CITIES, CULTURAL PRODUCTION & AFRO AESTHETICS: Mozambican / Canadian musician SAMITO performs at Ottawa’s National Art Centre


Sea Point and Lion’s Head, Cape Town, South Africa. Image by David Stanley.

The extended cultural influence of urban space in Africa.

My childhood experience of Africa was urban. Inside photo albums wrapped in 70s textiles, I flipped through the photographs of my parent’s honeymoon in South Africa and saw images of cities and ports. 

Gratefully, my adult experience of Africa wasn’t confined between a front and back cover. This time I was riding the waves of the Mediterranean towards an ancient metropolis. I arrived at the opposite end of the continent as my mother and father. From the sea the city of Tangiers stretched out before my eyes. Breathtakingly beautiful, it contained within its borders stories of commerce, trade, and cultural admixture – African, Moorish, Spanish, and French. This Moroccan city was flourishing a thousand years before the cities built by European settlers in Canada. Another trip to Africa would have me arrive by air to Nairobi with its nightclubs, bank machines and matatus. I left travelling overland by bus to the port of Mombasa, on the Swahili coast, where hundreds of years of African, Arab, Portuguese and even Chinese cultural influence made an impact on all my senses; from there I made my way to other cities – Harare, Gaborone and Johannesburg. When I recall Africa I recall urban spaces. The cities I encountered reminded me of the ones back home where people from different cultures come then go about the business of life, all the while creating new cultural expressions.

“February 1998 ceramic tile panel designed by Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté (b. 1953) and produced by the Viúva Lamego tile factory. Trained at Bamako and Havana, Cuba, Konaté lives and works in Bamako. He was one of the 11 prominent international artists who were commissioned to produce works of art for the Oriente metro station, Lisbon, where this panel is installed.” Image by Bosc Anjou

Samito is an African born artist with the experience of living his life in port cities. From his birthplace of Maputo, Mozambique, then onto Cape Town, South Africa, he now calls the port of Montréal home. I was interested in his reflections on living in places where pluralism, within the urban setting, is the social structure and how that influences one’s artistic practice and culture production.

In our rush to celebrate diversity sometimes we discount how discombobulating the experience can be when you are the minority within the larger cultural context you inhabit. “My 11 years of living in Montreal has pushed me to think about my past identity and new identity, pushing me into a fragile place. As an immigrant you have [to face] a wall of judgement before you are accepted.” Samito goes on to express that as an artist arriving from somewhere else, people superimpose their (mis)conceptions on you as well as on your work. “Because of that I went into a profound reflection regarding who I was and who I became with immigration. I realized I was in a tangled place. Music allowed me to shape some things that reflect my present space. On one side, you want to talk about your culture and everything you have observed in life, including your past, but you still want to communicate to people in this space, now.”

For five years Samito has been working on an album that will be released Spring 2016. “When I started working on my record I went through a lot of questioning, [you realize] that when you are too ‘African’ people don’t like you. It can change you in profound ways. I started censoring myself. How do I want people to see me? This can help shape the narrative but it can make you less effective. It was a really difficult thing for me. It was part of the shaping of my own artistic persona – figuring out who I am in Canada – how I present myself as a Black man from Africa while still having an impact on how people perceive Africa.”

To negotiate, with a certain amount of grace and artistic integrity, between the roles of cultural producer versus cultural ambassador is the existential knot that newcomers have to unravel. You must keep your wits about you as your senses acutely feel the current city that surrounds you, breathing it in even if the air becomes acrid with xenophobia. If you are mindful you can apply an artist’s alchemy to the experience – producing something beautiful and solid from the confusion. With his music, Samito does just that.

