Interviews

Portraits: An Interview With the Artist, IMPREINT

In a perfect world we would all be happy with our “imperfections” and celebrate their uniqueness. But when we have a difficult time appreciating our individuality and understanding how it connects us to others in our imperfect world, artists so often act as our muse, our advocates, and our advisors, showing us new outlooks on ourselves.

Since December of 2013, the UK-based artist IMPREINT has set out on an ambitious collaborative project with the global public. People send in photos of themselves holding a single prop: a balloon. Why a balloon? Well, IMPREINT once painted 1000 balloons and although from a distance they seemed similar, eventually, he started to notice that in addition to their different sizes, shapes, and colours that they also had marks and “flaws” which made each one stand out. And now, this shared reflection between the balloons and people is what has made the images in Portraits so very beautiful.

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IMPREINT - Don't take things too seriously - August 2010

IMPREINT – Don’t take things too seriously – August 2010

Being an artist, how has art shaped the way that you interact with and understand the world?

Didn’t change my way of thinking, seeing [of] things, or interact but [art] made me more complete as a person.

Your recent project, Portraits, has had a lot of positive response and involvement from people across the world. What does Portraits say about the way we see and understand ourselves as people in today’s age?

I understand that Portraits represents for [those] who participate a way to stand for something that they care about. Interesting, because even if everyone has his personal feeling about his own portrait or the reason why he has made it, the result when you look at them is that we appear all the same. So basically this project talks about the need of the people of the world to share and feel united in our diversity.

IMPREINT - I’m a temporary exhibition - October 2013

IMPREINT – I’m a temporary exhibition – October 2013

“I’m a temporary exhibition.” This statement greets visitors to your website and Facebook page. Does this heightened awareness of time allow you to look at issues (such as homelessness in your project Cut Off and perceptions of beauty seen in Portraits) with a more critical eye?

With a more conscious eye. This statement came as an “answer” to all these proclamations that society and the art world propose as important. It was presented for the first time during the Frieze Art Fair in 2013. It’s a reminder of how our life is fragile and how [it] would probably be better to change attitudes and reconsider what is really important.

You engage and collaborate with the public to create work. But are there any artists you’d like to collaborate with in the future?

No one in particular [just] whoever feels that we can do something together.

IMPREINT - Portraits - December 2013

IMPREINT – Portraits – December 2013

Check out more photos from Portraits on tumblr and Facebook and explore some of IMPREINT’s other projects at www.impreint.com.

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City Dream: An Extended Interview with Artist, Jill Stanton

January 24 to May 3 features the works of Albertan artists as part of the Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art 2015, Future Station. Jill Stanton is one of the artists whose work is on display this year. Her mural City Dream No.5: Virtual Reality evokes a dreamlike wonder about the world while playing with the biennial’s theme of a post-industrial landscape. I had the opportunity to speak with Jill about her last mural which was displayed at the Art Gallery of Alberta called Strange Dreams during the summer of 2014. From that interview, it became very clear that no matter where Jill takes her art or how it develops in the future, it will always have a playful spirit in it. One that comments on the way society sees and understands itself in a “post-industrial landscape” that is constantly under development and trying to realign itself with the ethics of people in our societies. In honour of her current work at Future Station here is the extended version of our conversation.

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Becky Hagan-Egyir: Your current exhibit at the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA), Strange Dream [March 5 – December 31, 2014], “inspires questions of how we look at our environment and how our environment can affect one’s subconscious” according to the AGA. How did the idea for Strange Dream come about?

Jill Stanton: My work is very detail-oriented. As a kid, I’d spend hours reproducing Where’s Waldo drawings, fascinated by how a single two-page illustration spread could command a viewer’s attention for so long. These drawings — made with the tiniest, thinnest black pens I could get my hands on — certainly formed the basis of how I approach my work today. I make extremely detailed drawings with an element of narrative in them, whether that exists in actual, text-based narrative (in my comics), or implied narrative, in a drawing with several characters and secret pockets that are only noticed by the viewer as they stare at it for a period of time. I want to hold the viewer’s attention; I want them to weave a narrative out of the visual clues I leave in the drawing.

I only recently started to work large-scale. Historically, my drawings have been the size of a single sheet of paper, the largest being around 22” x 30”. In the past couple of years I have had the opportunity to work on a larger scale for other pieces and freelance jobs, and it sparked a bit of an epiphany; the larger the work, the more detail I could include, and the more the viewer will be sucked into the drawing.

Strange Dream (excerpt) 2014 Photo by: Jill Stanton

Strange Dream (excerpt)
Digital
2013
Photo by: Jill Stanton

Strange Dream was a culmination of my mural projects and my comic projects. I wanted to create a very large-scale environment that featured several hidden characters and suggested narratives. Creatures and questions pop out the more you stare. After a minute or two, secret eyeballs are suddenly noticeable; they’ve been staring at you the whole time. Where is this place? Who is the girl in the colour nest, why is she there?

Becky Hagan-Egyir: What environment has the most impact on how you get inspired to make art?

Jill Stanton: I’m a bit of a plant nut, thanks to my mom’s early greenhouse and gardening brainwashing techniques (I love you mom!). In 2011, I travelled to Vancouver Island for an apprenticeship to learn how to start and operate a 10-acre market organic farm; I was there for the entire 9 month growing season: building crude greenhouses and cabins, seeding, transplanting, weeding, driving the tractor, harvesting, farming. It was initially supposed to be a break from art in general, but the natural environment and the experience of real, solid hard work was rewarding and stirring. I ended up making a small series of comics about life on the farm, worked on advertisements and newsletters and posters for the farm and other businesses in the small town of Duncan (the closest town to the farm), and painted several crude farm signs with latex paint advertising our produce. Those comics were pretty dumb and not very well drawn, but they were the impetus for all my recent graphic narrative projects, including the subscription-based comic book, Headspaces. Even now, in my tiny downtown apartment, I’ve got a small jungle of 50+ houseplants. They just make me feel better about living back in the city.

Becky Hagan-Egyir: Your art work shows a true appreciation for comics and their alternative, dream-like worlds. Often the real world can seem dream-like too — especially when you turn on the news and see all the transformative as well as heart-wrenching things happening out there in the world. Do political and social events in the world ever play a role in how you approach your work?

Jill Stanton: The first major works I completed after completing my BFA were pieces that responded to injustices related to food, food security, and food politics. These issues were part of the reason why I moved to the farm in the first place — to learn how “sustainable” food production works firsthand. Food and its surrounding issues have always been a focal point for me; I’ve struggled with it on a personal and political level for many years.

From Headspaces II Ink, digital on paper 2014 Photo by: Jill Stanton

Nothing is Chasing Me But it Sure Feels Like There Is (exerpt)
From Headspaces II
Ink, digital on paper
2014
Photo by: Jill Stanton

I was a vegetarian for much of my adult life (farm life has since changed my relationship with animals, their environment, and meat). I drew a lot of hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, and melty cheese, because I was fascinated with the seductive quality of these foods even though they were inherently disgusting and awful and immoral. I was drawing my way through thinking about these issues. First: Why do people want to eat these things? Why did I want to eat these things even though I “knew better”? Did it make me a fundamentally better person because I didn’t eat factory meat or even meat in general? And then, later, on the farm, surrounded by ethically raised meat and dairy: Is a “vegan” salad made from a head of lettuce and cucumbers produced on a poorly-managed farm in China or California with migrant, underpaid workers any better than a steak sandwich made from locally produced, grass-fed beef? Worse?

Three times a day (ideally for us lucky and privileged people), we navigate through the ethics of food politics; with each ingredient within a single meal, we have the potential to either harm ourselves (the health value of the food in question, or our financial position to choose a better option, or not), harm an animal (through animal welfare questions related to meat, dairy, eggs, etc.), harm the environment (pesticides, clear-cutting, fish farms, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, etc.), or harm someone else we are peripherally unaware of (where the food was produced, by whom, and under what variables and terms of employment). What used to be a fairly straightforward thing –– even 100 years ago, before such rampant globalization –– has turned into a real minefield. We all have to eat, that’s what makes food questions so all-encompassing and awful.

