone well. A balanced mix of the funny, the aggressive, the sexy, the gangster, and the list goes on.  The most enjoyable thing about photography is bringing out something that’s already there but almost hidden.  

                           Portraits of people with life, soul, breathing in their craft and exhaling it to audiences.       
And The Beat Goes On.....
These pictures will contribute to the Bavubuka Spoken Truth website/blog/book/flyers or just for fun! 



Thursday, February 4, 2010

It's all so Complex!

It’s All So Complex!
So it’s only my second blog and i am already complaining! As i sit in Java’s watching the traffic build up around garden city the only blessing i am counting is the fact that i use boda’s so i know i won’t have to sit in it.  As for the person i am meeting they are late, probably due to traffic.  Work is busy, but complex; it’s hard to balance an honest spirit with people who seem to constantly want to squeeze money out of you at a constant rate. My example is one of my current jobs.  First we agree on the budget....then as crunch time approaches you decide to hike up the prices and leave me no choice but to be in a state of panic trying to find a solution for my client. Why?
But this is a learning curve for me. My ability to think the best of people has surly gotten the better of me and for a moment perhaps i forgot what it truly means to try and work as an artist or anything in an African country. I’m feeling bitter and twisted and gagged! Stop and Breath I’m reminding myself.  But deep down i know the solution will come to me, I’m sure of it. A positive attitude and some faith in self is really needed right now. So put my iPod in and stick on Guru ‘Keep your worries’ 

On a more progressive note and away from the rant, I am looking forward to hopefully travelling up North to Gulu soon.  The two trips i have made up there so far have not been the most work filled and more on a social level.  My first trip was made with a group called Blu3.  They went to do a show, we spent the whole day driving, breaking down, driving some more and by the time we reached i was so tired i just fell asleep to wake up in the morning and have to drive all the way back to Kampala.  The second trip with The Bavubuka All*Starz was more productive, meeting people and enjoying the environment.  The Acholi people are surly a force to be reckoned with.  After years of struggle, war and fear we were greeted with nothing but smiles and welcoming gestures.  The Acholi people are surly the epitome of liberation. This trip i am hoping to document some journeys, visit camps and listen to stories.  It is one of the aspects of being a photography that is truly enjoyable, having the ability to travel and document the lives of people who need to be heard...and get paid to do it!

In conjunction to this i am working on another project (the one mentioned in the rant) and I’m also looking forward to that as well. Once i get back from Gulu i should be (on the same day) travelling down this beautiful country to Kabale. It seems like i will be spanning this entire country from one end to the other in one day.  That in itself seems exciting to me. 

This week is bringing with it a mass of chaos but liberation of self.  I can’t wait to meet the challenge. I love Uganda, Africa, and Photography. It’s bringing me new and wonderful challenges.  Stick on Lauryn Hill ‘The conquering Lion’ thinking about my pedicure and how soft my feet feel...fresh for the long walk ahead of me and trust me right now it is LONG...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My First Time

January 26th 2010

The air is thick with anticipation. Words cannot begin to describe my uncertainty of self and my once comfortable surroundings seem to become a mental cage.  It’s like i had so much to say and now it’s all gone.  Escaping out of my mind as if through a crack in my brain.  I know my aims and my goals and i really want to be in this place with you but i don’t know how. If you asked me to write a poem about it next week i probably could, turning each stomach turn into a metaphor and each step towards my goal of unlimited expression into a cascading simile of words to wash over you.  But i can’t seem to do that right now.  Instead i will try by starting with a taste of me. 

My name is Roshan Amirily Karmali.  I am a 23 years old, photographer, poet and an advocate for the liberation of the female mind.  I was born in Uganda, East Africa, and the majority of my family were all born and raised here.  We moved to London when i was 5years old, and i stayed there till i got my BA (Hons) degree in Photography and Media Arts at UCCA. 

My whole life has been spent in a foreign country longing to come home and understand my culture and heritage.  That’s not to say we didn’t come home to visit. My mother loves her home soil  and has instilled the best African values she knew how to impose in a European country.  After i got my degree i found myself in the gifted position of pregnancy.  It was this that pushed me really come home permanently and be with my family who had moved home over the course of my 3 years in university.  I come from a family of 5. There are four boys and me, the only girl, and we were raised by a single mother.  Each of us, except the youngest, flew the nest and moved forward through life until my mother had no one to ‘take care of’ except for my youngest brother Alim (a now prolific musician and craftsman doing his degree in Product Design in Manchester).  With that in mind my mother, the elegant and beautiful spirit Miss Elsie Dreada Cooper, along with Alim, decided to move back to the Mother Land and the only place that really captures her spirit, Uganda. It was at this point that the rest of us started to stir and start to combat our battles alone, feeling unsettled in our environments and no longer secure that we had our ‘Glue’ in place.  First my brother Mohez who was at the time living in Canada decided to take the first leap, and move home.  Here he found a sense of liberation, a power to be his own boss, which stirred Iqbal to pack up his faith (he is a devote Muslim, a gentle and intelligent being who finds pleasure in a simple but goal orientated life), and his new wife and bring them Home.  Then there was me, newly pregnant and unsure of the outcomes life would bring i found peace and a sense of future coming home.  I was going to give birth, nurse the next visionary and blow up the Kampala Photography scene like never before! Last came the brother before me (Mohez and Iqbal are both older than me too), Salim.  He came in 2009, and really hoped to start a new life away from the hum drum of British living where having a job just to survive didn’t seem like the most attractive option any more.