During a vacation back home, Samito worked with three women from the Northern region of Mozambique whose articulate sound – Tufo, a traditional dance and music style thought to be of Arab origin – shifted aspects of his music. “It took two or three years to reflect on what I wanted.” The soundtrack of the multicultural Cape Town that he experienced while living there in his twenties is also crafted into his music. He was influenced by Shangaan electro beats. This style of music originated in the townships of South Africa and was produced by the mixing of traditional Shangaan music from Limpopo with 21st Century digital technology. The mixture, as it seems to happen with everything technology touches, stimulated the speed. Traditional Shangaan music was part of Samito’s auditory memories of childhood. The music was imported into the city of Maputo by Mozambican miners who would go to South Africa for employment. In the diversity of the city of Montréal, Samito heard new sounds that were added to his repertoire. The result is what he shares with us now, in his latest single Tiku La Hina.

Samito bestows upon his adopted city his own brand of Afro aesthetics – guiding principles that recognize the continent of Africa and the African Diaspora’s influence on the culture of cities, both historically and in the contemporary context. Samito’s cultural production is his contribution to the urban. This contribution, in it’s own way, will go on to change the rhythm of the city – not just in Montréal, but in all the cities Samito has called home in the past and the ones he will arrive at in the future.

Samito will play this coming Thursday, February 25 at the National Arts Centre on the 4th Stage, part of Black History Month.

Tickets can be purchased here & Trinity Life Rush Student Tickets here.

FOLLOW SAMITO:

twitter @Samitotv

Instagram @Samitotv

Facebook

Google+

www.samito.tv

ONTARIO SCENE: Opening today at the National Art Centre Ottawa

600 Artists. 90 Events. 12 Days. 

Oh my! Where does one start?! First let me say this. There is nothing boring about Ottawa. So let’s just put that “it’s the city that rolls up the sidewalks at night” myth to rest. Just when I think I might get a breather from events the Writers Festival ends by seguing this city into another festival celebrating the arts – The National Arts Centre’s Ontario Scene. “Imagine 600 Ontario artists, from all disciplines, performing in the national spotlight on the stages of Ottawa/Gatineau: that’s Ontario Scene.”

The biggest limiting factor to Ontario Scene is that my body only allows for me to be in one place at one time. I may have to settle for 300 Artists, 30-ish events and maybe 1 less day.

I have already clocked two events with back to back nights at Carleton University Art Gallery for the Opening and Artist Walk Thru of the current exhibit “Human Nature.” This show “presents fourteen contemporary Ontario artists whose works look at the state of the natural world and our impact on it.”

Images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Graffiti Boxman Project. Photo Flips BSC.
 Kwende Kefentse.Credit James Park Photography.

Gathering in Ottawa this week are many Mixed Bag Mag Toronto faves! Kaha:wi Dance Theatre led a large crowd through a Powwow Boot Camp at the NAC yesterday proving you can #IndigenizeYourExercise. Gadfly and Mustafa the Poet will be part of Hip Hop Playground this coming Saturday a MANIFESTO initiative that will be transplanted here for #OntarioScene and hosted by Ottawa based Kwende Kefentse (Memetic). Juno Nominee Jaffa Road will play with the always raucous and rowdy Lemon Bucket Orkestra tomorrow evening at St. Albans Church – an event sure to be a crowd pleaser!
Jaffa Road. Photo Steve Carty.
Neema Bickersteth in Century Song. John Lauener Photography.

A new project I am very excited to see is Century Song on tonight and tomorrow at The Gladstone.

Century Song is a live performance hybrid showcasing the extraordinary Canadian soprano NEEMA BICKERSTETH. A radical revisioning of the recital form from one of Canada’s most exciting theatre companies, it is part classical song, part dance, part projection, and entirely theatrical.” Find out more…

Digging Roots. Raven Kanatakta and Shoshona Kish. Photo Ratul Debnath.

DECLARATION is a great Ontario Scene initiative that will be running from April 29 to May 3.

“DECLARATION is a celebration of Indigenous peoples’ right to engage in the creation and evolution of arts and culture, as asserted in Article 11 of the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Created by Toronto-based ARTICLE 11, DECLARATION is an immersive, live, sound and image installation and performance-creation lab. It offers the rare opportunity to witness established Indigenous artists mid-process as they take risks and explore new approaches and collaborations in a responsive, interdisciplinary environment.”