…I still refer to these ideas from time to time in my work, though less lately since I am feeling increasingly as though I have less of the answers I once thought I held so firmly. I still think hot dogs and cheeseburgers (etc.) are incredibly interesting and powerful tropes in society, but I like them more as ways to introduce a kind of cognitive dissonance into a narrative or drawing, rather than a guilt trip. It’s a constantly evolving relationship.

Becky Hagan-Egyir: One of your recent works was creating the cover design for local Edmonton rapper and performer, Mitchmatic’s new album. Do you often support Edmonton artists with their own creative projects?

Jill Stanton: Working with musicians and locally owned venues has been a real cornerstone in my practice. Gig posters in particular are among some of my favourite projects; Craig at Wunderbar has let me make dozens for him over the past years for various shows, and I’m forever grateful. Posters give me a public platform and a low-stakes deadline that I can use to experiment with different imagery, compositions, and techniques. Drawing a little bit every day and throwing in challenging variables for myself is so important to how I work out future ideas.

FREE Mural For FREE Advertising company Latex paint on wall 2013/14 Photo by: Jill Stanton

FREE Mural
For FREE Advertising company
Latex paint on wall
2013/14
Photo by: Jill Stanton

Becky Hagan-Egyir: What have been some of the most memorable times this has happened for you?

Jill Stanton: Some of my favourite drawings are still some of those Wunderbar posters. Absolutely! Especially the ones where I liked the poster I made but the show was even better. I have also done a handful of improvised, live-drawing sessions for a variety/comedy show hosted by comedian Jon Mick. Basically I bring ink and pens to the bar and whip up drawings on the spot based on a topic that Jon picks. Generally the drawings are making fun of Jon. It’s weird for me because I’m not a performer but I enjoy it! I like thinking and drawing quick on my feet —most of them turn out pretty alright, though some of the results of these shows are pretty awful!

Becky Hagan-Egyir: How has the Edmonton artistic community influenced your own work?

Jill Stanton: Edmonton is home to a big batch of really talented artists and musicians. It’s a pretty tight, small-ish community, considering the population size of the city in general. The closeness of this community is interesting because it creates an environment where everyone is pretty open and supportive of one another. But it’s also competitive, since there are only so many real, solid opportunities available in a city where arts is maybe not quite as important or revered as say, hockey. It’s a cocoon in a way. It also means you have to be very conscious of what other artists within the city are doing, and that your work stands on its own.

It’s nice to feel like if you work hard and place value [on] your peers and connections, you absolutely can do great creative things within the city. Edmonton has a weird small town vibe for a relatively large city, which makes it feel as though you can tackle things that you might not feel as though you could tackle in, say, Vancouver or Toronto. I’m impressed and inspired by start-up creative initiatives like Chelsea Boos’ Drawing Room space downtown, and Brittney Roy and Connor Buchanan’s Creative Practices Institute in the 124th street area. Also, running the printmaking program and working with clients at the Nina Haggerty Centre [an art centre for adults with developmental disabilities] on 118th avenue has been a really excellent experience for me personally and artistically.

Becky Hagan-Egyir: If you could collaborate with one artist right now, who would that be and why?

Jill Stanton: Josh Holinaty, local illustrator extraordinaire. We’ve been meaning to collaborate for a few years now, I think. He’s moving to Toronto, but I think we’ll finally get a chance to doodle a bit together while I’m out there this fall for a residency I’m doing at Artscape Gibraltar Point.

Becky Hagan-Egyir: Growing up, did you ever imagine that you would be a different type of artist? A singer or comedian maybe?

Jill Stanton: No, strangely, I never even wanted to be a marine biologist or doctor or dinosaur or whatever kids traditionally think want to be when they grow up. Just ask my mom. I just [wanted] to draw things.

Manning Hall, AGA Ink on Paper 2014 Photo by: Jill Stanton

Manning Hall, AGA
Ink on Paper
2014
Photo by: Jill Stanton

Becky Hagan-Egyir: Where do you do you see yourself heading with your work five years from now?

Jill Stanton: I don’t like to think too far into the future with my work. I think making five or ten year goals is a little dangerous because often it puts a specific idea of yourself up on a pedestal that you continually strive for under the impression that if you don’t reach it, you’ve somehow failed. This mindset doesn’t allow for natural creativity and following tributaries and branches from ideas and projects you work on in the present.

If I had a five year plan for myself five years ago, I might have been a successful illustrator living in some large city, but then again, maybe not. But in the process of working towards that goal, I might not have followed the stream of ideas in directions other than exclusively illustrating for widespread publications, and likely never would have made the work I’ve made thus far. I probably wouldn’t have gone to the farm. Maybe I wouldn’t have been drawing comics. I certainly wouldn’t be making 1800 square foot ink drawings.

I think it’s more interesting not to plan too closely and let things happen and opportunities present themselves. Work and art gets stale and boring if you don’t let yourself mess around in hopes of accomplishing some pie-in-the-sky goals. The most important thing to remember is to just keep working. Relentlessly.

Iceland Dream Screenprint on Paper 2013 Photo by: Jill Stanton

Iceland Dream
Screenprint on Paper
2013
Photo by: Jill Stanton

Stay up to date with Jill’s work:

twitter.com/scenic_edmonton

jstanton.ca

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Check out the original interview here.

Michael Franti

Michael Franti and the Spearhead’s first album, “Home” from 1994 has a song in it called Piece O’ Peace, in which the first line says: “Every million miles ya haffe tek a first step”. The idea of peace is often something that seems elusive, and maybe even unachievable in our time, but then there are artists like Franti who fight this idea by living and sharing a peaceful life with people he meets; whether it’s those in an audience doing yoga with him before his show, or people in Iraq after they welcome him into their homes to share laughter, tea, and stories about humanity. These are just a few of Franti’s steps towards achieving peace at home and throughout the world with the help of music.

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Your life and your work seem very poetic. What is it that drives you to reach out to people and spread the message of creating a peaceful world?
Well what drives me is that I have a desire and a belief that all of us have this unique opportunity in our lives — and that opportunity is to each day learn to better get along with each other and to make the world a little bit better then when we got here. And music is a really great way of doing that because music is something that accesses the soul, the heart, so when our bodies become tired — like mine is today [laughs] — and our minds become taxed, it’s our souls that opens all of us and [says] “you know you can go a little bit further, you can try a little bit harder, you can love a little bit more”. And that’s when things really change in the world, because [people] get run down and as they get run down, it’s often when their souls close off and they lose their empathy, they lose their compassion, they lose their wiliness to try and reach out to others, or to try to do something for others. And music is one of the things that accesses that part of us and I love music for that reason.

For your documentary [I Know I’m Not Alone] you went to Iraq, Palestine, and Israel. As an activist, how do you support change from here, at home?
One of things that I learnt when I was in Iraq, and in Israel and the Palestinian Territories was that everywhere I went, I met people who were risking their lives each day to achieve peace. I met Iraqi families who would take me into their homes where they hid during the bombing and [I met] soldiers who said, “I came here a day after September 11th. I signed up to join the army because I though Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, that he was involved in 9/11. And I got here and found out it was all lies” you know. And I met Israeli and Palestinian families who had lost family members in the conflict there and in the occupation and who said that we don’t want our family member’s deaths to be used as a cry for war, we want it to be used as a cry to end all wars. And that they don’t want the pain that they felt to be experienced by anyone else on the planet.

So as a communicator of that, I realized that you don’t have to choose sides – you don’t have to choose sides based on nationality — that you can choose to be on the side of the peacemakers from which ever country you come from. And in every country, there are people that are willing to go to great lengths to achieve peace. … In the case of the Palestinian-Israeli situation [where] you have people that are living under occupation for a long time, you know some people since right after WWII and other people since 1967, and living with everyday soldiers in their lives breaking into their homes, barricading, and you know blocking them off with a wall from their own land and it’s suffering and enduring incredible hardship and they fight back. And in doing so, you have people who living in Israel grow up in fear that if they were to walk into a supermarket or café or were to get into a bus it might blow up. And so I think that the way to really best communicate is to try to listen to both sides and to be respectful of the loss of both.

