Saturday, December 31, 2016

Black Portraiture [s] III Conference

The official booklet of "Black Portraiture [s] III: Reinventions: Strains of Histories and Cultures" contained proposal outlines of panelists and participant biographies. Artist Kudzanai Chiurai's "Genesis XI" has the cover.
Last month, something monumental happened-- life changing to be exact. Attending Black Portraiture[s] was definitely one of the most incredible experiences of the year.
For three marvelous days, a thundering triumphant intellectually rousing echo loud and proud in varied areas of Turbine Hall with profound black visual artists such as Hank Willis Thomas, Wangechi Mutu, Zanele Muholi, Sanford Biggers, Rashaad Newsome, and more in attendance. The Glass House, The Steam Room, The Engine Room, The Coal Hopper, and The Power House served as safe spaces to speak on art, activism, and scholarly research. This great doing must have been a frothy pipe dream coming true for a forum in its seventh cooperative, held previously in big cities such as New York City, Florence, and Paris. Fronted by Tisch Photo Department Chair Deborah Willis and Cornell University's Visual Studies Director Cheryl Finley, this juggernaut of a conference crashed down for the first time on the African continent, igniting provocative conversations marginalized bodies needed to have.

Johannesburg's historic Turbine Hall set stage for inevitable discussions.
A near packed house await opening remarks.
Black tote bags honor Africa and those traveling from North America.
Imperative short speeches snatched reality into its clutches, letting attentive audience become fully aware of present problems facing all brown individuals-- seeded problems that have hindered us throughout displaced history. Speakers called out for respecting diversity of disenfranchised humanity, disregarded majority speaking up for marginalized bodies, worldwide colonialism phenomenon, and understanding transcendence.

Deborah and Cheryl giving welcoming remarks.
U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard quoted Zora Neale Hurston, "adorn and transform outside world art can illuminate." He praised black women writers and artists: Gwendolyn Brooks, Lorna Simpson, Mary Sibande, Carrie Mae Weems, Deborah Willis, and Zanele Muholi. He also addressed critical concerns about issues pertaining to South African women. They were more likely to be exposed to diseases (more than 2,000 a week) and not receive medical assistance.
Artist Hank Willis Thomas says, " I think of blackness as a state of mind, not a skin color."
Zanele Muholi was coerced onto stage to sing the South Africa anthem.
"We often accept our racial naming without retort," said plenary speaker Dr. David C. Driskell, "racial naming does not define us." He spoke about various experiences coming to Africa continent. First, he came to represent William H. Johnson, curating his works at a South Africa gallery. During this experience, however, Driskell was subjected to strangely delusional apartheid reclassification-- that African Americans are considered "honorary white" due to their American citizenship, which was another way of dehumanizing. 

One of Driskell's self portraits, depicting a "positive trajectory of self."
Dr. Nikki Greene compared Maria Magdelena Campos Pons and Kara Walker's works based in the sugar plantations.
A few standout highlights:
In The Steam Room, "A Continent as a Woman" featured panelists discussing feminine roles in the arts. From Celia Cruz to Grace Jones, scholars and essayists presented brilliant reflections of their respective roles in the arts, their grand importance beyond using beauty.

Adrian Loving examined the power of Queen Grace Jones. She is a bold, brazen, colorful, risk taking, androgynous, beautiful piece of glamorous history that is always ignites a fiery dialogue.  
A promo shot of BAPS starring Halle Berry and Natalie Desselle Reid from Maisha Stephens-Teacher's "Africans As Original Hairdressers" presentation.
The For/Four Women Panel led by Jessica Rucker and Tia Thompson explained gatekeepers of blackness, acts of defiance, and rejection of surveillance. Their joint collaboration featured recorded documentations using still photography-- a unique way of capturing textures of skin, wrinkles and showing intimacy, Nina Simone's "Blackbird" in mind.
Alicia Bonaparte and Andrea Chung bridged a relationship between research and art, focusing on Jamaican midwives and the OBGYN's battle to dismiss their importance.

Another shot from Stephens-Teacher's presentation. This featured the elaborate sophistication of braided crown hairstyles-- the pure artistry and majestic design.
ArtNOIR Panel included Fhatuwani Mukheli, Nontsikelelo Mutiti, Milisuthando "Mili" Bongela (moderator), Lina Viktor, Itani Thalefi, and Mpumelelo Mcata.
ArtNOIR's “Universal Blackness” panel, which was on day two, discussed agency of importance, body transcending identity politics, hair braiding as technology, and conceptualizing idea of home for those African descendants residing all over the globe. They were focused on keeping Africa as part of their artistic narrative, some finding no sense of kinship in one specific place.

