Catch a sneak peek of Stella Mwangi's New Single "Bad As I wanna Be" set to drop on June 29, 2012 below. Stella goes hard on this one, I cant wait to hear the whole track!
Saturday, 23 June 2012
Check out "A dollar a day" the latest production from Kenya's Akili Blaq. It features artists like Muki Garang (Kenya) and Omadada (Nigeria) among a host of other talented artists from all over Africa.
When Africans work together...the only direction is up! Keep Moving!
Saturday, 16 June 2012
According to the Hollywood Reporter "12 Years A Slave" is based on an autobiography written in 1853 by Solomon Northup, a free black man who became enslaved. Northup was kidnapped and put in a slave pen and led a grueling life at the hands of his various owners. Lupita will play a slave Patsey who is the object of both the affections and cruelty of the Slave Master Epps.
In 2006 Lupita directed the acclaimed documentary about Albinism In My Genes which tells the story of Kenyan albinos and their community's negative and positive reactions to their skin condition, touching upon issues of race and identity.
Lupita starred in the MTV series Shuga shot in Kenya and then moved on to co-direct the follow-up, Shuga: Love Sex, Money.
Check out Shuga Series 1 below:
Keep Moving Lupita. The only direction for you is up!
|Stella with one of her bark cloth pieces|
Stella Atal is a Ugandan artist specializing in artwork inspired by both ancient and contemporary African designs. Her work depicts the typical lifestyle of people living on the shore of lake Victoria, East Africa: the daily activities of those people from sunrise to sunset and also their social, economic, and political life. About 5 years ago Stella started her own fashion label Atal Stella and has participated in a number of shows including Africa Fashion Week (NY), Ethco Fashion Week (London), AfriCollection (Cameroon) among others, and styled the Miss Africa USA pageant in 2010. I sat down with the talented Stella at the Great African Art Studio in Kampala to find out more about her experience with the African Fashion Industry and her art.
SM: What does fashion mean to you?
SA: Fashion is passion to me. I have always had a passion for fashion, and because I am an artist, I strive to create wearable art. I am inspired by every day life, and color inspires me.
SM: In the past, African parents have not been very supportive of their children pursuing careers in the arts, what was it like for you as a child? What is the level of your professional training?
SA: I come from an artistic family, and my mother being an artist herself did not have a problem with us being who we were as long as we were not getting into any type of trouble. There are musicians, teachers and many other creatives in my family. I studied fashion and art in various institutions locally and also abroad. My daughter (7) wants to be a designer and I will encourage her to pursue that, she already knows how to sew and she does a lot of sketches.
SM: What is the inspiration for your designs?
SA: I try to focus more on afrocentric styles, delivering both ready to wear and hot couture. I try to keep it simple and not too trendy and I like to use local and often even recycled materials. Patterns in fabric also inspire me, I may look at a fabric for two weeks, trying to come up with how best to bring out what I see in it. I also travel a lot and try to look for unique fabric.
SM: Who are some of your favorite designers?
SA: Alexander McQueen. I also like Burberry because they create a lot of simple styles and some of the fabrics they use look inspired by African Print.
SM: Do you find that they give credit for being inspired by African fabrics?
SA: I'm actually flattered by it. As African designers we have to learn how to compete with international fashion designers. We have to find out what they are doing that they can use African print and still appeal to international market. They do have the advantage however of having access to the international market. Of course having said this we also have to penetrate the market by participating in shows to get noticed. I was recently featured in Vogue Italia so we are making some headway, but it just takes persistence.
SM: What are you doing to establish your brand internationally? Are you on Social Media?
SA: I am on facebook but I am not on twitter. I will get on there eventually.
SM: I heard you have dressed some high profile celebrities? How does this happen?
SA: Yes I have dressed Bono, Kelly Washington, Hugh Masekela, Aisha Sese Seko to mention a few. When these celebrities come into the country to perform or otherwise, they often want a local designer to provide them with a unique local piece to wear at the shows. My style appeals to people and sets me apart from the other Ugandan designers, and they will often look for me.
SM: Who are your major clients?