Michael Franti-03_VSM Photography

©VSM Photgraphy

And when we start comparing and counting and saying a hundred people were killed here and two hundred people were killed here and oh a thousand were killed here and a million were killed here and twenty million were killed…we don’t get anywhere. So, I wrote a song Bomb the World that says “you can bomb the world to pieces but we can’t bomb it into peace” and I really believe that — that the more political violence that we enact, you get more in return. And it doesn’t matter if it’s next week or the next generation. You use political violence to try and solve a problem; you get more political violence back at ya. When we use peace, and we use music, and we use food, we share land, and we share resources, and we create jobs and opportunity and health care and education for people, then they’re a lot less likely to strap a bomb onto their body and walk into a supermarket.

You briefly lived in Edmonton when you were in grade nine. Coming back to the city [for Folk Fest], how has that connection influenced your performances?
Well you know it’s always emotional for me to come back here because I remember being in grade nine — which for everyone is one of the most difficult parts of their lives [laughs] — and so I have great, very positive, and glowing memories of this time and I have emotions from a very dark place in my childhood. And so it’s always healing to come back here and to see things that are familiar. Like I was out in front of this hotel and there was this clock that’s got these great winding gears on it and I saw it today and I remembered seeing it when I was a kid. And seeing the river and seeing some of the things that haven’t changed. And then you see things that have really changed like the skyline and just how far it is — I remember to get to the airport there was nothing to the edge of the city for miles and miles or kilometers I should say [smiles]. So you get to the airport and now it’s like the city almost goes out to the airport. It’s just neat to come back and see all that.

Read the original here.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Lance Parker’s Ideas About Acceptance in the Beautiful Game

Who are you? Such a simple question seems like it should also have a simple answer. But instead, they’re three words which reflect so many possibilities about your character, appearance, beliefs, sexuality and gender, and much more. The world as we know it hasn’t always been accepting of all people — the world of sports is no exception to this rule. We’ve all seen how people can use ideas of what makes us who we are to set us apart from others. But then there are events like FIFA World Cup matches which allow us to have a glimpse of what acceptance can look like as so many nations come together to celebrate the game of football/soccer.

In this interview, I talk with one of Edmonton’s well known players of the game, who’s the goalie for the FC Edmonton team in the North American Soccer League (NASL): Lance Parker. Through his own life experiences and ideas about the game he loves, the role of identities including sexuality and gender and even racial issues in the beautiful game, are explored. His answers let us see the core of who Lance Parker is: a person. Complex, like you. And we also get a sense of what topics need to be pushed forward in the beautiful game’s future.

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Becky: You once said in an interview that your father is your hero. So what was it like growing up with your hero to guide you?

Lance: My father is an artist [and] an art teacher. Growing up my mother was at work a lot, in the office — so my dad taught from the house. He had a studio that he built at our house and he was around for most of the time. So growing up, pretty much everything I learnt was from him. He started me on work in the yard, work in the house, and I learnt a lot of common sense knowledge from him — growing up, he taught me a lot.

Becky: Did you ever do art yourself?

Lance: [Laughs] No not really. I can draw something if I’m looking at it. But if I just sort of close my eyes and imagine something there’s no chance! But as I mentioned, my family is a very artistic family. My dad’s a professional artist. He’s been doing that all his life. My mom after she quit her [accounting] job with the office, she became a professional photographer. My sister graduated from college with a degree in computer animation. So I’m kind of like the black sheep of the family.

Becky: Reading interviews about how you and your FC teammates get along, it almost seems like you’re all family. What are some of the best things for you about playing with the guys on your team?

Lance: [The relationship] usually differs from year to year. Some players get traded and some people retire. But usually, you still have the same core from year to year…and then, the new guys come in and they throw in their own personality both off field and on field. [Every] year you get a different atmosphere off the field and on it — and this year’s team, we’re a really tight knit group of people.

Becky: Do you ever play pranks on each other?

Lance: [Grins] Yeah, every now and then — nothing serious.

Becky: Can you tell me about a moment when you first realized that you wanted to be a football/soccer player?

Lance: It was when I was twelve years old. There was a team that was put together of all these guys from Oklahoma [where Lance grew up] to go over to England to play a tournament. It was my first time in England and we were there playing in a tournament and we got to go to a couple games. Seeing the atmosphere, witnessing the culture that Europeans surround around football culture — it was just absolutely incredible! And that’s when I fell in love with it and thought: This is what I want to do for a job. I want to be a professional soccer player. So from age twelve I quit all the other sports I was playing — I was a little kid playing everything: basketball, baseball, soccer. I decided at twelve to quit everything and focus on soccer.

Becky: How did your family react when you first told them that you wanted to be a professional soccer player?

Lance: I’ve been extremely lucky to have parents that support me. They never forced me as a child to do what they wanted… I see a lot of (especially growing up) dads [who to them] their kids were invisible. [Their kids] don’t want to play baseball but they make them practice for like twelve hours a day — they’re trying to I guess live a dream through their kids, and I’m so lucky that my parents never made me do that. They told me that whatever you know you want to do, you can do it. So you can play soccer, you can do this, you can do that.

Becky: I think gender roles are more flexible, less structured, in our world today than they were a century ago or even during our parent’s times. But in your opinion, what does it mean to be a man in today’s world?

Lance: In what terms — to be a man versus a boy, to be a man versus a gentleman, to be just a man with a manly presence?

Becky: Let’s go with a man versus a boy.

Lance: [Pauses] Being a man versus a boy, for me, that has to do a lot with maturity. There’s definitely a lot of grown — grown males I should say — that aren’t men. They’re still boys. The way they act, the way they behave, present themselves in public, [the] kind of actions that they take, the way they present themselves, carry themselves — that I would consider them boys. A man, he’s gonna think before he acts, he’s careful of what he says, there’s just more thought process about how he goes about his day. And boys they just tend to act without thinking, he’s just spur of the moment, and he gets in trouble a lot.

Photo: Shirley Green

Photo: Shirley Green

Becky: How has the game of soccer helped to develop your personality as a man?

Lance: It’s helped me to be able to work well with others in a game setting. So whether that’s having to get along with people at work, or at school, or a team project, it’s helped me to be really good at that. It’s also helped me develop a leadership role with all my former teams: college, club, high school — you kind of figure out the best ways to deal with certain people. Different people act differently to different scenarios, [I’ve seen how] some people you get the best out of them by really giving it to them, being pissed off, yelling at them. Other people they shut down on you. You know, so you have to know ‘hey, I’ve got to encourage this guy.’ [Give] positive criticism and [be] a little more soft spoken. Some guys might get embarrassed if you call them out in front of the team. So it’s helped me to read people better, to know how to interact with people, and to get the best out of them. And as I said, it’s helped me to grow as a leader, as an individual.

Becky: There can be times when celebrities are leaders who set examples for us to follow. Some sport celebrities, recently like Michael Sam from the NFL, set the bar high for others to follow. [Michael Sam is now the first openly gay player in the history of the NFL.] Do you see sports as a place that openly accepts people regardless of their background?

Lance: No. No, I don’t.

Becky: That was a very quick response, and very honest. Why not?

Lance: Because sport has been around for a very long time. Since the beginning of different sports, the mentality of everything like that was very hush-hush and some players think things like if you’re “too feminine” you can’t play sports. Or guys might be extremely homophobic and think: ‘I can’t have this guy on my team because he’s going to be looking at me funnily’. Or it makes them uncomfortable. So yeah, it’s definitely not accepted yet in sports.

Becky: Do you foresee a time when it might be accepted — even though it’s hard to predict when exactly?

