Categories
Art

STRANGER DANGER…BUT MAKE IT ARTSY?

It is 4:48 AM and I am on a train back from Basel headed to Zurich. Doesn’t that sound like wealth?! Yeah, well, pipe down Switzerland has left your girl for dead. I was only a couple more coffee purchases away from auditioning for Squid Game.

If you’ve been keeping up with my gallivanting on this blog or on Instagram you know that I am currently on sabbatical trying to find the meaning of life. So far I’ve got nothing, I’m literally 3 weeks in, and I’ve run out of deodorant (that’s a story for another day) BUT I’ve had some pretty incredible experiences. The story I am about to tell you is about my experience at Art Basel this past weekend and it can NOT be made up. It is so bizarre that I am still in shock.

Wait, before I get into it let me explain what the hell this festival is even about. Art Basel is an art gathering held annually in three major cities, Hong Kong, Miami, and Basel, and I’ve decided to check it out in Basel, Switzerland as it fell on my birthday. My overly simplified version of the purpose of Art Basel is to bring curators, galleries, artists, art collectors, etc. together to buy, sell, and share artwork (I’m sure there are other explanations for this event but I’m sticking to this one.) This ain’t your “support local artists” yard sale, pieces were on sale for upwards of $40 million. So now that I’ve set the scene and called you broke lets get back to the point of this article.

I arrived in Basel on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. I am fresh off my 30th birthday celebration (slightly hungover and tired). I check into my basic ass Airbnb and somehow muster up the energy to check out the neighborhood. I walk for about 3 minutes and then boom I’m looking right onto the Rhine River. It is nothing but fine European men laid out on the sand trying to get a tan, jumping into the river, and floating on a device they call a Wickelfisch. I’m like OK this is niceeeeee – the Airbnb may be giving “utilitarian” but the neighborhood is definitely giving cultural luxe experience bay-bee. I walk around a little more and just like that I walk right into a photography outdoor exhibit by Cesar Dezfuli. Y’all I was so blown away. I low-key needed a sign and this was a sign that I was in the exact place I was supposed to be.

Fast forward to Sunday, my ticketed day to visit Art Basel. I wake up nervous and excited. I would say the feeling is comparable to first day of school jitters (outfit laid on bed you know the whole nine). I get dressed and spend about an hour trying to figure out should I wear these kitten heels, should I bring my backpack even though the website specifically says backpacks are prohibited, my mind wonders “to who the hell is going to take my instagram pictures if I can’t bring my tripod.” (I’m giving you this back story because it is really important to understand God’s timing in all of this.) So, after about an hour, I decide yes to the kitten heels, no to the the backpack and f the tripod. I head out to Messe Platz.

I get to the Art Basel Plaza and the place is crawling with people…I mean COVID who? Of course face masks were required, yada yada and I get in line with the regular citizens with my regular/general admissions ticket. Once inside I spend about 30 mins roaming and I’m starting to feel myself because I am getting really good at recognizing artists work without reading the plaques. So I’m LIKE ok bish you belong *flips hair*.

I start to walk towards the other side of the plaza and I pass by an older dark skin man, we make eye contact and I smile with my eyes of course (because COVID) and keep it moving. (Seeing Black people in these spaces, especially a brotha in these spaces is always a breathe of fresh air so I’m always gonna give the courtesy head nod.)

I keep walking for about 30 secs and I see him from the corner of my eye swing back around. He pulls up on me, looks at my forehead, eyes, idk what but immediately asks are you Ethiopian? (Shoutout to my parents for these genes.) I respond “I am” and he lets me know he is from Chad, introduces himself, we do a little small talk about his time in Addis and then he asks if I’ve been to the VIP Collectors Lounge yet. Ok friends, remember when I said I came through the regular citizens line with my general admissions (another word for general is BASIC) ticket – then you all know I damn sure did NOT have access to the Collectors Lounge. I’m looking at this man like nah homie – I IS POOR. He laughs and just like that says “ok come on” and 2 minutes later I am in the Collectors Lounge hanging out with my new friend who I find out later (after some googles) has an extraordinary background. That man took me under his wing for the entire festival. We spent the entire day together (from 12:38PM to 9:30PM). He introduced me to curators, gave me contacts in the art space and access to some of the most exclusive experiences (please see photos below) at the festival and imparted some of the most timely wisdom I needed to hear just a day into my thirties. I know y’all are probably like sis did your mom ever teach you about “stranger danger?” And to be honest I would be lying if I didn’t say that the thought of this man kidnapping me did not cross my mind because it definitely did but I like to think I have good judgement *shrugs shoulders*. (My undiagnosed ADD also made me wonder is it still kidnapping if you are 30 years old?)