SA: Ugandans in the Diaspora. When I have shows abroad many will attend and then ask me about pieces they are interested in after the show. I also get a lot of orders through facebook, people send me their measurements and I customize pieces for them. I end up either mailing them the complete pieces or sending them with people travelling to those destinations.
SM: What about your local clients?
SA: I find that the local Ugandans often do not want to spend for the more pricier pieces. So I just use a variety of materials and try to price match with local retailers. I find that locals want lighter materials because of the warm weather so I use a lot of linen and woodin. There is also a growing interest in African inspired office wear so I design that as well.
SM: What would you say are some of the challenges you have faced as a designer in Africa?
SA: Access to quality material has to be the biggest one. When you try to import good quality materials, you get taxed very heavily which means by the time you have a finished product the profit margin is very low. There are nice fabrics in West Africa and Turkey for example but buy the time you have paid the taxes you have paid almost 3 times the price you bought the fabric. I would say that the government needs to step in and consider tax cuts on fabrics for designers to promote local fashion industry. Kenya which is closer to home has pretty good fabrics, and we thought we would gain from the open market that the East African Community provides for, but we are yet to see the benefits. Also nowadays there are so many wives of expats who are trying to penetrate the local fashion scene, and they get privileges that are not available to us because of their expat status
SM: What are your thoughts on the current African Fashion Industry? What would you like to see happen?
SA: I think we have come a long way, our fashions are being appreciated on international runways. African designers just need to be more aggressive to get the publicity and exposure we need so that we can share the same success as international designers. If you look at Europe right now, the materials they are using for their summer collections, are more African fabrics, pretty soon we will not be able to afford out own materials as international demand rises.
SM: What are your thoughts on the current influx of second hand clothes?
SA: Well at first it was a problem, but we have had to accept that they are not going anywhere. Instead of looking at it as a problem, I have decided to find an innovative way to use them. I am working on a collection that will use second hand clothes and recycle the material. You will find that the quality of these clothes is pretty good so why not put it to use. I would make this collection very affordable and focus on fighting the influx of the cheap Chinese imports instead.
SM: What is your relationship like with local designers ?
SA: Many local designers do not collaborate or support each other very often which I think stifles our progress as designers. Some designers think if they invite you to their shows you might steal their clients. In fact there was a Uganda Fashion week in 2008, but myself and other local designers were not invited to participate, its bizarre really.
SM: If you could dress or style anyone who would it be?
SA: I would like to dress people who appreciate my work. I would prefer to style the person who saves money in order to buy one of my pieces than the person who buys 6/7 pieces at a time but who does it only to please me.
SM: Apart from the fashion design, you paint as well as do a little interior design. Which do you enjoy the most?
SA: I love them all. I enjoy fashion a lot but I make more money in my art. Interior design is a little frustrating because I don’t have access to the materials I would like to use. I end up having to do a lot of running around which takes a lot of time, so I don’t do it as often.
SM: You have been painting since you were a little girl, what are some of your influences?
SA: I learned how to paint from my brothers who would have workshops at home. As a child, I would do illustrations and all my teachers recognized my talent and would always encourage me to keep going. I am mostly influenced by social, political and economic situations. In my paintings, I try to tackle issues in a positive way. I have done some pieces on Dakar, and Savimbi for example but I try to bring light to issues in a positive way. In my travels I also visit museums and look at different artistic styles to understand what different people appreciate.
SM: What materials do you use?
SA: I like to use barkcloth, but it is often difficult to work with, I therefore use Canvas and Acrylics.
SM: Who are some of your favorite artists?
SA: I would say Picasso, but I also like many local artists like Taga who paints a lot of wildlife, and Maria Naita who is a sculptor just to name a few.
SM: Who typically buys your pieces?
SA: Expats, word of mouth, but I also supply Banana Boat. I do some custom pieces upon request, but I hate it because it takes a lot of time.
SM: What is your painting environment usually like?
SA: I like to work in an open place, sometimes I have music playing and sometimes I like to work in silence.
SM: What advice would you give to emerging Designers/Artists?