Lance: Yeah I do. It’s probably going to take a long time though, especially with more of the “macho” sports where you have to be a “real man” to play the game. And that’s sad because your sexual orientation shouldn’t determine how good of an athlete you are, how smart you are, or anything like that.

Becky: When I was a girl, I had a dream of being the first girl to play beside players like Jordan or O’Neil in the NBA. Do you think pro- mixed gender teams could ever become a thing in the soccer world’s future?

Lance: Never.

Becky: Never? Why not?

Lance: I actually had a conversation about this last week with my friends. [There are] professional women’s and professional men’s soccer, but I don’t see them combining them…. Women can be extremely gifted technically. Like my friends in college had played with soccer women and their technique was flawless, amazing. But you can only get so far with that. If you have a five foot six girl and a six foot guy going up against each other for a head ball, you know the girl’s not likely to win that. And even if you say, ok well if the girls are quick enough to move the ball around the guy and get a couple of the guys [on her team] to get to it, or even if she has enough time to take a shot, it just won’t be as powerful as potentially another male to get the ball by the goalkeeper. In some instances though you don’t need that! In some instances, you need to pace it around a goalkeeper, and yes [women] are perfect for that, but then there’s other times when you just gotta rip it as hard as you can. So there’s just genetic things that you can’t leave behind.

Photo: M31

Photo: M31

Becky: Can I ask what brought about the conversation between you and your friends?

Lance: It was actually because I did an appearance and there was a guy that came up to me at the appearance and he [didn’t know too much] about soccer. He was a big hockey fan. But he asked me a very similar question. He was like: ‘Hey! So did you know that a female goalie for the Oilers came in and trained with the team?’ And I thought about it for a little bit and … I can see a female playing hockey because I believe goalies can’t be touched in hockey right? And so, it’s all about quick reaction…. So he had asked me that question and then I was talking to my friend afterwards [about it]. I’d never been asked that question before, so on a whole, that’s good to be discussing it in society. And yes some females are [really good] but I just don’t think they’d be better than some guys in terms of [females] being more technical and less physical.

Becky: What can be done to help promote the idea of equality between all people regardless of their background – whether that’s gender, religion, race, etc., in sports?

Lance: I think there have been steps taken towards some things. Race has been a topic that been [worked on] throughout previous decades. Religion has come about [in Edmonton] with a Muslim player that had to go through Ramadan and I thought that [would be the most difficult thing], because you’re a professional athlete, so you have to train. But you’re not allowed to fuel your body throughout the day…. But the coaches did well with it, accommodated him, which I thought was really cool! So I don’t think religion has been a big thing [in Edmonton]. Some teams still pray before games and if you are or aren’t religious you can take it for what it [means to you]. And I feel that no one gets upset about that anymore. And with homosexuality it’s just coming to light and there are guys that are coming out and I honestly think that the reception on that has been taken extremely well by most of the general public. But you still definitely have people that don’t agree with it. And for me I think that’s kind of how they’ve been raised — and until you get the majority of people that believe in [their sexuality not mattering] then things still have to be worked on.

Becky: Have you ever heard bad statements made from viewers in the stands at games towards the players about things like race, or negative comments about sexual orientation, etc.?

Lance: No, nothing like that has ever happened. They chirp at the other teams all the time. But I haven’t personally heard them say anything about race or religion, homosexuality, or anything like that. But the players are getting wise and learning how to deal with situations like that. Like — I forgot who exactly this was — but a soccer player was about to take a corner kick and this literally happened about a month ago and… somebody threw a banana at him. So the guy played it off amazingly. He got the banana thrown at him, so he goes over and he picks it up, he peels it, he takes a bite of it, and then he goes in [to the field] and he’s the guy that gives the assist to beat the other team. And he jokes and says that the banana gave him energy to build the assist to beat that team. So he dealt with that really well. But yeah there’s still definitely stuff that goes on like that. In my experience, I haven’t witnessed anything like that and I hope I don’t have to.

[The player was Dani Alves. Watch his reaction in the video below.]

Becky: Final question: FIFA, 2014, Brazil. Which team are you rooting for?

Lance: [Chuckles] I’m rooting for the US obviously. But if I have to be honest, I’d be surprised if they make it out of their bracket… Whoever wins the semi-final game — which I think is going to be Germany versus Brazil — is going to win the tournament.

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This interview is a part of the series “Identity Games” on The Times For a Feast.

Keep up to date with Lance. Follow him on Twitter (twitter.com/lanceAparker), Facebook (facebook.com/LanceAParker21), and Instagram (lanceAparker).

Shut Down In Egypt: One Artist’s Story Of Struggle And Oppression

DURING THE 2011 REVOLUTION in Egypt (commonly referred to as the January 25th Revolution), artists in Egypt began to express themselves in ways they never had before. Their work caught the world’s attention, inspiring us all to believe in change. Ganzeer was one of those artists whose work covered the walls of Cairo, documenting the spirit of the revolution, supporting its call for “bread, social dignity, and justice.”

Fast forward 3+ years, and artists and revolutionaries in Egypt are facing uncertain times. On May 29, after a two-day election, a new leader — Abdel Fattah-Sisi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) — was elected Egypt’s president. Support for SCAF has created divisions between revolutionaries in Egypt, and the leaders of SCAF have often been a focus of Ganzeer’s work.

Today, Egypt is undergoing a counter-revolution driven by the supporters of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which believes former President Morsi’s ouster — as demanded by many Egyptians in July 2013 and enforced by the army — was unwarranted. This accusation has led them to be labelled as “terrorists” who are now facing mass trials and much worse. In addition, the government has been widely criticized by human rights groups for the mass arrests of protesters and members of the media.

But the ongoing revolution hasn’t stopped Ganzeer from fighting for positive changes in Egypt’s future. I interviewed him to discuss the role of art in Egypt’s struggles. He also talks about his childhood pleasures and the daily issues he faced as a resident of one of the world’s largest metropolises, Cairo.

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Ganzeer stands to the left with a friend and fellow artist in front of one of his murals depicting a zombie soldier. Ganzeer has been critical of the role of the army and other groups in power throughout the ongoing revolution. Photo: Abdelrhman Zin Eldin

 

Did you grow up in Cairo and what were some of the best things about growing up in the city? 

Yeah I grew up in Cairo. In a little neighborhood in Heliopolis called Ard El-Golf, which is right behind the abandoned Baron Empain Palace constructed in 1911. Far from the hustle and bustle of Downtown Cairo, or even Egypt’s lifeline: The Nile River. I feel like I never really got a taste of “city life” till much later. Today Ard El-Golf is a go-to hangout area, with many popular cafes, sushi spots, and bridges and tunnels and high cake-like buildings and what have you. But back in the 80s/90s it was pretty much a semi-quiet residential neighborhood with many stray dogs befriended by me and other kids my age. My school was around the block and the couple friends I made were in the neighborhood.

I feel like I only really faced the city – understood the scope of the city and all that – when I had to go to college which was in a town called Banha, a 30 minute train ride from Cairo. But I would spend roughly an hour and half in public transportation just to get to the train station. I don’t think I’m a big city kinda guy. I find myself much more comfortable in more intimate communities that are more connected with nature. But don’t get me wrong! I am fascinated by cities, and megacities and how they function. Cairo’s crazy in just the layers of history that are apparent in every facet of the city. The architecture, the food, the conversations, it’s such a culturally rich city but it’s also one that carries a lot of baggage!

What are some of the most important things that are needed for a better quality of living in Cairo and Egypt right now?

First off, about seventy-five percent less people! There’s no way any city on the planet can accommodate [over] twenty million people! The number of people living in Cairo are having such a huge toll on the transportation system, the architecture, the environment. On the urban planning front, the city just can’t keep up – it’s always much, much behind. I’d put most of the development money into the rest of the country’s towns and villages, get people to decentralize and spread out.

Secondly, private cars need to be banned. Of course, it’s difficult to get around a city and spread out in Cairo without a car, but seriously, it’s just out of hand. I understand that it’s easier for the government in the short run to let people buy cars (making money in the process), but in the long run, it becomes unbearable for everyone. The city really needs to ban cars and focus entirely on developing its public transportation options to reach capacity and maintenance.