The artists involved:

Read more about the full DECLARATION programming here.
Jesse Wente.
Santee Smith. Image by Red Works. 

John Morris, NAC Executive Chef

Also, on the menu, literally, is food – the best of what Ontario has to offer in the culinary arts.
On Monday night:
le café presents a WINEMAKER’S DINNER that showcases and complements the delightful wines of Pelee Island, Canada’s oldest and most southerly wine region. For this special occasion, National Arts Centre Executive Chef JOHN MORRIS will prepare a sumptuous five-course menu with all-Ontario ingredients, and every course will be paired with the finest varietals that Pelee Island has to offer. Winemaster MARTIN JANZ, of Pelee Island Winery, will be in attendance.”
On Tuesday night:
“Experience the innovative and mouth-watering creations of more than a dozen top chefs from across the province as they vie for the $10,000 top prize in the ONTARIO CULINARY CHALLENGE. Each chef will prepare uniquely Ontario small plates, using a selection of 100% local and regional meats, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables. With the support of Wine Country Ontario, chefs will be partnered with Ontario wineries to produce the perfect food-wine pairings, which attendees can sample throughout the night. Rub elbows with chefs, sommeliers, and media, sample some of the province’s finest wines, and cast your vote to award the first-place prize for the very best of the best in Ontario’s culinary arts.”
Alright, time for a 2nd shot of espresso and I will be ready to go.
Full Ontario Scene Schedule here.
Follow along on twitter @Ontario_Scene & #OntarioScene.

 

 

 

 

INTERSECTING THE CITY: Urban Fabric at the Textile Museum Toronto shows how the natural and constructed co-exist


Queen. Image provided by Scott Norsworthy.

“Urban fabric as a metaphor for the city” ~ Deborah Wang

“The artists in Urban Fabric: Portraits of a City engage with the interwoven hard and soft dimensions of the city from multiple perspectives; their photographs, paintings, sculpture, film, and pattern-making create a portrait of a city, often taking Toronto as their subject.”

This year’s Toronto Design Offsite included an interesting partnership between TO DO and the Textile Museum. Urban Fabric: Portraits of a City, curated by TO DO’s Creative Director Deborah Wang (pictured right) traversed the intersections of what comprises a city – “the built environment, webs of individuals, and the social, technological, and economic processes that produce a particular urban framework” as well as the insertions / assertions of nature.

The exhibit featured stunning photography by Scott Norsworthy that included the West End of Toronto. Hard isolating walls of bricks, unbroken expanses of asphalt and a multiplicity of electrical wires were softened by gentle light blanketing the concrete jungle with air and sky. Sheila Ayearst‘s series of Concrete paintings also contained a softness despite their subject matter. The canvasses, in varying shades of gray, had titles like Beaconsfield Concrete, again recalling the West End and its rapid development.

“Holes in the urban fabric, these sites speak to the city as an evolving network of development, appropriation, redevelopment, undoing, and neglect.” ~ Scott Norsworthy

(top to bottom) Dundas, Dupont, and Dupont. Images provided by Scott Norsworthy.

“Visitors in search of escape instead encounter.” Jessica Craig

Jessica Craig’s large projection of a location along the Don Valley revealed the lushness of a green Toronto that doesn’t just exist as an unattainable Shangri-La in our imagination.


Don Valley #212 (2012). Image provided by Jessica Craig. 

“Long protected from intervention by floodwaters and topography, the ravine defies construction and therefore profit: it is a fracture in an otherwise unified urban fabric.”

Jessica’s photographic work considers the concept of “terrain vague” and in her essay Landscape off the path she writes:

“Terrain vague is Ignasi de Solà-Morales’ term for abandoned spaces within a city that exist outside the common social realm and are often perceived as empty.”

