Friday, April 16, 2010

Trinity Hip-Hop Festival 2010

“This is a Public Service Announcement.  Hip-Hop is locked up in prison and Hip-Hop is free. Hip-Hop is poor, and Hip-Hop is rich. Hip-Hop is art.  Rap costs money but Hip-Hop does not.  Hip-Hop is education.  Hip-Hop is law.  Hip-Hop is health care.  Hip-Hop is protest.  Not just when rappers show up at the protest to promote their new album.  Hip-Hop is protest even when rapper don’t show up, and its just heads from the block, standing together in the rain and the cold” (Hoch, 2002, taken from Words.Beats.Life “The Global Journal of Hip-Hop and Culture”)

This is the first quote which I think fully encapsulated the essence of the 5th Annual Trinity Hip-Hop Festival.  A collection of Artists and Fans congregating under one roof to celebrate the nature and unity of the global concept of Hip-Hop.

This weekend I spent time and traveled from New York to Connecticut to involve myself in this event.  Preparing myself to be educated on the true essence of Hip-Hop.  Along with my friends Angela from Mushana and Babaluku from the Bavubuka All Starz I looked to explore how this event could relate to a Ugandan Based Movement whilst miles away.  What I found was a collection of minds willing and wanting to explore every corner of Hip-Hop from around the Globe.  The encouragement of the mother tongue, and the acceptance of Hip-Hop as not singing and rapping for monetary gain but a tool which transforms and changes lives and even governing bodies through the presentation of truth and the community efforts of Social Change.

How did this event move me as an African Based Photographer? For a while I have been formulating and conceptualizing my Contemporary Tribe Project and as an African Based Photographer was looking to explore an event which claims to encourage, nurture and promote Global Hip-Hop.  After all these minds are the perfect representation of the Contemporary Tribe, collections of people who believe in the same concepts but are spread around the world pushing for their own revolutions whilst trying to collectively gain awareness of their indigenous struggles.
At face value the room is filled with a mass of Hip-Hop Artists and enthusiasts, but brushing past tables and conversations it becomes clear that this is not your average collection of human beings.  As you move through the first apparent tones in conversations is that of an introduction, networking from every angle.  Move forward to the noticing of dialects, Arabic, French, Wolof,  Spanish, Luganda, and Creole.  And finally to variation of subjects, from Hip-Hop to Cuba, Africa to America and the universal messages of social change, unity, community and smiles on the faces of the youth they represent.  This is one sect of the Contemporary Tribe.  A group of people from many walks of life each celebrating their cultures together under one medium Hip-Hop.

There was one particular spirit amongst these that blew me away.  That was of ‘The Reminders’ front lady Aja Black.  A Mother, Wife and the combination of her and her husband spreading inspirational messages through a Reggae and Hip-Hop fusion.  I photographed her as part of my collection after her performance, allowing her to formulate her own dots as a representation of her own indigenous spirit.

Moving on to KRS-ONE.  The writer of the Hip-Hop Bible and the founder of the Temple of Hip-Hop, and one of the first prolific Artists of the Hip-Hop generation.  The feeling in the room is one of excitement, awe and inspiration as he moves through classics and continues to spread the message of independence and community development.  But more so than this show of his musical talent I am struck by his teams willingness to give back to communities which look up to the Temple for strength and as a pillar of education.  They were kind enough to have copies signed for the Bavubuka Foundation.  Despite their busy schedules they are willing to move out of their way to bring together Hip-Hop globally through the acknowledgment of our Ugandan Youth and the struggle at home through encouragement and positive minds connecting through literature.  So Thank You.  

Check out more photographs and videos and relevant links:
The Reminders:

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Taking The First Bite...

As the beat of Kampala moves through the soil and up through the tarmac and potholes I am lifted.  Through space and time watching the dark lake beneath me move further into the distance.  And my mind begins to work overtime.  This journey through the sky brings a space and forum for my own mind to process itself and understand where it is going.  
I think I need the sunshine to write.  I left for New York on the 24th of March and this is my first blog entry.  But through the cold my initial New York experience has been blessed with warm and friendly encounters that have made me reflect on life with a beautifully hot mindset.  
The people I have met so far have been nothing less than a blessing, with beautiful ideas, careers and motivation. The first of these people I wanted to tell people about was the ‘Mushana’ Family.  ‘Mushana’ meaning ‘Sun’ is a company who takes Ugandan beads and uses them to make fashionable jewelry; this jewelry goes on to help sustain the women making them in the village by providing a constant source of income.  Angela and her family have been the warmest most well spirited people I have met in a long time.
New York, the busiest place I have ever seen.  People walking at a constantly fast pace as if they are all late for something. It seems as if time is moving quicker here than anywhere else in the world and every turn is a photograph.  I wonder, through streets and streets trying to find the next place to stop and absorb my surroundings. I began my first day in New York with the Art Expo, an event organized with the aim of providing new and upcoming artists with a platform to put themselves out there to dealers and curators from all across the country.  This was an experience that allowed me to absorb and place myself into the contemporary New York art scene and mindset.  However, my initial experience did not enthrall and excite me as much as I had hoped that it would. Instead it seems as though the Expo, once renowned for showing the likes of Andy Warhol and Leroy Neiman seems to have become a mass of super commercial, easy on the eye artists who did not move me in any particular way.  What I did however learn was that this would be the perfect place to kit out a booth if I want to one day mass produce and sell images to hotels or large stores.  
The next stop of the day was the Art Institute, where a mass of talented young designers were having their work/portfolio’s reviewed.  This was a much more artistically expressive space.  It was a breath of fresh air to see New York’s young new talent fresh and ready to combat the fashion world and make links with potential designers I could barter images for designs with. 

The last two events of my first day were a gallery opening for Fund Art Now and a Gig for an upcoming artist Alice Smith.  I met both of these events with equal excitement.  Fund Art Now is where I had the pleasure of meeting Noah G Pop, a unique photographer who prints his images onto cloth to make funk fashion.  He has photographed the likes of Gil Scott, Erykah Budu, Jay-Z and Puff Daddy to name a few.
Moving on I have gone on to spend a bit of time with Noah, who on first encounters seems to be a very loud and in your face character, confident and not as approachable as the man I met for a walk through Central Park later.  This second meeting brought more clarity as to why he is such a likeable character.  In this moment of a long walk we meet a different side of Noah, a much more peaceful and complex man whose photographic career has not always surrounded itself with the celebrity and fashion world but started with the exploration of underwater photography. Noah also runs the Pulmonary Wellness and Rehabilitation Center, which is what makes him a great example of an Artist and human-being who gives back whole heartedly to his community. He pushes the boundaries of the mind, allowing us to understand that not ever celebrity photographer is cut-throat and cruel, as is the common understanding at times.
From our walk Noah invites me out to dinner with none other than Zelda Kaplan. For those who don’t know Zelda Kaplan is a 94-year-old socialite and party girl.  Well known for her travels to Africa and her love for indigenous culture and fashion, Zelda is also a the oldest most respected party girl n New York.  I remember first hearing about her when I was much younger and would play on the idea that I would know I was ‘it’ if I walked into a party and saw her there.  Whilst I am far from ‘it’ and not as accomplished as I hoped I would have been it was still an honoring feeling to eat and then go for drinks with her.  Her presence is very special and encouraging, and the lessons acquired through her are to really love life and appreciate every breath and movement that your life takes you into.