A view of the Baron Empain Palace built between 1907 and 1911. The architecture was inspired by Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and by palaces in India. (Amr Moustafa Shalaby)

A view of the Baron Empain Palace built between 1907 and 1911. The architecture was inspired by Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and by palaces in India.
Photo: Amr Moustafa Shalaby

Thirdly, all this stuff should be running on solar energy or electricity or whatever. I’ve seen solar energy panels cladding the roofs of farm houses in freakin’ Germany. GERMANY … it’s cloudy most of the year. But Cairo, the sun shines bright even all winter. It’s just dumb to depend on gas the way we [all] do. It’s the only way if we don’t want our people [in Egypt] to all drop dead and die from lung disease, which by the way, a lot of us already suffer from.

And lastly, water canals. It’s ridiculous to grow up in some part of the city two hours away from the Nile, with no direct access to it and only read about the Nile and its significance in history books. If they expect to teach us the importance of the Nile and our historical connection to it, then whenever a new extension of the city is planned, a Nile artery should be the first thing in that plan. Plus, it would offer a good alternative to getting around the city, much better than overcrowded asphalt roads (which discharge so much heat throughout Egypt’s extended summer months).

Did you ever join the sit-ins in Tahrir or any protest gathering points in Cairo? What was it like for you?

I just so happened to be there on January 25, 2011 when the revolution first broke out and boy it was the most thrilling and exhilarating time of my life. Seeing people band together and sacrifice themselves in the face of armed troops with nothing else but their voices, and all for what? For other people, people they don’t even know, future generations they will never meet. It was such a glorious thing to experience, the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to seeing God or something. Indescribable.

Photo taken by Mostafa Hussein. On his blog on March 16, 2011 Ganzeer wrote this about his project to create murals of martyrs, “The goal is to, on one hand, honor the martyrs, and on another hand provide passers-by with a reminder of Egypt's struggle for freedom, democracy, and equality.” This particular mural depicts 16 year old Seif Allah Mustafa who lost his life during the January 25th Revolution.

On his blog on March 16, 2011 Ganzeer wrote this about his project to create murals of martyrs, “The goal is to, on one hand, honor the martyrs, and on another hand provide passers-by with a reminder of Egypt’s struggle for freedom, democracy, and equality.” This particular mural depicts 16 year old Seif Allah Mustafa who lost his life during the January 25th Revolution. Photo: Mostafa Hussein

When did you first realize that you enjoyed art?

[When] I was about four or five years old. My older brothers had lots of Dungeons and Dragons catalogs, and Nintendo game cartridges, and superhero comic books, and I was just always fascinated by the art in those things and would spend many hours trying to copy them.

What’s the first work you did on the walls of Cairo as part of the Revolution? 

The very first thing I did was not at all planned. Nor was it an artwork at all really. But being in Tahrir Square on January 25th when the revolution broke out, and just so happening to have a can of spray paint, I climbed an NDP (Mubarak’s National Democratic Party) billboard in the middle of Tahrir Square and spray painted what people were chanting “Down with Mubarak”. The crowd erupted with cheers and whistles.

The first “artwork” I created however, was on February 2nd – a black stencil of visual symbols that pretty much visually stated that Mubarak does not equal Egypt. This was after Mubarak’s second public speech since the revolution broke out – a highly emotionally charged one that many, many, people were actually starting to fall for.

A protester holds up one of Ganzeer's stencils on February 11th, 2011. This was the day when Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak's three decade presidency in Egypt had finally come to an end.

A citizen holds up one of Ganzeer’s stencils which expresses that “Mubarak does not equal Egypt” on February 11th, 2011 in Cairo. This was the day when Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that former President Hosni Mubarak’s three decade presidency in Egypt had come to an end. Photo: Ganzeer

Was street art common in any part of Cairo before the revolution? How did people react to it before the Revolution?

Not really. Just a hand-full of rather content-less stuff in Heliopolis and Alexandria [Egypt’s second largest city]. Very cool and pretty to look at but without much meaning to it.

Egyptian jail cells have gained a notoriously bad reputation in the world’s eyes since the Revolution began in January 2011. For your work as a multi-medium artist helping the Revolution you were briefly arrested. Would you be able to tell me about your experience and how it happened?

So far, I’ve been lucky enough to not have to set foot in a jail cell at all. When I was detained, I was welcomed into the office of a high-ranking military officer who offered me a soda and later in the day a Nescafe. They were all eerily very nice and I was released on the very same day.

This design entitled "Evil Military" by Ganzeer references "the girl in the blue bra". After a video was released online during a December 2011 protest, showing the brutal beating of a female protester – whose shirt during the beating was opened, revealing her blue bra underneath – by soldiers, the video became a rallying call for protesters demanding an end to the military's power.

This design entitled “Evil Military” by Ganzeer references “the girl in the blue bra”. After a video was released online during a December 2011 protest, showing the brutal beating of a female protester – whose shirt during the beating was opened, revealing her blue bra underneath – by soldiers, the video became a rallying call for protesters demanding an end to the military’s power.

Read more about Ganzeer’s incident in jail in his own words here.

Much of your work is critical of (SCAF) or establishments – ie. Political, Religious, Art, etc. – that oppose freedom or change and growth. Have you faced a lot of negative reaction to your work by these groups?

All the time. Hardly anything I do is not met with a negative reaction from someone [such as Ibn Salaama].

This work, Tank vs. Biker, is one of Ganzeer’s internationally recognized murals which clearly shows in black and white stenciling his opinion about the relationship between the army and the people. On the left, a huge tank rolls forwards aiming its main gun at a target. A young man riding his bike on the right carries the city on his head in place of a loaf of bread. The Arabic word for bread sounds similar to that for life. Photo: Mehri Khalil

Has the SCAF or any other group in your opinion taken the Revolution away from the people and their goals of gaining “bread, social justice, and dignity”?

Yes. Particularly SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Salafist groups.

How do you feel about the proposed law to ban graffiti in Egypt and send accused artists to jail for four years? Do you fear being a target?

Well, it’s not like the revolution itself was ever legal. It was illegal but we did it anyway. And it’s not like doing graffiti was a totally safe game up to this point either. One could easily have been charged with plotting against the state with the type of graffiti we’ve been doing so y’know… we’ll always try and do what we think is the right thing to do even if the government oppresses us. It’s always been that way anyway.

***

Check out Ganzeer’s website for more of his work: www.ganzeer.com.

For more insight, read my profile piece on his work and the events on Mohamed Mahmoud Street — a street not only recognized for its revolutionary street art but for the stories of struggles that occurred on it: markermagazine.com/paint-tear-gas.

See this interview on Matador Network: matadornetwork.com/change/shut-down-egypt-artist

Up Close: An Extended Interview with Alberta Ballet Choreographer and Dancer, Yukichi Hattori

Yukichi Hattori has been given the great task of changing the way people look at the arts, specifically, the art of ballet. Since graduating from the Hamburg School of Ballet, he has shown audiences across Germany, Japan, and Canada new interpretations on how ballet still has a lot to offer to our lives, not only in terms of cultural enrichment, but also as a resource for looking at how the values of commitment, hard work, and dedication can pay off when continually practiced. Now with his choreography of Temple (one dance from the three-part contemporary ballet, Up Close) being shown in Edmonton, he gives audiences a chance to witness and connect to what the rehearsal environment is like, featuring the men of Alberta Ballet.

Photo of Yukichi Hattori taken by Paul McGrath.

Photo of Yukichi Hattori taken by Paul McGrath.

What is it about the men of Alberta Ballet that brings this performance [of Temple] to life?

The females happen to be always busy. Like two years ago they had Swan Lake to prepare and this year they have Giselle to prepare. So because of that they’re not involved, but it’s not because I’m trying to be exclusive per say [laughs].