These transitional spaces, because of the ambiguous mystery they offer city dwellers, hold latent potentiality as places of enchantment and restoration. “The value of the still unaffected land – and the relief it offers to a highly developed city – is difficult to quantify” but there is a sense that spaces, such as these, are seen as necessary in order to restore some sort of balance to the rigid confines of the constructed city.

(top to bottom) Don Valley #212, Don Valley #132, Don Valley #240 (2012). Images provided by Jessica Craig.  

“Roots are the first kind of textile.” ~ Scott Euson

For artist Scott Eunson plant roots are like fibers as they shoot up and spread out and the city is like fabric in that it is made up of many single “elements [fibers] that cooperate with the whole” as it rises up and moves out across the landscape like a rhizome. He spoke on how we often talk about the city as though it is a textile “neighbourhoods are knit together” or “densely woven.” He took wire and wood along with roots and bent metal, all found on walks through the city, to loop and twist a typography into place.

His piece Material Map – Toronto represents the complexity of urban spaces and their intertwining of newly digitized and still naturalized realities. The city is where we are often forced to locate our busy lives but not without letting go of our desire to feel our natural-ness now and again. As skyscrapers rise we haven’t completely forgotten the call of the waves. The shoreline always beckons us to return to some ancient cellular memory. Below the foundation of the city lies what was once the Glacial Lake Iroquois, what’s left now named Lake Ontario which means “Lake of Shining Waters” in the Wyandot language.

I like that this piece presented without judgement. In the assemblage there is no warning about the eradication of nature due to the city, the metal wires are able to co-exist with the natural. Despite the entanglement there is a type of order and an absence of hierarchy. The wood and wire take turns coming up between the foreground from the background, at times each receding, other times bending or breaking out of the grid.

The shape of the work represents Toronto as it is contained by the borders of the Humber River on the West and the Don River on the East. A few wires and twigs grow out past the North, West and East boundaries but at the shoreline of the Lake all halts, deferring to the great body of water that lies to the city’s south.

For me this piece is hopeful suggesting that there can be a resolution between the requirements of a city with all of its systems and our urban yearning for woods and water, that the existence of one doesn’t mean the end of the other.

Perhaps we can wrap ourselves around the notion that balance is not beyond our imagination and our quest to discover where it lies in the urban space is the taut thread that snaps everything in place.

Urban Fabric closed on January 25, 2015. Read more about the show on the Textile Museum’s website.

Images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag unless otherwise noted.

 

ONE DAY GET AWAY FROM THE GTA: Edward Burtynsky @ The McMichael & Land|Slide @ The Museum of Markham

A mirror set in grass that reflects the country like scene around it and has the words WONDER.
Land|Slide Possible Futures exhibit at the Museum of Markham. Work by IAIN BAXTER&.

Tomorrow’s forecast in Toronto? Perfect Weather with possibility of plenty of art!

Lots of trees with clearing where there is a sculpture, a path and a group of children walking byMIXED BAG MAG recommends heading North of the city this weekend for 2 important shows that speak to our expanding urban centres / suburbs and promote dialogue around how to be more intentional around our future growth.

Due to popular demand Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky’s The Landscape that We Change is held over until Thanksgiving Monday at The McMichael in picturesque Kleinburg, Ontario.

“Burtynsky does not seek to position his images into the realm of political polemic. The artist has stated that they “are what they are.” His photographs engage the observer through what the artist refers to as a “duality” in the viewing process. In Burtynsky’s aesthetic interpretation, his images render the subject most often in rich colour, detail, and textural qualities. Simultaneously, the observer is made aware of the devastation and altered state of nature that is portrayed. The tension generated by mediating the dual nature of the individual’s response to the image is intended to provoke a thoughtful dialogue about the environment and societal attitudes.” Read more…

For more information on planning your visit to The McMichael click here.

Stone carving on large boulder with wood cabin and trees in the background
The grounds at The McMichael Museum in Kleinburg, Ontario.
Image of mirror in grass with words REFLECT on it and barn and trees in the background
IAIN BAXTER&’s “Markhamaze” at the Land|Slide Possible Futures exhibit.