SA: They always think we make a lot of money. It has taken many years to make it. People should not come into the business, thinking that the money is quick or that fame is immediate. They have to be polite patient as it is not always easy to deal with clients.
SM: I read that you are passionate about giving back to society. Can you elaborate?
SA: I do a lot of shows for charity, and have raised funds for polio eradication, and also for the first open heart surgery in Uganda. I am also an activist for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and I am looking at starting an NGO to fight against it.
SM: What would you like your legacy to be?
SA: I want to be remembered as someone who was innovative and creative.
|At the Great African Art Studio|
|Dress made from Bark Cloth (Stella Atal)|
|Ankara Short Suit (Stella Atal)|
To find out more about Stella Atal check out:
Great African Art Studios
SArt & Fashion Studio
P.O. Box 12259 Kampala (Uganda)
Plot 474 Old Kiira Rd Kamwokya
Monday, 11 June 2012
The film "Soul Boy" which was shot in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, is about a teenager Abila who goes on a quest to save his father's soul, after he gambles it away to a witch. When Abila finds the witch, she gives him a challenge to complete seven tasks in order to save his father's soul.
The film was directed by Kenyan-Ghanian director Hawa Essuman and has won various awards including the Best Short Film, Best Lead actor and Best Script Writer at the Kalasha awards 2010, Kenya and the Best Feature Film Award at the Rwanda Film Festival 2010. The film most recently won the Best Film accolade at the 1st Luxor African Film Festival 2012 held in Egypt.
With witchcraft being a common socio-cultural practice in so many African countries, stories such as the one depicted in "Soul Boy" give the audience a look into the mystical "tradition". In 2010 around the time the movie was shot, UNICEF released the fascinating study Children Accused of Witchcraft which was an anthropological study of contemporary practices in Africa.
To find out how you can catch a screening check out the Soul Boy website, until then check out the trailer below:
Thursday, 7 June 2012
A month or so ago, I came across the song “Bantu Baffe” by Ugandan Hip Hop Artist and Breakdancer Abramz Tekya. At the time, I had no idea who Abramz was, I had never heard of him. The content of the song however, prompted me to research more into the artist and boy am I glad I did. A couple of weeks ago I sat down with this brother and found out that his story and the work he has been doing in the community are both admirable and worthy of praise. By looking at him, you would never tell that this eloquent well spoken brother comes from humble beginnings. Orphaned by the age of seven and forced to drop out of school because of the lack of school fees, Abramz defied the odds and has used his story to lift up the youth in the same slums he frequented as child. He started the Break Dance Project Uganda in 2006 and in 2010 his story was documented in "Bouncing Cats" directed by Nabil Elderkin.
SM: What was your earliest exposure to hip hop?
AT: When I was 7 my parents died, after that I lived with different relatives and was often mistreated, and put down. I didn’t know what hip hop was at the time but I would watch music videos and would get beaten up for doing so. In 1991, I moved from my grandmother's house to my auntie’s house, and it was there that my cousins exposed me to hiphop. I didn’t know English at the time, and would cram the lyrics not knowing what they meant, my real passion for hip hop came when I asked people to translate the lyrics and then it really appealed to me. I didn’t know that there was a type of music where you could talk about your problems. Hip hop is what got me wanting to learn English, because I wanted to understand the music for myself. I was influenced by Chubb Rock, Lords of the Underground, Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J, Tribe Called Quest, just to name a few.
SM: When did you write your first song?
AT: I wrote my first song in 1993 and it was called “The way I come,” it was about me coming into my own.
SM: Most of your rap is in Luganda what is your inspiration to rap in Luganda and don’t you feel like this narrows down your audience?
AT: My inspiration to rap in Luganda came from the Legendary Ugandan musician Philly Lutaya and his song “Nakazaana” in particular. My reason for rapping in Luganda is because I wanted the people in the slums to be able to identify with my music, because my music is for the people. On my new album though, I will drop about 3 English tracks.
SM: When is your album dropping and which producers are you working with?
