Akin Adebowale and Ousman Sahko Sow are co-founders of the Black content creation agency Black Tag. Focusing on alternative Black artists and art, the Black tag brand, style, and approach are steps into the “future of Black content,” as Akin describes it. Black Tag is democratizing content in a way that empowers its viewers, with the help of partners like Issa Rae and Common. This film speaks to various generations disconnected from popular culture.
In their debut, Akin and Ousman have collaborated as business partners on “Black Art Is Black Money,” a film that describes the appropriations of the attributes and elements of Black culture, while suppressing the leaders and representatives of that culture.
In detail, and as fast as any TikTok sequence, “Black Art Is Black Money” highlights notable appropriations throughout time. The film opens up with a rant from Little Richard about stolen identity on stage at a televised award show. Instances of theft of Black culture, from food and fashion to art and science, and even dance and music, are the narrative of this story. Written by Akin and directed by Ousman, this film opens our eyes to what has been evident for too long.
Akin’s background extends into computer science and fine art in college and working with African fashion start-up Oxosi, in which he met Ousman at Google Creative Labs. Ousman, who has produced video content for brands like Adidas and Nike, was teaching content creation for Google at the time.
Akin and Ousman are both born in West Africa and their families have found their way to the United States. Ousman, from Sierra Leone, escaped the atrocities of the “blood diamonds” war, and Akin from Nigeria, noticed the global appropriation of Black culture as he started to absorb an American worldview. This film reflects the sentiment of what Ousman defines as an “academic understanding of what Black is. Not just from the standpoint of the U.S.A., but Africa and Europe. Introducing artifacts – introducing information – [and] getting folks to lean in and learn.”
Black Tag and “Black Art Is Black Money” are delivered from an “academic standpoint. Outside of creating content, it is also teaching us, and [we’re] learning through that process as well,” Ousman states. “Education is the key driver. This is our opinion and here is where we stand – to educate,” Akin affirms.
What Akin and Ousman have done is cataloged Black culture. The creators list the various instances of appropriations and the atrocities that have happened to Black artists, Black money, and the Black influence on pop-culture. “Black Art Is Black money” empowers young Black artists in hopes they “realize [their] power” and keep the issue from getting “[shoved] under the rug,” Akin notes.
An example of this on full display as the film opens with that award show where rock n’ roll star Little Richard is on stage standing beside a younger white man, with an arguably similar hairstyle to Little Richard wore during the 40s and 50s. Richard relentlessly berates the man in an unapologetic display of disdain. In dedication, Little Richard is an example of that appropriation and how it is hardly accredited where due, according to the two filmmakers.
That opening scene in “Black Art Is Black Money” sets the tone for a film that juxtaposes the origin of some of the most memorable pop-culture moments that have taken place in mainstream commercial markets with the original version or rendition. A group of friends narrate and catalog the instances of Black cultural appropriations that came without any reparations.
They cycle through the art and references that modern artists have used to create against the examples of Black art. Visual references of those Black art forms grace the screen periodically including works from artists like Picasso.
The film stars notable cultural icons Jalaiah Harmon, Sage Elsesser, Parker Kit Hill, Gabrielle Richardson, Eloisa Santos, and Miski, and exemplifies that “Black culture has been the catalyst for global trends,” says a press statement. Continuing, “However, the economic gains from these ideas, works, and trends were felt by already affluent, predominantly white men.”
Ousman says that this film is “letting it be known that we are the creators in this space.” Akin finds that brands have the most to do in finding a remedy to cultural appropriation. As part of the reconciliation, these brands are also held accountable for their diversity and representation. Inclusiveness within their work environment and at the decision-making level is a must with content producers.
Black Tag exists in creating content without conflict, and that understands the narrative of Black artists everywhere. The film launches on February 9, 2021. Watch the short film here.
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Visit the city's tiniest art gallery: Five things to do in Saskatoon this weekend – Saskatoon StarPhoenix
In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E.
Whether you’re interested in art, a virtual party, some outdoor activities or cleaning up around the house, there’s a little bit of something for everyone this weekend in Saskatoon.
1. Visit the Free Little Art Gallery
In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E. Designed in the style of community libraries and kitchen boxes, visitors to the gallery can take a piece of art, leave a piece of art, or do both. You can check out some of the artwork on Instagram @Freelittleartgalleryyxe.
2. Hit up The Bassment’s virtual party
Featuring the music and talents of eight Saskatoon bands, The Bassment presents InTune 2021 — a free online party playing from 2 to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The shows will be streamed live through the Bassment’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
3. Check out local performers
Watch as some of Saskatoon’s performing artists share their work in Episode 1 of Persephone Theatre’s Open Stage, which was published earlier this month. The episode is available to watch whenever you want at persephonetheatre.org and features Peace Akintade, Kathie Cram, Amanda Trapp, Sketchy Bandits, Carla Orosz and Ellen Froese.
4. Have some family fun
The Fuddruckers Family Fun Centre (2910 8th St. E) is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Sunday, weather permitting. Families can practice their skills on the 18-hole Putt N’ Bounce miniature golf course, reach new heights on The Rock climbing wall or take a swing at the Grand Slam batting cages. More information is available at fudds.ca or by calling 306-477-0808.