I don’t think y’all understand just how wildly generous this man was – his generosity was solely based on the premise that someone did it for him and that he wanted to see a community amongst Black people in the arts. Y’all I got so teary eyed because once again I felt affirmed for traveling over 3000000 miles to be in this space. He gave me a couple words of advice on how to experience life, showed me around the city and then just like that he hopped on a train back to Paris.

I was left dumbfounded. Partly because this was such a random experience but also by my ability to get into some deep ass conversations with people within 15 minutes of meeting them. *Le sigh* what can I say? It is a gift haha.

Anyway y’all know I love to overshare so of course I am sharing the three things that stuck with me during our conversations below.

  1. You deserve to live the life you live. This is essentially saying you get what you ask/go for. There are a ton of things not in our control but there are equally just as many things that are and can be mastered to create the life (or whatever you want). So show up and do your best – that is all this life requires from us.
  2. Exposure changes a person. Hanging out in the Collectors Lounge I was able to try out different products from sponsors of the event. One happened to be La Praire, a luxury skincare company, that is well known for their skin caviar collection. The rep walked me through the science/technology behind the product and rubbed the product on my hand. I wish I could give you a verbal description of how it felt but I can’t so here is a visual.
Bobby Hill Ascending / Out Of Body Experience | Know Your Meme
  1. My new acquittances and I began to have a crazy long conversation on how once you are exposed to certain things you just can’t go back. (I had to bow out though because until I touch my first billion I don’t think La Praire will be in my purview anytime soon.) Exposure and my favorite word access really changes a person. This was a VERY superficial example but it can be applied to just about anything – once you know better you really do want better.
  2. Die empty. I’m not the biggest fan of talking about death, in fact it makes me uncomfortable but I can confidently say that the goal is to die empty. In this life you can’t take anything with you so take the time to figure out what is important to you and pour into, into people, etc. My new friend had a near death experience in South Africa that really woke him up and just hearing it woke me up.

I firmly believe that my Basel experience would not have been what it was had it gone any other way. That man is an angel and he is now a good friend of mine. Bah-Pna, if you are reading this, thank you for making my Basel experience one of kind, thank you for your wisdom, for you time and effort – I hope to be able to impact another strangers life as you did mine. Also, 10/10 would recommend Basel, Switzerland. (I know it is is a privilege to be able to travel and even more of a privilege to be able to attend these events but I do hope more people can experience this cultural epicenter.)

—-

Anyways life is good. I’m headed to the Bloy Institute to get my first facial with some of the best esthetician’s the Netherlands have to offer. Y’all pray that they don’t oversell me on skincare…because like I said earlier I ain’t got it. Peace.

Categories
Entrepreneur Interview

Meet Kia Ray

Today’s interview is with the Kia Ray.  She is outspoken, skilled, and professional when it comes to her craft. She has only been in the makeup game for about 10 months and is constantly evolving. In this interview you learn a little more about her background and who the real Kia Ray is, enjoy!

Follow her on Instagram: @makeupbykiaray |  Below you will find the video and we encourage you to give feed back! SDBUP would also like to give Dottn Boyz a major shout out for the camera work!

Categories
Entrepreneur Interview Music

A TRUE Musical Experience

BOOMscat On Red Couch

Last week, I attended the official release party for BOOMscat’s Album The West Wing Project Live Ep. It was held at Mad Momos Beer and Deck Restaurant on 14th street in Northwest DC. I came rushing in all late because I had just left a dinner on the other side of DC but ironically, I believe I came right on time. I told my girl, who tagged along, that the place was going to be packed and don’t bother wearing heels; from what I’ve heard BOOMscat knows how to get a full house. So, it was no surprise when we came in and it was exactly that, a full house. We circled around the bar area and luckily found two seats. While in the mist of settling down, the crowd was shouting “give us more, give us more.”

Asha Santee (BOOM) and Jennifer Patience Rowe (scat), the beautiful duo of BOOMscat, are naturals. While on stage, they carried a normal conversation as if this was not a live performance but rather a causal day at rehearsal. Their energy, passion, and emotion spilled over into the crowd. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. Not only did they deliver a five-star music experience but they gave us a show to be remembered. BOOMscat interacted with the audience, urging everyone to get in on it by asking “should we do another” as if the crowd could ever say no. I watched the entire set in “aw.”