So that is a bit of my background. And now to how i came to be sitting here, in this seat, deciding to try and strip myself bare and share the goings on of my life as a working photographer in Kampala, Uganda, East Africa.  
Moving back to Uganda, as much as it has been a blessing it has also been the biggest struggle of my life, and continues to be on a day to day basis of getting work and getting ‘out there.’ When i came back home i was sure that people would look at the innovation and creativity of my work and be jumping at the opportunity to hire me to take their photographs...This wasn’t the case.  I began my journey as what seems to be, the ONLY female photographer in Kampala. Amidst a mass of what seemed (and still does) to be a sea of photographers who have the ability to set their cameras on AUTO and move around the city, or in tiny studios taking ‘Professional’ and cheap shots.  People want to be airbrushed to the point of looking like they’re about to slide off the page and NO ONE seems to be interested in social photography unless kids are starving with no sense of hope or salvation.  It is too easy out here for people to just use the blur tool, or heighten the contrast and for this to be considered an acceptable finished piece of work.
Where was ‘The Art of Concept Photography’ here?  The joy in feeling a lens in your hand and the click of a button running shivers down your spine because you know you just captured something inspirational, progressive, and exciting.  I have the firm belief that even if you are getting paid to shoot an advert or someone’s personal photographs the feeling stays the same when the quality and technique in your art form stays one of the elements that fulfils your state of being. After all why else is it that we take the path of becoming artists if we don’t want to be fulfilled, otherwise we would all stick to those boring jobs which pay the rent and allow us to muddle through life at a completely balanced rate. But isn’t that boring job only worth it when you know it is simply the means to fuel your passion?

Ok so i get frustrated and decide to start getting myself ‘out there’.  I start by opening my gallery the Kampala Visual Art Studio AKA. KAMVAS (i hope you all see the word play here). And then i decide to start pressuring people to hire me, or at least see my portfolio, my logic being that when they see that they can get higher quality work for the same price they are currently paying they might decide to take a risk and hire me.  This doesn’t go so well.  It’s a man’s world and people are getting jobs over me because I’m young, and a woman.  But it’s ok Strategy Two, My friends.  That’s where i get my first paying gig.  My now Best Friend Gloria Wavamuno.  She is an amazing designer who really captures the Essence of being a woman.  She believes in the power of Women and is totally on the same page as me. And we go on to work together on a permanent basis.  I am her official photographer and future business partner.  It feels good to progress with someone, take each other to new places and find someone in the same struggle as myself in a different field, so there is no sense of competition and we can both play a hand in the progression of each other’s careers.  This was the stepping stone of things to come.  Small gigs here and there until people started calling me to be their photographer.  
A moment of complete triumph!  I felt like the all the hustling and hard work was amounting to something, even  if they didn’t pick me to take their photographs at least i got the call, at least i was in their pile and fate had placed me there to tell me ‘maybe next time’ but i didn’t need a next time because it was this time.  I took on the project for a new Telecommunications company ‘Smile,’ and even though i can’t post their images up yet when i do it will be another milestone for me.
Except for this commercial work i have really found a sense of Home in a group of people called The Bavubuka All Starz.  This group of prolific young Mc’s and Artist’s who are pioneering for the Youth of Uganda.  The organization, founded and run by Hip Hop artist/youth activist/good friend Stansilas Sajjabi AKA Babaluku, aims at changing the lives of Uganda’s Youth (Bavubuka) through Art.  They provide programs such as MC class, Art class, Business class, Photography class (run by me), Dance class to name a few, and generally provide a safe haven for youths who don’t want to be out robbing people, but want to instead be doing something progressive with their time. 

How does this relate to photography? Well i have the pleasure of photographing events and the general progression of their lives.  They run a poetry night in Kampala at Club Rouge called Spoken Truth, which is the equivalent of an Open Mic night and hopefully will be Uganda’s response to Def Jam Poetry.  These images bring forward a sense of hope away from the stereotypical starving child and are an example of what art can do to transform lives.

This leads me on to my first social project in Kampala.  A series of photographs commissioned my be Norwegian Embassy aimed at artistically representing and challenging the roles of Women in Ugandan society with their base literature being the play ‘A Doll’s House’.  It was the first project i have ever done where i had to not only balance the role of the client with my own artistic views and radical outlooks. The project turned out well and my exhibit went well and was placed around the Embassy’s event which aimed at discussing women’s roles etc.