Hello BIBA readers! Our 9th season has already begun, and we are excited to share this season containing a mixture of both live and digital content. Last year forced the world to put on a giant creativity thinking-cap, and ... while some things worked and some things didn't ... we here at COOS cherished the journey of re-tailoring our season for you.
One big success during last year's adjustments was the power of the miniature. Castle of our Skins kicked off its first Black Composer Miniature Challenge (#BCMC), bringing 18 world premieres to international audiences! We followed up on this wonderful content by publishing an anthology for those interested in performing this miniatures either for fun, for community music programs, for intimate concerts, or even for giant stages! So how did COOS decide to continue this wonderful project? Well ... we invited students to send in their video performances of pieces from #BCMC 1.0, we created #BCMC 2.0 with works for flute and harp, AND our new Shirley Graham Du Bois Creative in Residence Marlanda Dekine helped design a #BPMC - a Black Poet Miniature Challenge!
What does that mean? From September to December, Castle of our Skins will be bringing you miniature content in the form of music performances from students, poetry readings, and world premieres for flute and harp! ALL FALL, 71 videos!!! LOTS OF CONTENT OF EXCELLENCE!!!
Tomorrow kicks off the first week of our miniature festival, and we'll be sharing student performances of some of the pieces featured in #BCMC 1.0, namely works by Che Buford, Mokale Koapeng, Juwon Ogungbe, and Shannon Sea! The students that will be featured come from three of Boston's most thriving organizations that help young students learn how to perform on an instrument and study music. These are Project STEP, Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (BYSO), and the Boston City-wide String Orchestra. Stay tuned for videos from the following students:
Alba Gilabert- Reid from Project STEP
Nora Edouarzin from BYSO
Abby Cambronero from BYSO
Angelina St. Louis from BYSO
Lauren Brown from Boston City-wide String Orchestra
Karla Davis from BYSO
Syndey Carroll from BYSO
Krystal Chen from BYSO
Reagan Jackson from BYSO
We hope you enjoy the performances, and if you would like to purchase the sheet music, be sure to use the discount code in the picture above for the month of September to get 50% off your digital download!! Next week's post will be about our first #BPMC, and we'll share some fantastic information on Haikus and Tankas, and some historical tidbits related to Black poets using short forms! Have an excellent week!
by Anthony R. Green
It has been about a month since I left Ghana, and I still cannot stop thinking about the fantastic experience. After I gave the presentation (mentioned in the last BIBA blog), my time at the pIAR Residency kicked off in full gear. Here, I was joined by 3 other incredible artists: Wanda Gala (dance and more), Lena Czerniawska (drawing and writing), and Lena's husband Emilio Gordoa (sound art, percussion, improvisation). Other artists that were there (living and/or visiting often) are Martin Toloku (incredible performance artist), Original Bigwig (cartoonist, political satirist), Eric Acquah (hyper-realist pencil artist and fashion designer), Julius Quansah (dance and choreography), and others. From the open house and final exhibit, I also became acquainted with Lisa Soto and others who were studying at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). Lastly, the host is the incredible performance artist Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi or crazinisT artisT. Throughout the residency, I became much more familiar with her practice, and her former focus as a painter (with incredibly powerful, inventive canvases). Just the interaction with all of these artists made me grow in my practice and my awareness of other practices. I am eternally grateful, and look forward to future interactions with everyone I've met!
View to the entrance of the pIAR Residency, Kumasi
Throughout my time at the residency, I stumbled upon focusing on three paths of inquiry: questioning the similarities and differences between US American and African Blackness, investigating the role of Christianity in my life and in Ghana, and exploring the agency of oppressed peoples. I brought one of my toy pianos with me to Ghana, and made some recordings and gave some performances. Within how Christianity is practiced (or performed, as some would articulate), I've always felt a focus on perfection - one must attend church in one's best clothing (Sunday best) and present oneself with the utmost "perfection". At the same time, the Christian God is omnipresent and omniscient, and thus is intimately familiar with how everyone presents themselves at any given time in their life. Consequently, I used my toy piano (perhaps a "less perfect" little sibling of the piano) to perform songs from church in my less-than-perfect clothing, singing them with my less-than-perfect voice, but deeply intrigued by the responses, the interactions, and the connections that I could make with the Ghanaian audiences. In this vain, could my imperfection be sublimated by my honesty, earnestness, and sincere efforts?
