Artists Unscripted is a new MOA online informal conversation series with Canadian artists of diverse backgrounds, practices and outlooks. The series focuses on listening and learning from established and emerging artists. They share some of their current projects and the ideas that make them want to create. Each event includes a live discussion and a Q+A.
This edition of Artists Unscripted was presented as part of MOA’s feature exhibition Sankofa: African Routes, Canadian Routes (November 4, 2021 – March 27, 2022). ‘Benin Reimagined’ features Nigerian-based artists Peju Layiwola and Victor Ehikhamenor in conversation with exhibition co-curator Titilope Salami. Dig deeper into the two artists’ works featured in the exhibition, and join in conversations around their practice in relation to repatriation as well as the idea of “authentic” African art.
Victor Ehikhamenor is a Nigeria-born multimedia artist, photographer and writer. Throughout his prolific career he has produced abstract, symbolic, politically and historically motivated works. He has exhibited works at numerous exhibitions and biennales including the 57th Venice Biennale (2017). He is the founder of Angels and Muse, a thought laboratory dedicated to promoting and developing contemporary African art and literature in Lagos, Nigeria.
Peju Layiwola is an artist and professor of art history at the University of Lagos and also runs two artist’s platforms in Lagos, Nigeria: Women and Youth Art Foundation and MasterArtClasses. Her research, writing and artistic engagements have consistently engaged themes of artifact pillage, restitution, history, memory and the artistic trajectories of African and diaspora artists. She has published several articles both locally and internationally and had several exhibitions, including her most referenced solo show, Benin 1897.com: Art and the Restitution Question (2010). She is president of the Art Council of the African Studies Association.
Titilope Salami is an artist, curator, and lecturer of visual arts at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. Her group exhibitions include Jubilation (2014), Diversiform (2018), Strength of Women (2019), and On and On (2019), and she participated in the performance Red Day (2017) with Jelili Atiku. Salami is currently conducting her Ph.D. research in the history and policies of West African museums at UBC.
This special edition of Artists Unscripted was presented as part of the UBC ARTIVISM Festival 2021: Queering the Self, and features illustrator and comic artist Syan Rose alongside comedian an poet Tin Lorica. Expect the unexpected from these dynamic artists as they take you inside queer artistry and representation, both on stage and in print. Their conversation was moderated by UBC ARTIVISM Festival’s artistic director, Bianca Santana, and together they explored the festival’s theme of queer expression in our digital era.
Syan Rose is an illustrator and comic artist whose work plays with both surrealist and representational imagery to approach topics of personal history, politics, accountability, and healing. Her debut book, Our Work is Everywhere (Arsenal Pulp, 2021) features illustrated interviews, prose, and poetry with Queer and Trans organizers, healers, and artists. Her work has been published in Bitch, Slate, Gay Magazine, Truthout, and Autostraddle, and has self-produced many comics and zines.
Tin Lorica is a comedian and writer based in Vancouver on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh. Their comedic style has been described as someone who is about to bring you bad news, or the vibe of a sentence without punctuation. In October 2020, Tin’s debut chapbook, Soft Armour, was published through Rahila’s Ghost Press. Soft Armour is a collection of poems from Tin’s pre-pandemic, pre-saturn return moments in their life. Tin has a non-ironic degree in women’s studies, and aspires to earn a living wage.
Bianca Santana is the artistic director/producer of UBC’s 4th annual UBC ARTIVISM and has themed this year’s festival ‘Queering the Self’. She is a Latin American photographer, digital designer, producer and activist born in the Dominican Republic and currently is a 4th-year student at UBC, majoring in Media Studies. In her work, Bianca explores themes of race, gender, sexuality and the media, focusing on the way media shapes our society.
The Mothers of Native Hip Hop
To mark Indigenous History month, MOA featured three Indigenous women who shaped the Native hip hop world: Christie Lee Charles’ and her groundbreaking hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ rap, MzShellz’s empowering hip hop for women, and DJ Kookum’s fresh beats and videos for youth and women alike. Join us as we delve deeper into the experience of being at the forefront of the Indigenous hip hop and rap scene.
Michelle Lee Runns AKA MzShellz is an emerging Cree hip hop artist and owner of Native by Nature Apparel hailing from Regina, Saskatchewan. Since relocating to British Columbia, the mother of four has been rocking stages from Vancouver to Albuquerque. MzShellz has taken her new platform through her music to send messages of strength to the youth and seeks to empower women and girls around the world. Her next album, Boss Lady, is currently in progress.