It takes two [both the audience and the male dancers] – creative dancers and creative audiences –  being in such [a] close space – you can feel the breath and things like that, that makes it so much more intense. In a bigger stage of course there are things we can do that are different and that touches people in other ways, but in an intimate setting like this, you really feel that you’re having a conversation throughout the performance… I really feel that we [the dancers and the audience] have a nice conversation with each other.

What are you hoping that audiences will take away from this performance [of Temple] in addition to having a conversation with the dancers?

This piece I’ve made is based on our daily training. Unfortunately, in North America there are a lot of people who still think that being a ballet dancer isn’t a real job. Sometimes I still get lots of questions like, “So what do you do during the day?” [Laughs] Yeah, so I have this frustration of people saying that I should get a Master’s degree in Dance or Art and things like that, and just because we didn’t go to a school that is recognized, we get labelled from people who don’t understand what we do. So [Temple] is to show how much concentration and how much discipline goes into ballet. I’m making a piece around that and I’ve combined it with Gregorian chants —which is the oldest style of European music sung by men [a long time ago] and these days there are females involved as well. [The show is] almost a religious environment; we show audiences our bodies are temples and that we have to build it each and every day through discipline and repetition.

In one interview, you mention the ballet scene in Japan is strict because it’s “bound by tradition”. You also refer to your training with the Hamburg Ballet in Germany as being rigorous. So how do both experiences influence the way you’ve chosen to choreograph Temple in Up Close?

Hmm, well I think it was very conservative—both Japan and Germany. You know, in Europe ballet is considered traditional art and as a ballet dancer, you have a very high social status, meaning it comes with great responsibility. You are expected to have a certain amount of knowledge about art and views about policies of art and education. So for myself, I feel a great sense of duty and because the people in North America doesn’t see dancers/artists in such ways quite yet –it’s not as intense as Europe—I feel that dancers here also aren’t as disciplined, but of course they’re working really hard and I’m not trying to disrespect anybody but I’m looking at the mindset which is a little bit different. Sense of duty [towards the arts] is a bit lower here: you dance because you want to do it, because you feel like it’s your calling. For me, it’s more about … [having] to make it as best as possible no matter what the circumstances are.

Ok. So there’s a bit of duty in there, but still your own freedom of expression comes through in what you’ve chosen to present as well?

Yes. We can only attain a certain freedom through proper construction in your body, and architecture in your mind.

Do you think people have responded positively to Up Close in the past [parts of the three ballets that make up the show were also performed in 2012 and 2013] because contemporary ballet relies on experiences from the world we recognize compared to classical ballet?

Definitely! I think what it is, is the setting is ideal for it. The world now is much smaller, so the theatre being smaller also matches with that too. But then again, classic ballet in the studio, it will be a little bit disappointing because you’re missing the point of view, the grand picture, the budget, that kind of stuff. But what I’m trying to say is that if we performed contemporary in a bigger theatre, we’d have to change the approach because you’re missing all those tiny details. So Up Close is I think successful because of the setting being right. That’s why in Edmonton, we’re not presenting it in the big theatre–to keep that intimacy.

So do you see yourself continuing to make contemporary shows like this in the future?

Oh definitely! In Germany, I went to Hamburg Ballet School and they had a choreographic curriculum so I’ve been choreographing since I was say 15. I just started doing it professionally around 2004 but it’s been a long process and it’s been part of my life, so I’ll definitely keep going.

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Take a look at the promotion of Up Close on Marker’s website: http://markermagazine.com/yukichi-hattori-alberta-ballet-choreographer-and-dancer/

The Photographer who Climbed Egypt’s Great Pyramid [Q&A]

You’ve probably seen the famous black and white Depression-era photo where construction workers sit on the ledge of a crane with New York City beneath their feet as they eat lunch. Influenced by the idea of capturing the world from as high as “Lunch atop a Skyscraper” did, young photographers have been scaling  rooftops to take photos just as memorable.

Vadim Makharov, a young Russian photographer who helped advance this new trend, sees “roofing” or “skywalking” as a way to make people see how big the world really is in an age where technology and communication have made it so conveniently small. He works with fellow photographer and friend Vitaliy Raskalov, walking on ledges and wandering the underground to give people a view  of the world they may never have seen before. Together, they’ve gained the media’s attention, in particular for their climb to the top of the Great Pyramid  of Giza in March of 2013.

Some criticized them for disrespecting the site and efforts to preserve it,  while others praised the art that resulted from the climb. Despite the positive attention, Vadim and Vitaliy still apologized in an interview with CNN, saying  “we didn’t want to insult anyone. We were just following [our] dream.”

As I discovered over the course of this conversation, Vadim will continue to  live his dream, traveling and revealing secret places and unique perspectives of the world’s iconic sites.

* * *

You recently visited European countries like Sweden, Spain,  Germany, and France. What inspired your recent trip throughout  Europe?

It was not our first visit to Europe, but [Vitaliy and I] haven’t done such a long-scale trip through Europe before. Our goal was to visit the most  famous places in Europe and to climb them — and we’ve done it.

Photo taken by © Vadim Makhorov.

Photo taken by © Vadim Makhorov

You collaborate with Vitaliy on a lot of these projects, from Egypt  to your recent trip to Europe. What’s it like to work with him?

He’s my very good friend. I’ve traveled with him all throughout Russia and then we started exploring other parts of the world. We achieve better results  when we do photos together than alone.

Do you have a favorite or memorable image you captured from your  trip?

Most of all, I remember Cologne Cathedral and the way we climbed it. We didn’t like the city very much, but the Cathedral was fantastic! I liked the size and the architecture. We liked climbing the flagpole [as well], which was a  little more than 150 metres. Another memorable climb was the Sagrada Familia and also Notre Dame. All together, these three cathedrals made our trip really stand  out.

Photo taken by © Vadim Makhorov

Photo taken by © Vadim Makhorov

Many of your photos are “daredevil” shots – pictures taken on the  edges of buildings and iconic landmarks, or even behind subways leaving  underground stations. Why do you take images from this view?

These are the places where people usually don’t go, so I have a chance to  make unique pictures. I have a possibility to show people the city from different points of view, and underground it’s a completely different story.  Usually it’s hard to get there, but unlike rooftops, which you can see from the ground, being underground is about what you cannot see — not many people are  aware of these places. In order to get there, you have to work hard and this is appealing [to me].

Since your photos show perspectives of the world we don’t see too  often, do you think they’re historical records for the future, to remember the  world as it once was?

Perhaps one day, they’ll have some historical significance. But I don’t think about it now in this way. In my photos — it’s my art. They’re not related in any way to my points of view on social issues. I just want to show the way that I visually see the world.

Egypt is one of the places I have always dreamed of visiting. You’ve  had the chance to visit in March of this year, and I think it’s fair to say that  your trip was more memorable than most people who have traveled to Egypt,  because you climbed the Great Pyramid in Giza. What did it feel like to reach  the top?

I dreamed for a long time to be in Giza and to see the pyramids close up.  Then, when I started climbing roofs [of other buildings], I realized I could climb the pyramids. Why not? When I reached the top, I had a feeling similar to what a mountain climber must feel, like a conqueror, reaching the top of the  mountain.

Photo taken by © Vadim Makhorov

Photo taken by © Vadim Makhorov

Did you find anything interesting at the top?

At the top there were words scratched in the stones in many different  languages. It means others have climbed the pyramids in the past. We are not the first and won’t be the last. Another interesting thing we found was a book by  Moses Gates — he does a lot of traveling and climbs roofs and goes  underground.

There have been a lot of opinions about your climb [of the Great  Pyramid] — some people admire what you did and the photos you took, while others  criticize you for illegally climbing it. Why did you do it?

First, we did it for us. That’s why we don’t care about the critics. Second, we do it for the people. We make beautiful shots that are delivered and given to the world. I don’t think we do anything that can truly be called bad. What we’re doing [with our photography] is beneficial work.

Have you ever run into trouble trespassing in areas to take your  photos before?