An impromptu performance at a local market kiosk, Kumasi
For my final piece, I performed a performance art work which involved me wrapping myself in yarn. This simple act was a plea to have audiences question what the Bible says about poor, naked, sick, and hungry people helping themselves versus the focus on demanding others to help them. And when marginalized, oppressed peoples help themselves, what would that look like? Would it be enough? The 50-minute performance was well-received, and has urged me to explore the nature of this gesture in grander variations for the future. I definitely could not have created this work without being at this residency.
After leaving Kumasi, I returned to Accra for a day with so much more confidence and trust in myself as well as others. With this new-found attitude, I interacted with people more, I walked around Accra with more of a sense of purpose, and the flow of the city really came together. When I left Ghana, I left changed. I left feeling much more whole than when I entered. Lastly, I left knowing that I would return, and booked a return flight the week after I came home!!! So, BIBA readers, stay tuned for another BIBA series from Ghana AND from Kenya in January 2022!!!
by Anthony R. Green
The main purpose of my trip is to attend the perfocraze International Artist Residency (pIAR), directed by the incredible performance artist Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi, better known as crazinisT artisT. Based in Kumasi, this residency launched in 2018, but had its official opening in January 2019. Since, it has hosted a myriad of artists of various different practices, including local artists, African artists, and artists outside of Africa. The projects that have been launched here have a wide range, from abstract, experimental art to radical, political art. crazinsT artisT herself has a strong, respected history of controversial art that has changed the fabric of contemporary art in Ghana and abroad. She runs this residency bringing knowledge from her numerous international experiences in Brazil, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, the United States, and more. Even though my stay at pIAR has been quite short, the amount of education and growth I have received from crazinisT artisT, the other residents and staff, and being here in Kumasi has been immense.
Photo: En route to Kumasi on the V.I.P. Bus
I opted for a 5-hour bus ride to Kumasi instead of a short flight, not only because I did not want to deal with the airport coronavirus circus, but I also wanted to see a bit of the landscape. During this trip, my eyes were constantly attached to the window, looking out towards the changing towns, changing environment, changing people, and more. In high-traffic areas when the bus was at a standstill, women selling snacks and refreshing drinks (that they carry on their head) would walk in between cars to sell to the drivers and passengers. At a rest stop, some incredible music was streamed from a loud system, welcoming anyone who needed a stretch and a bit of fresh air. I marveled at the depth of redness of the earth here in Ghana, and couldn’t help but think that the red-yellow-green color system of the Ghanaian flag represented earth-sun-grass. (This is actually not true; the red symbolizes the blood of those who died for Ghanaian independence, the yellow is actually GOLD and it represents the natural mineral wealth of Ghana, and the green represents the rich forests in the country. The black star in the middle represents African freedom in general.)
Video: At pIAR in Kumasi
When I arrived at the Oduom stop, I was taken to the residency by Wadak Smash and Martin Toloku (who is also an incredible performance artist). The reception upon entering the gates was indescribable. It was subtle, but powerful – full of understanding and expectation, but also acknowledgement and affirmation of an energy that has existed far before we could fathom or witness. Martin and crazinisT artisT showed me around the facilities, introduced me to people, gave me some water, and then gave me time to settle. That night, as I remain ready to give presentations and offered to give one on my official arrival day, I talked about my music and artistic practice to the residents and staff in the courtyard, with a PowerPoint presentation that was projected upon a giant wall. The weather was perfect, the environment was open, the discussion became intense and necessary … and it’s all captured on Instagram (for those willing to see)! Follow @perfocraze_international for incredible content from this residency, and to watch my presentation specifically, scroll down to the video post from July 6th.
Our Call for Creative-in-Residence Marlanda Dekine, is curating a poetry challenge: the Black Poet Miniature Challenge (#BPMC)!
In this installation, poets who identify as Black and part of the African diaspora are challenged to compose haikus and tankas! All ages are encouraged to participate, and each poet will receive a $75 honorarium (via PayPal or check). Your poem can be submitted as written text, recorded voice, or a video recording of you reading the poem.
What is a Haiku?
may yo seasons be
long with endless green streets and
permanent summer legs. (Sonia Sanchez, Under A Soprano Sky 81)
What is a Tanka?
i kneel down like a
collector of jewels before
you. i am singing
one long necklace of love my
mouth a sapphire of grapes. (Sonia Sanchez, Tanka)
How to submit
Writings, musings, photos, links, and videos about Black Artistry of ALL varieties! Feel free to drop a comment or suggestions for posts!