Once they were done I had to snap back to reality, because if I wanted to speak to them I would have to beat the other fans who had come early and gotten good seats and had strategically placed themselves right by BOOMscat’s equipment.

The official name of the group is The Peace & Body Roll Duo BOOMscat and as their bio, from their website, states “together, they create a sound that ignites vulnerability, elevation and self-reflection.” I snagged the two ladies separately and was able to get you readers a little more of an insight on BOOMscat.

Patience: 

[A] “Why music?”

[P] “Because it is the thing that comes so natural to me and because I know every morning I will wake up and be able to do this thing and love it and do it with my entire heart because it is in me…I was born with it.”

[A] “If you could open up for anyone, who and why?”

[P] “Ledisis! I think her voice is amazing, she is technical goddess, and I want to interact with her on a vocalist level.”

Asha:

[A] “Why music?”

[Asha] “Because music is necessary for life…I can’t live without music I wouldn’t be here.”

[A] “If you could open up for anyone, who and why?”

[Asha] “Erykah Badu, not questions asked. Her style, her freedom, and her passion with music – just the way she arranges music, it touches my soul and that is how I want to touch other people with my music.”

These virtuosic women are humble and passionate beyond measure. I truly believe that the music they create has the power to evoke emotion that would other wise go untapped. Do yourself a favor and support this dynamic duo. Download their album here: http://boomscatmusic.bandcamp.com/ and visit their respective sites below.  Oh and if you wanted to know my favorite song is: #7 Closure. Get HIP!

This article is just a sample of what is to come from SDBUP & BOOMscat – full interview coming soon. Stay Tuned!

Connect with BOOMscat

FACEBOOK | WEBSITE |TWITTER | INSTAGRAM

Astu Mengesha – Stay Down Blaze Up

Categories
Art Entrepreneur Inspiration Interview Mindblowing

Meet Chidinma Dureke

“My goal is to redefine the definition of blackness in the Diaspora, by using color, design elements to transcend physical material reality.”

Thank God for the creators of Instagram! I am always finding amazing artists and this week we are highlighting an extremely talented female artist and her name is Chi-Chi. When people submit their work to the website I initially send out a questionnaire and I condense their information, but I have decided to do something a little different so you can get the REAL artist. So below you will find the answers, directly from Chi-Chi herself. Enjoy!

Chi-Chi[Q] What is your full name?

[A] Chidinma Dureke a.k.a. Chi-Chi

[Q] Where are you from?

[A] I am a first generation African-American & both my parents are Nigerian. I am native of Maryland born in Washington D.C., raised by Nigerian parents.

[Q] When do you believe you became an artist and why?

[A] I think I truly embraced my talent and took the title as “Artist” after my senior art exhibition. I say this because it had taken three others and myself several months, weeks and sleepless night to put making this show life changing. The emotions I felt the day of the show were truly amazing and encouraging. I had finally felt and found my calling in the arts. My work spoke for me that day and my message was clear in my work. To be able to impact other lives in that light was so amazing. Art allows freedom of expression and ideas in a peaceful way.  Not to mention being at a predominately white university and the only African-American girl in the exhibition and sell the most work that afternoon wasn’t too bad either. That experience gave me the validation and confidence I needed to go forward as an artist.

[Q] Favorite medium to work with when making your artwork.

[A] I would have to say oil pigments are my favorite medium to work with. I work primarily with oil paints on different surfaces. Every once in a while I use other mediums like fabric, paper, ink and gouache.

[Q] Who or what inspires you to create?

[A] My culture or lack there of culture inspires me to create. African aesthetic and West African/Nigerian culture all play a huge role in my work. Being a woman inspires me to create. For example, my use of kente cloth, bold/bright colors, textiles, African fabric and women of African descent. Being a minority inspires me to create. Initially, my portraits were based on the culture of hair and it’s significance it has in African –American culture. Using bold African fabric as head wraps to disguise what the figures hair look like; the viewer is then forced to focus on the woman’s natural and physical beauty. In the past we used Colorism to discriminate against each other as blacks and today hair has become another way to divide and discriminate ourselves as a people. Currently, my work focuses on hair and its significance in black culture but has evolved into beauty and what I feel it means to be beautiful. My goal is to redefine the definition of blackness in the Diaspora, by using color, design elements to transcend physical material reality. The expressionistic sunflowers are not naturalistic but used to represent society and mood. The fleshy, peachy color in each skin tone gives more positive feeling and the continuous use of the color green symbolizes growth and nature. With Africa as my main inspiration I fuse colors, textures, organic shapes and traditional techniques to create images that are fresh, iconic, expressive and diverse.