Over in Markham is the much talked about Land|Slide Possible Futures exhibit that includes a large group of national and international artists covering the 25 acre grounds of the Markham Museum. Taking art of out the gallery space and plunking it into the perfect autumn setting of changing leaves, grass and blue skies was a pretty brilliant idea! Tomorrow will be my 4th visit. Green space + public art = My Idea of a Day Well Spent!

“Land|Slide Possible Futures is a groundbreaking large-scale public art exhibition which responds to a world in transition where the past, present and future collide. The landscape of Markham will be transformed by the work of over 30 national and international artists to explore themes of multiculturalism, sustainability, and community.” Read more…

 

FYI – FREE SHUTTLE SERVICE on Saturday from MOCCA & CSI Bathurst. Below info from Land|Slide’s Facebook page.

The Performance Bus ( Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) – Varley Art Gallery – Markham Museum):

MOCCA to Varley Art Gallery: 2PM
Varley Art Gallery to Markham Museum: 5PM

Regular Bus:
MOCCA to Markham Museum: 4PM, 6:30PM & 8:30PM
Markham Museum return to MOCCA: 7:30PM & 10PM

And NEWLY ADDED: An Urban Planning bus coming up from the Centre for Social Innovation at Bathurst and Bloor (720 Bathurst St) at 1PM.

This will take you up just in time for a talk by urban planners/artists Department of Unusual Certainties at 2:30PM, and a planning tour led by Land|Slide planning experts Lisa Hosale, Sara Udow and Katherine Perrott.



All above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Art work from top to bottom:
Inside the wigwam of Julie Nagam’s “singing our bones home” install
Close up at video for Camille Turner’s AfroFuturist performance “Time Warp”
Architect Frank Haverman’s install “Untitled” (I call it “Brilliant”)
IAIN BAXTER&’s “Markhamaze” at the Land|Slide Possible Futures exhibit.

Don’t miss these two really important exhibits!

Follow The McMichael on Facebook & twitter @LandSlide2013
Follow Land|Slide Possible Futures on Facebook & twitter @mcacgallery

MEANWHILE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD: Design in Dubai

Flag with advertising for Design Days Dubai in front of the skyscraper The Burj Khalifa
Image from Design Days Dubai
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Design Days Dubai and the emergence of a design community in the UAE.

Shows like IDS (Interior Design Show) here in Toronto have helped demystify design for a general audience. For the price of an entry ticket you can see fresh work by new independent Canadian designers in Studio North and Prototype or take advantage of international guests speaking on design and architecture. Along with Toronto Design Offsite, Design Week’s independent festival that runs concurrently, it’s a great way to get the creative juices flowing. But if you ever happen to be in Dubai in March there is a new show that is growing a community around design in the Emirates. (More MIXED BAG MAG posts on design in Toronto with TODO Festival & Highlights of Design Week 2013)

The first fair in the Middle East that focuses on furniture design and design objects Design Days Dubai aims “to strengthen greater appreciation and understanding for design as a form of applied arts.”

What I love is that the aesthetic collected is BOLD! The work you see at Design Days Dubai shows no fear when it comes to exploring form and materials. But somehow it still manages to be accessible maybe because it is so over-the-top fantastical that it is the recognizable stuff of our dreams – playful, imaginative, and in many cases, like nothing we have ever seen before in the flesh within our reach.

Colourful chair in a baroque style with Mondrian style painting in back and woman sitting beside in high heels The Proust Geometrica Chair on display the PF Emirates Interiors. Image from Design Days Dubai.

People walking through indoor exhibitions, painting with spattered painted on white canvas on left side. Visitors at Design Days Dubai. Photo by Siddharth Siva. Image from Design Days Dubai.

Sculpture of white face suspended ceiling and arms coming out from wall holding utensils, smiling ready to eat. Woman in background signing a book. Image from Design Days Dubai.