AT: Most definitely before the end of the year. It’s a 12 track album with 3 tracks in English. I am working with people from all over the world on this album, Uganda, Kenya, Portugal, USA and Finland just to name a few.
SM: What would you say are some of the challenges you have faced as an artist?
AT: Most radio stations don’t play my music, I got tried of going to them after a while. They said I wasn’t producing the type of music their bosses would approve of. At the end of the day I make music people need to hear and not what they want to hear. I’m not too worried about radio spins though, I’m more concerned with touching peoples lives.
SM: What was the inspiration for your current single Bantu Baffe?
AT: Life experiences.The song looks at how your own people can be your worst enemies, those that are there for you when things are good and not when things are bad.
SM: When did you start break dancing, most people myself included have no idea about a breakdancing culture in Uganda ?
AT: Hip hop and break dancing for me are closely linked. When I started watching the music videos early on and finally when I watched the BreakDance movie in 1991 that’s when I started. I quit in 1993 but it was something I would come back to in 1996 when I realized that breakdancing was a part of hip hop culture.
SM: What was your motivation to start the Breakdance Project Uganda?
AT: I wanted to establish a free space that would empower, rehabilitate and heal the community by teaching the youth about b-boy culture. We learn for free but we also teach for free. I didn’t want a situation were we were charging more well off kids to breakdance and not the poor kids because I felt like that would just create a divide and build a wall. I wanted it to be a space where everyone was the same. I am proud of the fact that we have managed to keep going with very minimal external funding.
SM: How did “Bouncing Cats” come along?
AT: I had a friend who worked for Oxfam and she was impressed with the work that the Break Dance Project was doing in Uganda. She was at a conference in Los Angeles and she mentioned the organization and the work we were doing. Nabil Elderkin was at this same conference and he walked up to her to ask her about us. He came down a couple of times and shot videos of the project in action. On one occasion we had a discussion about people who had influenced my love for breakdance and I mentioned Crazy Legs and the Rock Steady Crew. When he went back he looked for Crazy Legs and told him about the project, which he agreed to participate in and in conjunction with Red Bull, Bouncing Cats was born.
I appreciated the process of making the film more than the film itself. The relationships that were formed and also the respect with which redbull approached the project, they cared about us as individuals.
SM: I heard you were asked to join the Rock Steady Crew how did that come about?
AT: In 2010, I was in Austria at a hip hop convention and Crazy Legs was there too. He was on stage, and invited me to join the Rock Steady Crew.
SM: So aside from the hip hop and the breakdance, you do other things as well?
AT: I lead workshops on Self Discovery and Self Esteem. I teach people about respect and facilitate activities to get them to understand. Most people don’t recognize their potential, and I try to help them do that, I see light where most people see darkness. Depending on who I am talking to, I select the best way to get my point across so that they can get the most out of my sessions. I also think it is important to teach in a way that the people who leave my sessions are able to pass on that knowledge to other people. I have given talks in prisons, in the slums, in universities but people can relate to me because of my journey.
SW: Have you ever thought about going back to school, and what would you study if you did?
AT: No. I feel as though each one of us has our own path, if we all try to do the same we will end up doing nothing. If I did go back though, I would go into development studies. I may not have had the opportunity to go through school, but I have learned a lot along the way. I have attended several wokshops in so many different countries, but I have also facilitated the workshops as well. I taught myself how to use a computer, and I look at everyone as a teacher.
SM: So you got to work with your dream b-boy, who would your dream hip hop artist to work with be?
AT: Common, Mos Def, Talib, there are so many.
SM: What would you like your legacy to be, how would you like to be remembered?
AT: As someone who was not self centered who cared about others and most importantly who was able to turn trash into treasure. My art gave me a chance to live again, what I was doing at 9, I am still doing at 29.
For more information on Abramz and about the work he is doing, check out: www.abramz.com
Many thanks to Abramz and the Breakdance Project Uganda crew for letting me into their world. Keep moving king!
For more information on Abramz and about the work he is doing, check out: www.abramz.com
Many thanks to Abramz and the Breakdance Project Uganda crew for letting me into their world. Keep moving king!