Cheyanna Kootenhayoo AKA Kookum is a DJ and multimedia maker from the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, and Cold Lake First Nations, their maternal Denesuline traditional territory. Based out of Vancouver, Kookum has been making a name for their self across the country and is no stranger in the community. Kookum is an open format DJ inspired by EDM and hip hop music. Before the pandemic Kookum was touring nationally and internationally with the Snotty Nose Rez Kids, holding down a weekly DJ residency, facilitating videography and DJ workshops, operating sound and lighting for community dance parties, and working as a DJ mentor at a weekly East Van youth drop in program called The Hip Hop Drop.
Christie Lee grew up in a world of music and her focus has been on hip hop. As an emcee she incorporates her traditional knowledge and ancient hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ dialect. She is a full-time mother and a hip hop lover. Christie has performed as part of the BC Pavilion in Beijing China, WE Day, Fuse, Verses/Hullabaloo, Drum is Calling, TEDX distortion in Vancouver, the Junos with Arcade Fire, Whistler Snowboard Festival with Tribe Called Red, Bass Coast Music Festival, Nelson International Mural Festival, and Vancouver Folk Festival. She was the curator for Musqueam youth Claiming Spaces, Artistic advisor c̓əsnaʔəm: the city before the city, and Words Rising Birds Rising featured at the Roundhouse & Maplewood Nature House.
Queer Homelands is an evening of poetic performance and conversation by non-binary Fillipinx artist Kimmortal, transgender Russian-Jewish poet Angelic Proof and first-generation Afro-Caribbean artist Alisha. The artists perform and engage in conversation on how queer children of refuge, diaspora, migration and/or exile can reclaim access to healing through the magic of language and performance.
Angelic Proof [t(he)y] is a Russian-Jewish trans-gender, queer poet. Angelic sees their work as the work of a poetry excavator. They work and extend their poetry to clownery, spoken word music, and performance sorcery, leading them to have shared international stages with rabbis, queer clowns, trans politicians, the United Nations, TEDx and the Vogue Theatre.
Alisha is a 1st generation Afro-Caribbean performer whose poetry and music is rooted in ancestral technologies and futures. Her sound contains the sonic worlds of Reggae and Raga, and is equally influenced by her experiences as a community engaged artist, educator, farmer and body worker. Alisha has graced the stages of Vancouver Mural Fest, Vancouver International Jazz Festival and UBC Pride.
Kimmortal is a queer non-binary filipinx multi-disciplinary artist. Their ancestry is Ilocano and Visayan from Pangasinan and Negros Occidental. A musician (rapper, singer) with a background in art and theatre, Kimmortal’s honest wordplay and visuals tell stories of reclaiming one’s healing and confronting social issues.
Restorative Practices and Speculative Futures
In this first event, for Women’s History Month, MOA learned from Renée Sarojini Saklikar’s ground breaking poems and Hana Amani’s visual art and futuristic folklore, hosted by MOA’s Public Programs Intern, Rea Saxena. Join us as we delve deeper into their ways of thinking, the knowledge artists hold, and the collaborations that emerged during the global pandemic and explore restorative practices and speculative futures.
Renée Sarojini Saklikar was the first Poet Laureate for the City of Surrey and her groundbreaking poetry book about the bombing of Air India Flight 182, children of air india, won the Canadian Authors Association Poetry Prize. Her book, Listening to the Bees, co-authored with Dr. Mark Winston, won the 2019 Gold Medal Independent Publishers Book Award, Environment/Ecology. She originally trained as a lawyer, and is now an instructor for Simon Fraser University and Vancouver Community College. Find her on Twitter @reneesarojini.
Hana Amani is a Sri Lankan-born visual artist, future folklorist, and emerging curator based in Vancouver. She is a graduate of Emily Carr University of Art+ Design. Amani’s work focuses primarily on the politics, taboos, and identities of women of Asian-Islamic descent. Recently she curated an exhibition, We Cast Spells on the Mothers of our Daughters and Daughters of our Mothers, at Centre A: Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art. Her curatorial interests are committed to representing the works and voices of Women of Asian descent in both North America and Asia. Find her on Instagram @hana.on.earth.