Image from Design Days Dubai.

A million times (Time Dubai) by Humans since 1982 from Humans since 1982 on Vimeo.

Man in traditional arabic style dress looking at large black and white abstract painting
Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan tours a special preview day at the Inaugural Design Days Dubai at Franziska Kessler
. Image from Design Days Dubai.

Exhibit space with assorted tables, chairs and contemporary design objects Southern Guild Gallery, South Africa. Image from Design Days Dubai.

Gradient Mashrabiya by mischer’traxler for Carwan Gallery, Beirut. Image from Design Days Dubai.

Man hanging a basket like structure woven from camel leather on wood frame. People looking on. Kwangho Lee at his workshop, Camel Leather Weaving at Design Days Dubai. Image from Design Days Dubai.

Chairs shaped liked bean bag chairs makde from coiled rope.Meltdown Chairs by Tom Price, UK. Photo by Klara Urbanova. Image from Design Days Dubai.

The Sharjah Art Foundation. Image from Universes in Universe.

The Sharjah Biennial – art work that pushes the envelope with some serious play and dark humour.

And in another desert location down the road, the Sharjah Biennial gathers together  incredible established and emerging artists who produce projects that skip over, around and through the artistic expressions of new media, street art and installation like kids at a game of hopscotch. Case in point – this stunning-crazy-brilliant piece by French-Tunisian “calligraffiti” artist El Seed.

Art work with collage of Arabic script and human figures with saying Please be Aware this Image Contains NudityBeware of this Artist by Ramin Haerizadeh. Image from www.sharjahfoundation.org.

For obvious reasons, the work that pools around this intimate Biennial is often about analysis of the politics of body, space, and nation but because the execution is so beautifully rendered the intense work powerfully draws you in through your eyes to open your heart and mind to important issues.

The Sharjah Art Foundation. Work by Imran Qureshi. Image from Universes in Universe.

The Sharjah Art Foundation. Work by Mustapha Benfodil. Image from Universes in Universe.

Like Toronto, Dubai is rapidly expanding while exploring what this means for this city that has become an international destination and like Toronto it will be exciting to watch how Dubai grows as a destination for design.

Toronto's CN Tower rising between condo highrises with early evening clouds forming in the sky Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

IDS TRADE TALKS: FYI on Tomorrow’s Speakers

Headshots of Jerszy Seymour and Jurgen Mayer H.
Designer Jerszy Seymour and architect Jurgen Mayer H. Images courtesy IDS.

IDS is celebrating the 14th Anniversary of the Azure Trade Talks!

These industry talks gather together designers, architects, decorators and urban planners. Always informative, treat yourself to a day of expanding your knowledge while surrounded by the best in Canadian design.

JERSZY SEYMOUR

“A designer’s designer, Jerszy Seymour has created an eccentric and edgy body of work. Uninterested in definitions, he crosses boundaries, producing interiors, architecture, fashion, and products with ease and abandon. Read more…

JURGEN MAYER H.

 “[Jurgen] focuses on the intersections of architecture: the grey zones where architecture blurs into art, embraces technology and new materials, and excites visitors to be inspired by the built environment around them.” Read more….

Also, on the schedule, Canadian born UK based Philippe Malouin & Canadian born Tokyo based Oki Sato  IDS’s International Guest of Honour for this year’s show.

MIXED BAG MAG is looking forward to an informative day of cross-cultural exchanges regarding contemporary architecture and design.

For more information on IDS visit www.interiordesignshow.com or follow on Facebook & twitter @IDSToronto & #IDS13.

Headshots of Oki Sato and Philippe MalouinDesigner & architect Oki Sato and designer Philippe Malouin. Images courtesy IDS.

Postmodern structure by Jurgen Mayer H. and table made of cement and metal by Philippe MalouinArchitecture by Jurgen Mayer H (top) & table by Philippe Malouin (bottom). Images courtesy IDS.