Oh yes, we’ve had some problems with the police. In Russia, we know the process: Once you trespass on secured property, if [the] police catch you, you  pay a fine of 500 rubles [about 12 euros or 16 US dollars]. But these cases are rare and usually nobody catches us.

Has this or any negative criticism from the media ever made you think  about stopping or changing the style of pictures you take?

I rarely encounter my work with negative criticism … I take shots from heights because I like it. But someday in the future I’ll be tired with it. Even now, I don’t do all my shots from the roof. My second favourite POV is commercial or industrial plants. I like taking shots of plants, electric stations, and different manufacturing facilities.

Where would you like to travel to next to take pictures?

Our next trip planned is Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and possibly Afghanistan.

***

What are your thoughts about this new photography movement? Do you think it’s ok to break the rules in the name of art? Share your thoughts on this post or comment on my twitter @beckyhaganegyir. I look forward to reading your thoughts and opinions!

Take time to see more of Vadim’s work here: http://500px.com/dedmaxopka

See the original interview here: http://matadornetwork.com/notebook/the-photographer-who-climbed-egypts-great-pyramid-qa/#J0VYzAoMcW8cwT47.99

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Update from February 2014 :

Check out this recent vid of Vadim and Vitaliy’s climb to the top of Shanghai Tower (at over 650 meters!):

The Miseducation of Femcees: Two of Edmonton’s Female Rappers Show Love For Their Culture

This is the last in my series that explores hip-hop culture in Edmonton. I’ve discovered the strong voices that artists have and choose to share with their community, and there’s no better way to finish than to have these two powerful femcees voice their opinions about their culture.

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Tzadeka and Mc Lovely are two female emcees or “femcees” whose rhymes aren’t just about experiences as a woman, but they’re about human experiences, inspired by their surroundings in the city. Tzadeka, whose name is inspired by the Hebrew word for righteousness, represents this to the fullest in everything that she does as a performer. Mc Lovely, for the last ten years has been rallying females involved in all aspects of hip-hop culture. Together, both give their opinions and insights about the importance of hip-hop to them and why people in Edmonton should take notice.

Who’s your favourite hip-hop idol?

Tzadeka: I’m not sure I can name my one and only hip-hop idol — but I will name some names. I love Bahamadia for her deep, smooth vocals, real life content and non-hyper sexualized persona. Jean Grae for her fierce sometimes angry flows. Lauryn Hill for being a sick MC as well as an incredible vocalist. Kinnie Starr for representing Canadian aboriginal femcees with an enduring need to challenge how humanity at large is ‘pornified’ and what that means for women in hip-hop and women in general.

I was first turned on to hip-hop by my older sister in the 90’s — Tribe Called Quest and Diggable Planets were my entry point. I love strength and integrity in music and I am inspired by, particularly women who exemplify it in an industry that promotes women as sex objects in so many cases.

Mc Lovely: I try not to idolize celebrities or performers. We are all just people. I treat everyone equally, with respect and dignity. I have opened for a lot of people who most would consider famous…. When it comes to my favourite MC it would have to be Black Thought from the Roots. His songs filled with lyrical skill, harmonies, and thought, have always moved me.

Picture taken by Flavor Edmonton.

Picture of McLovely taken by Flavor Edmonton.

What’s your definition of hip-hop?

Mc Lovely: My hip-hop is a reflection of my life in poetry form. A way of explaining life and emotions from love to frustration. Each song I produce is not some frivolous topic a label is making me rap about. It’s a defining moment in my life: that time I had my heart broken, that ladies night out with my best friend, my love of comics, a confession to a friend.

Tzadeka: Hip-hop is a culture, so it’s a constantly growing, expanding organism. It’s living. I think it’s almost beyond definition because so many artists are taking it to different places and fusing it with different cultural art forms and modes of expression.  I guess that’s how I see hip-hop — as a means of expression that’s not limited to music. It’s dance, visual art, beats and rhymes, lyricism — everything. Hip-hop has been adopted and adapted by so many communities, especially marginalized ones that it’s a powerful means of communication and expression of identity! I work in the inner city with mostly First Nations youth and I see how drawn these kids are to hip-hop and its ability to empower, giving a voice to those who feel they have none.

Photo taken by Tzadeka.

Profile photo taken by Tzadeka.

How has it influenced you as an artist?

Tzadeka: … I have been intensely inspired by hip-hop, but at the same time, I wouldn’t say that I’m exclusively tied to the genre. I was raised on world music, jazz, blues, classical and roots (my dad’s a classically trained cellist and lifelong musician) so I like to think that the music I create is informed by these musical traditions too. I started out doing spoken word as a teenager and it just sort of developed organically into something that resembles hip-hop. I have always been drawn to oral traditions and storytelling and so that’s kinda my point of origin.

Mc Lovely: As an artist, I am constantly changing just as my life has changed. Skill grows with every year. Hip-hop has been my routine for over a decade. It has helped me draw, write, design clothing, dance, smile. Hip-hop is the love of my life.

Do you think of yourself as an artist or as a woman artist?

Mc Lovely: I think of myself as a poet. Being a woman is usually only important to the men in the scene. “Oh look a girl MC — what an oddity”. When it comes to being a woman in hip-hop, I try to help other girls struggling or just starting out. That’s what my Promotions Company, Ladies United Voice, is all about. Whether a girl is a producer, rapper, DJ, dancer, graffiti Artist, clothing designer, I try to help so that she doesn’t give up. I support female hip-hop not because it’s better but because it is equal. We deserve to be heard.

Tzadeka: I think of myself as an artist and a woman artist. But I’ve found that especially in hip-hop a lot of people react with surprise that I’m an MC, not just a “singer” ‘cause I’m a woman. My aim for many years has been to work with girls and women to promote community and solidarity amongst femcees so that there is a safe space to create and showcase music in what I see as a very male-dominated genre. I don’t represent all female MC’s, but I am a woman. My lyrics speak to my experience in the world as a woman and much of the work I do in the community focuses on female mentorship and empowerment…so ya, I guess I do identify as a woman artist a lot of the time.

Photo taken by Kavan the Kid.

McLovely reading her favourite comics. Photo taken by Kavan the Kid.

Why in your opinion, is hip-hop an important part of Edmonton’s culture?

Mc Lovely: Hip-hop gives an outlet for expression to many people who have no other way of relaying their struggle. Edmonton has many poets and artists that want to influence how we interact daily.

Tzadeka: In Edmonton, there’s a pretty sweet little music scene and hip-hop is a part of it, but often I see the different genres sticking to their own and promoting artists that are similar to themselves.  However I have seen this start to change and open up more and more.  Punk bands, folk and indie rockers, hip-hop heads and reggae bands are all coming together and realizing we are all different flavours of the same musical substance.

Photo of Tzadeka performing taken by Kara Rain.

Photo of Tzadeka performing taken by Kara Rain.

Mc Lovely: That song you hear when you wake up that puts a smile on your face, the Mural you drive by on your way to work, the dancer you see in Churchill Square. It all becomes a part of who you are.

Tzadeka: I know there’s Edmonton femcees out there but I want to see more of them. I want to see them headlining shows, supporting each other and getting supported by all the dudes in the scene. I see this as really important. If there’s a show with all ladies on the lineup GO SEE THEM! Music is music is music and hip-hop is even more than music. It’s community, identity, and a voice from the margins. That’s why it’s important for Edmonton to hear it!

Take a look at the online edition here as well: http://markermagazine.com/the-miseducation-of-femcees.

Crossing Musical Boundaries: An Interview with D2D’s Sanjay Seran

It’s no accident that Delhi 2 Dublin (also known as D2D) are being requested at more music festivals across the world. Their music transcends different genres of music. Some people call it a fusion of Celtic and Bhangra sounds and one observer of their performance even called it “Celtic Reggae”. But as I discovered talking to lead singer, Sanjay, at the 2013 Edmonton Folk Festival, their music isn’t meant to be contained into one genre, and maybe that’s the reason why many people refer to it in different ways. D2D creates a sound that is exactly what music should be – enjoyable and an opportunity to forget yourself in the moment while listening to D2D’s beats.

