Modern Tribe – April 25 – May 5
An artisan asked me “What are my influences?” and in typical style I started to reel off the photographers I aspire to be. The individual stopped me mid sentence. ” I don’t want to know about photographers, after all they had to be influenced by things outside of photography, so what are yours”. I have to admit to being fairly stumped at the time. And despite the fact I did give a few vacuous answers, I was far from satisfied with the answer I had been able to give. I remember going to bed or trying to, with so many thoughts darting through my head that they ricocheted in my subconscious.
I was putting to together a new DJ set when it occurred to me how much of an influence music is for me. Beyond that, I would go as far to say, it is therapy for me. I am motivated to build on an already large collection by hunting for new music. A track I discovered that became pivotal to this process was Baldwin by Mateo which contained an excerpt from James Baldwin’s 1963 speech, the struggle. I was motivated to find the whole speech, as the words resonated with me on a level that is hard to quantify. I asked myself how a speech made before I was born could so easily identify my journey. Over the duration of this 30 minute speech, 3 key points in particular resonated with me;
“and what occurs at that point in this hypothetical artist life is kind of silence for reasons he can not explain to himself or to others. He does not belong anywhere, maybe on the football team maybe your a runner, maybe you belong to a church, you certainly belong to a family… and abruptly in other peoples eyes and this is very important. I others peoples you begin to discover you are moving and you cannot stop this movement and looks like the edge of the world.” [Baldwin,1963]
“ Are you going to AfroPunk? Come to think about it you were AfroPunk before AfroPunk was a thing!”
This statement created a chain of thoughts about what it is to be an artisan and why those I consider to be my peers see me as an artisan. It is important for me to make this distinction as the artisan energy is of a specific frequency.
In this current throw away society, where it is easy to walk down the street and appears the same as everyone else and the mannequin in whatever high street. I have always been different, never by choice. As the above quote by Baldwin highlights, others recognised my movement from an early age. It is only after Baldwin put it I had enough experience to know, what experience I had I realised those with a strong energy are different. Furthermore, this amalgamation of thoughts made me think about the attributes of individuals like me. Baldwin states,
“I want to suggest two propositions, the first is that the poet’s, by which I mean all artist and finally the only people who know the truth about us, soldiers don’t, statesmen don’t, union leaders don’t only the poets, that is my first proposition.”
The second proposition is what I really want to get at tonight. And it sounds mystical I think in a country like ours and at time like this, but something is happening to civilization when it ceases to produce poets, and even more crucial, when it ceases in any way whatever to believe in the report that only poets can make.”
I hear you say you say, how does this relate to my opening statement? The fact is I am influenced to create, you can go as far as to say I am influenced by all things, in this particular case Baldwin has influenced me to find the ‘poets’
While at African fashion week London I was asked to take camera phone pictures of the press pit. I remember at the time thinking it looked like a tribal hunting party. It was this with an amalgamation of my influences that made me conceive of the modern tribe, from fellow artisans, conversations with peers, afro house, and this Baldwin’s speech
With clear direction of wanting to bring together and represent the artisans around me as part of a tribe, I started to research how different tribes identify themselves.
Objectives and methodology
My first objective was to create a series of portraits of fellow artisans, who could be included in the modern tribe and identify them as belonging to this tribe by using markings.
My second objective was to create a style of tribal marking that was a modern adaption of various tribes including Yoruba (scarification), Massai, Aztec, Zulu, Oromo and Chaga.
My third objective was to create a list of criteria for the individuals to be included in the modern tribe.
Modern Tribe Criteria:
To be actively creating content in 1 or more artistic disciplines;
To be responsible for cross pollination of creative disciplines;
To be aware and happy to take part in the process
I decided to use body paint of various colours to demonstrate the diversity of the artisans included. And often allowed the sitter to decide on the colour they wanted to be depicted in
The tribal markings were meant to be modern a adaptation of various tribal marking styles. The idea was not to copy but to adapt or progress them to a modern interpretation they depict the interconnected nature of creative process.
Speech Ref The Struggle 1963 in New York by James Baldwin