5. Drop off your hazardous waste
The City of Saskatoon is holding its first Hazardous Household Waste Drop Off of the year on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Civic Operations Centre (57 Valley Rd.). The drop off is open to Saskatoon residents from residential properties only. Products eligible for drop off include aerosols, automotive fluids, batteries, cleaners, light bulbs, yard chemicals and more. Learn more at saskatoon.ca/hazardouswaste.
The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.
YK ARCC celebrates 10 years by pushing for NWT art gallery – Cabin Radio
Its trailer doubles as one of the NWT’s only art galleries. Now, the Yellowknife Artist-Run Community Centre is turning 10 years old.
The group, YK ARCC for short, formed in 2011 in a downtown Yellowknife church scheduled for demolition. “There was always something going on,” recalled Métis artist Rosalind Mercredi, owner of the city’s Down to Earth Gallery, who was YK ARCC’s first president.
“I think it was so good to be able to have a space where people wanted to work on stuff and, if they had bigger projects they wanted to do, there was a space to do it. It was pretty vibrant times, I would say, for art.”
Though the organization stayed in the church for less than a year, it has brought art and shows to Yellowknife since. Temporary homes have included an apartment above a Vietnamese restaurant and empty spaces in the Centre Square Mall.
Casey Koyczan, a Tłı̨chǫ artist from Yellowknife pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Manitoba, held some of his first shows with YK ARCC’s help.
“It really helped to be able to show work within an environment that was conducive to more of a fine arts aesthetic as opposed to … a coffee shop, or a pub, or something like that,” said Koyczan, who was on YK ARCC’s board.
“YK ARCC felt like it was getting to more of a formal-exhibit kind of feel.”
‘We need a territorial gallery’
The group made headlines shortly after opening a mobile art gallery in a trailer. At the beginning of the pandemic, the team took art to residents by accepting reservations through Facebook then driving the gallery to make house calls in different neighbourhoods.
“Because it’s so small, we might be the only gallery in Canada that didn’t have to close,” said longtime board member Sarah Swan. “It has a limited capacity. We knew we could still operate it safely.”
Yet the trailer’s success simultaneously illuminated what YK ARCC’s members believe is a glaring deficiency in the NWT: the absence of a territorial gallery.
The cost of rent makes it difficult for the non-profit to hold on to one space for any length of time. Many of the spaces that are available in Yellowknife don’t work well for art shows.
“We need a territorial gallery,” former board member Dan Korver said.
That doesn’t mean a commercial gallery geared toward profit, he clarified. Instead, Korver wants a space where artists can show their work and engage with an audience “for art’s sake.”
The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is the only large-scale, non-commercial, gallery fitting that bill in the NWT. It hosts two fine art exhibits a year.
“It’s just simply not enough,” said Swan. “There are so many more artists and so much more work out there to show, so many more ideas.”
“We created the mobile gallery in the first place to feel that exhibition gap, but also, we created it to be a piece of agitation in itself. That’s why we called it the Art Gallery of the Northwest Territories.
“It’s really pathetic that our territorial gallery is a trailer. We all joke that if there ever is a real gallery of the Northwest Territories that’s not in a trailer, we’ll happily give the name back.”
Koyczan described obstacles in establishing his career that stemmed directly from the lack of a territorial art gallery.
“Back when I was showing at YK ARCC, it wasn’t recognized by the Canada Arts Council,” he said. “Therefore, when you go to apply for grants and funding … and you provide your CV saying that you showed work at YK ARCC, they check their records and say the show basically didn’t exist because they don’t recognize it as a legitimate gallery.
“I’ve had to work really hard on exporting myself and making artwork that is impactful so that, regardless of where I was located, it would be recognized by people in the south, or around North America, or internationally.
“The NWT needs a contemporary gallery. It’s just holding us back, not having that space.”
‘No GNWT mandate’ for a gallery
In a written statement to Cabin Radio, the territorial Department of Education, Culture, and Employment said it has no plan to create a territorial gallery.
The department said it “does not have a mandate to create physical infrastructure for the arts.”
“However,” the response continued, “the GNWT would be happy to work with regional organizations to see how the GNWT can support their plans.”
Korver believes government involvement in creating an artist-run centre or non-commercial gallery should be limited to provision of funding, so any gallery can remain community-driven and independent.
“We need that physical space, but how do you run it?” he wondered. “Is it better to just provide a grassroots organization – or organizations, maybe there shouldn’t just be one – with stable funding so they can provide those spaces and run those spaces?”
More spaces that can host art are on the way.
Makerspace YK moved into the old After 8 pub this January and is planning workshops and exhibits. The City of Yellowknife expects to open a visitor centre in the Centre Square Mall that would include art displays.
Meanwhile, the territorial government is set to release its updated NWT Arts Strategy this June. The previous territorial arts strategy, released in 2004, had identified a need for more arts spaces.
As a gallery owner, Mercredi said she is curious to see how the strategy is implemented.
“You can make a strategy but if the plan doesn’t have an implementation idea behind it, then really just sits,” she said. “How do you implement it when most of the arts organizations don’t have enough infrastructure or people to put those things together?”
Swan said YK ARCC will continue to run its mobile gallery while celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Members have applied for funding to run a series of “emerging curator workshops.”
“Art is our passion,” Swan said. “I think there’s just this drive to share.
“Because we know how good art can be, or how amazing and fully developed it can be, we want to fight for that. We want to try to grow the art community in Yellowknife.”
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