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Picture of Sanjay Seran performing at the Edmonton Folk Fest taken by Vic Mittal.

Picture of Sanjay Seran performing at the Edmonton Folk Fest taken by Vic Mittal.

When you were young, did you imagine you’d be touring the world as a musician when you grew up?

I never imagined I’d be a musician as a kid. But, I had a feeling – that started around grade 9 or 10 – that there was something that I needed to do. Then, I went through university and played the dohl and did music on the side. I have always been about singing.

Does cultural heritage inspire your music more or less than representing yourself as an individual artist/musician?

The cultural side comes out a little more because it’s easier to accept – there’s a lot to reference to with it. The artistic side comes out a lot differently because there’s nothing to refer to. You know, I listen to a lot of Kid Cudi and Lana Del Ray, and I’d love to express myself the way that they do, but when I go that way, I feel a bit shy. But going back to the issue of cultural heritage, yes, the artistic side gets pushed back because it’s more comfortable to be cultural. Ideally, you’d be “artistically cultural”.

Some people call your sound “fusion”, others “world”, but what do you call D2D’s sound?

I don’t call it anything really. [To people who need to label it] call it whatever you want if it means something to you. It’s us. It’s Canadian music brought together by people from across Canada, who ended up together in Vancouver, and who enjoy electronic and cultural music.

Your music plays with so many different sounds that move past world music in a way. Sometimes, I think it’s easy to see world music as being deeply rooted in tradition… as always being the same and not evolving. But every generation with their interests, makes sure it evolves.

That’s the thing. Tradition has to have some kind of meaning for it to last. Anything done without meaning doesn’t mean a thing. Hopefully, [as an artist working with a tradition] you’re making things that resonate with you and then you hold on to it. That’s something that D2D works to do with the music we make.

Speaking of the value of different cultural traditions, I know you’ve performed in Irelandhow did the audience there respond to your music?

In Ireland, we played to a small crowd and everyone liked it. Europe is way more ahead in their sound.

You haven’t been to India yet. Are you planning to go soon?

We’re making plans to go this September. In India, I think they’re going to love it! India has a lot of fans of electronic and party music. Also, Bhangra is still very popular…. So I think it’ll go really well – it has [our music] all the elements that people [in India] love.

You have so much energy on stage and the connection with your audience is great! I saw a video, where you sent out a canoe with someone in it to go “paddle surfing” through the audience. How did you come up with that idea?

[Laughs.] It was for a show we played in Vancouver. That was T’s idea [Tarun is an electronic and tabla player and back-up vocalist in D2D]. T really wanted to put out a canoe – and you see canoes all around Vancouver all the time – and he also hadn’t seen anyone do that before.

Do you have any other memorable connections between D2D and an audience or fan?

Yeah, we have some really cool fans that have even become friends. In Northern California we have friends that started out as a posse that would come out to see us when we would perform there. This doesn’t happen all the time. There’s also a connection with the audience that we’re putting out there. It hard to really explain…but you can feel it on stage, where you’re feeding off of the audience’s energy and the audience is also responding to what you’re putting out there. We respect them [the audience] just as much as they respect us.

So what’s next for D2D?

We’re working on a collaboration with the Funk Hunters [an electronic Canadian DJ duo] – we don’t know what that’s going to end up being like. It could be an EP or it could even be a mini-documentary. We’re also going to do some fests in the UK. What we’re focusing on now is really to continue developing our sound.

Check out more of D2D’s music on their website: www.delhi2dublin.com.

See the original here: http://markermagazine.com/delhi-2-dublin/

A YEG State of Mind: An Interview with Hip-Hop’s Locution Revolution

In Edmonton, as an entertainment and festival capital, many different cultures are celebrated. Hip-hop culture is a quieter force than many of the arts and cultures exposed throughout the city, but it’s growing strong. Hip-hop in Edmonton experiments with its own distinct sound, pulled together from the many art and cultural influences within the city. Locution Revolution is one talent creating their own YEG [“Young. Edmontonian. Gifted.” — a label promoted by local designer Solidaritees] sound that iD (a member of the group) told me is “grown folk-country-banjo-urban-rap hip-hop”.

How does Edmonton inspire your music?

iD: I would say it’s almost indirect — you don’t know it’s there, but it is. You listen to rap from around here and it has its own sound. You don’t hear songs about three feet of snow from rappers in California, but you hear three feet of snow raps in Edmonton.

So is the city in a way your muse?

Khiry Tafari: It’s about reping where you’re from. It’s a lot about making it your own and representing YEG.

So how does representing YEG make hip-hop stand out from places like Toronto?

iD: We have totally different sounds, especially if you look at Toronto and you look at Edmonton and they’re polar opposites almost — for the most part, Toronto has a more commercial sound and Edmonton sounds are more…

Khiry Tafari: Diverse.

iD: Yeah, there’s a whole lot of different sounds, and I’m sure Toronto has a whole lot that I haven’t been exposed to underneath the surface…but Edmonton and a Prairie rap sound comes right down to the dialect [here in the city].

I’ve noticed that here people try and get back to the roots of hip-hop — especially in trying to stand out and make people take notice of what you’re doing.

iD: Yeah and I think that’s something that just happens. You don’t try to be Edmonton [by MCing]… it grows when you develop a style, you develop a sound, and that’s how it’s developed.

Khiry Tafari: Hip-hop is very community minded…. We also realized no one would put us on the map unlike a bigger centre like Toronto, so we had to step it up.

Do you have a message for people who look at hip-hop as offensive?

Khiry Tafari: I’d say, let us perform for you. Someone who watched us and had his own [negative] notions of hip-hop once told us once “you guys have something to say” and he was just in amazement because he saw that rap and hip-hop is who we are and that our messages about living life comes through.

iD: Nobody is going to rap the same way as you — that’s what makes us individuals. Rap has so much influence, especially for kids coming up, and they often play a part because of what they’re hearing. So if you think about your song becoming a hit and everybody in the world gets to hear it, what is it that you really want to say? Do you want to be bragging about swag and popping bottles and hanging with models? You’ve got the floor use it! Otherwise people aren’t going to give you floor next time — it’s a privilege not a right to be on the microphone.

Khiry Tafari: When I was starting out, it was all about battles — about earning respect.

How is your music different from your fellow artists in Edmonton?          

iD: The dynamic between us is “unduplicatable”. Individually, I’m a country boy. I’ve got a whole different experience from growing up in the countryside. But together, we both bring something completely original to our sound.

Khiry Tafari: Overall, we’re not afraid — we’re entirely different from everyone else. He’s the country guy and I’m the city guy. For any one band to rise, to be the cream of the crop, you have to be different or have something going for you — that “it” factor. And together, we’re dynamic, we complement each other.

What’s the personal connection between you and rap?

Khiry Tafari: I never knew what I wanted to do [when I was young] until I started rapping at 22-23. I liked being on stage. Rap allowed me to use my voice to do valuable work. When I was a kid, I liked to prove people wrong — listening to De La Soul’s “I Can Do Anything” — I took that literally. But I was also athletic, but I also came to a point where I wanted to show people what I could do with my brain. I wanted people to see that I could do other things. And, I’ve developed other skills by being a rapper too — like being able to work with kids.

iD: Because I was willing to do the work [to become a rapper] it made me see that I can do anything!

What direction do you see hip-hop heading in the future?

Khiry Tafari: It’s hard to say…Rap music has been about borrowing from other sounds. Where we as musicians come in, we decide what our vibe [sound is]. You’re always going to get an original sound — my ear will always hear a different sound.

iD: With hip-hop there’s always going to be challenges and there will always be people to school.

Khiry Tafari: Focusing on the negatives [of hip-hop], means we’re going backwards, and we need to progress — and our words, our dialect have to show that peace, love, unity, and bringing up the youth for the future.

iD: Hip-hop is the future. It’s the only place that where you come from doesn’t matter.