[Q] What is your absolute favorite project or piece of work you have created and why? What does that piece mean to you?

[A] I don’t have a favorite piece from the past five years. I enjoy all my work equally. The one piece that has been the biggest social experiment would have to be “One Drop.” The focal point here again is feminine beauty and what constitutes blackness. This piece is number one of eight. The piece is entitled “One Drop” primarily because it is difficult to determine the ethnicity this young woman represents. It is evident that she has that 1% of black in her. With her intense gaze, Head Wrap is a more passionate exploration of culture, portraiture. My ultimate goal is to shift our focus on whom the woman is rather than what her hair looks like, facial structure and complexion. What she looks like and the texture of her hair should no longer be used to define a woman. The goal is to shift focus from what she is mixed with and how diluted her blackness is, how “black” he or she is.At the time of working on this piece I was at a difficult period of my life.  As a graduate trying to figure out if I was really going to pursue being a professional artist or work for someone else. In the process of trying to figure out life after college, I kept getting my hair relaxed once a month, wearing long straight weaves back to back. I grew my natural hair out in preparation of my big chop while figuring out who I wanted to be in represent in this world after college. My piece “One Drop”, helped me to express how I was feeling about the world at that moment in my life and our obsession with the western ideals of beauty and hair. I think her strong gaze exemplifies my frustration and awareness.

[Q] A quote you live by (optional)

[A] “ My favorite quotes are those on opportunity. When opportunity presents itself, if it is not inconvenient, it is no longer an opportunity.” – Margaret Dureke founder and president of WETATi

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Connect with Chi-Chi

chichisart.com | chichi@chichisart.com | chichisart.com/shop

Astu Mengesha – Stay Down Blaze Up

Categories
Advice Art Entrepreneur Inspiration Interview

Meet Narel Argaw

“Art is all about expression, you will value your art when you drop a little part of you in it. You will be patient enough to perfect it.”

8cd8a0a2fa0011e2a8e322000a9f13d9_7Born and raised in Ethiopia, Narel moved to the United states at the age of 12. He attributes a lot of his foundation to his father, who discovered his gift early on and enrolled him in art school at the age of nine. He was the youngest in his class but was able to prove himself by picking up art fundamentals, right away. Art was not just a childhood fling, as it can be for many of us, but rather a passion that further evolved through intense lessons. Upon enrolling in AP art courses in high school, Narel was able to refine his talent and learn how to be more open and true to himself when creating.

Art is something that allows Narel to see the ‘surreal world’ in reality. He states “I do not just imagine it, but I create it – it is more of a deep subconsciousness state of mind I deal with. Art will define you. What you think, is what you print. It is a journal. It is the real you. It is sacred.”

When reading his submission, I truly began to believe that Narel creates because it is his calling. Art is extremely profitable and for many and it can be a way to make ends meet, so it is easy to see how artists may lose passion as it becomes a duty. Narel expressed the following “I have a lot of paintings that I haven’t even shown to my close friends. I’ve never sold any of the pieces and every time the subject comes up I always refuse. I, honestly, do not think I will ever sell any of my work.”

When asked what his favorite medium is, he responds: “I am a fan of Expressionism and Surrealism. Acrylic paintings are my favorite but I always keep a stack of sketch pads that I doodle in everyday. Ink, pen, & color pencils are always perfect. It is always the quickest way to create my rough drafts.” He later elaborates “I admire fine art. I look up to a few well-respected artists and couple of Surrealism painters but I’m more of dark arts fan. Meaning, I rather paint what I feel. I am a fan of what made me, Narel, I take time to admire the negative in me. I rather paint about my psychedelic thoughts of the perfect world rather than my reality.  I rather define lust than love. If I can’t vent in art, I wouldn’t, at all.”

All of his pieces are purposeful. “All of them are a reminder of a particular season, I look at them as a journal. And so I value them all the same.”

Below are samples of his work, links to more of his creations, and ways to connect. Enjoy!

To see more of his work please visit: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Narel-Art-Graphic-Editings/127926857218000

Connect with Narel

Instagram:@Na_rell or @Narelart| Youtube: youtube.com/narelart

Astu Mengesha – Stay Down Blaze Up