“At the Goodman Gallery opening last night, someone said to me, 'I want our city back',” Mili mentioned, saying that this person wasn't enjoying black American "coming home" philosophy. It was interesting, somewhat expected topic. Particular point of discussion was tough yet not packed with brutal punches. The artillery wasn't hurtful missiles launched at foreign travelers. In fact, they compared tension filled phenomenon to an awkward first date. Honest candid confession about black Americans seemingly taking over Johannesburg, with “homeland” speeches put a toll on local intellects. Yet Mili heroically salvaged the statement by insinuating that all African descendants share a mission-- to dismantle chains of colonialism ideals spread throughout the globe.

Transcontinental relationship between African American and South Africa: South Africa is "depicted as imbibers whereas diasporic African Americans are exemplars of modernity that Africans want to emulate."
Lupita braiding Nontsikelelo Mutiti's hair from Vogue Magazine.
Nervous Conditions: Representations of Black Femininities was this colossal final act set spearing heart, surging so deep inside an abyssal pulpit one hadn't realized existed within. Women came up to the mic, spilling uncomfortable confessions that made attentive souls feel only great empathy.  Bittersweet and dark and raunchy and broken, these opened scars delivered to listeners. In the audience, uncontainable weeping and tear droplets seeped from eyes, mouths wobbled and trembled, polished hands frantically wiping evidence .We were being reborn together, our seeds smoothly massaged, taking away damaging dirt and weed.

In every nook and cranny, gatherings were afoot.
Overall, fierce determined allegiance spread throughout, a sweetly contagious affliction brewing with splendid ideas and creative possibilities buzzing in thick air. Relationships began to form-- friendships, kinships, camaraderies. Everyone latched on to resonating words being spilled and gutted out, these triggering words igniting something rarely experienced.
For a painfully shy observer, reluctance seemed to come away at the seams, tearing away to let inside new people to cherish and support; these carefree artists, these young revolutionary thinkers. 
To say Black Portraiture, one of the best moments of my life, was well worth the travel is a great understatement. This mere wonderment provided more than originally hoped. Something viscid and engaging remains inside me like a precious gift. I had slowly unwrapped and kept its contents.
I truly cannot thank my supporters enough for the opportunity let alone the organizers who chose which candidates should share their wisdom and words with such an eloquent audience, what an unforgettable pleasure.  Thank you to my friends, my family, Black Portraiture [s] committee ad its attendees for making my year special, for granting beautiful memories to cement forever.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Vegan Mofo Day #20: Beter + Leuk

In my Vegan Mofo 2016 Finale, which is better late than never I suppose, from Africa to the land of the Dutch, I had this amazing five hour layover in Amsterdam. My good friend met me at the airport with muffins as mentioned in Notes from the Plane.  We went to Rijksmuseum to check out Veermeer and Rembrandt paintings.
Vermeer is one of my favorite painters of all time. Of course, I relished being able to stand by four of his works, especially 1669's The Milkmaid. Like most of his works, small scale and intimate, this showcases precise technical precision in ways figure's skin, her clothing, and every item on the table is rendered. The quality of Vermeer's painting skills profoundly captivates the mind.
Conveniently enough, Rachel Ruysch, one of few women painters in existence here, had a gorgeous, impressively blooming painting seeming to burst from its simple golden frame. Entitled Still Life with Flowers in a Glass Vase, painting has signature alluring beauty to assure a viewer that it is indeed a Ruysch. She was last year's focus on last year's Vegan Mofo post-- a theme on female painters.
Fresh flowers, sugar cubes, and teas decorate our painted green wood table.
For cafe lattes, cappuccinos, and other stylish hot drinks, they have options of almond and oat milks for dairy free alternatives. Other vegan treasures include smoothies, acai bowls, pancakes, sandwiches, and desserts.
She got the latte. I got the mixed berry smoothie. (Yes, I love mixed berry).
We munched on fantastic Dutch Weed Burgers-- a savory delicacy found in select Amsterdam locations! Don't worry these babies are drug free. On The Dutch Weed Burger it says, "with seaweed as the key flavour maker. The juicy patty is made of briny soy shreds and Royal Kombu, a tasty and healthy winter weed, sustainably cultivated in the Dutch region of Zeeland. The crispy O-mega bun colours bright green, due to the superfood chlorella, a microalgae packed with nutritious proteins and Omega acids. The finishing taste touch is done by our Weed Sauce, enriched with Sea Lettuce, a fresh summer weed that brings a nice freshness to this healthy snack. The burger is vegetarian, vegan, kosher and halal." Thus, the patties are moist, tender, and juicy with crisp fixings and an irresistible secret sauce better than anything McGarbage invented. Plus the buns are superb. I loved the heck out of this unique meal experience-- very artistic in a way. Plus, my friend and I discussed possibly traveling next summer-- looking at art and eating vegan food! I think this would be a solid plan. I'm on board.
Not just a foodie and coffee haven, Beter + Leuk also serves as a mini thrift shop. Sweaters, jackets, books, magazines.... and little handmade gifts galore surround the shop.
Traveling companion seated on the pretty table.
They also have high tea and brunch.
Right nearby is their other location-- a larger shopfront dedicated to indie Dutch loving needs.
There we are! A year and nine months ago, we met in Philly and enjoyed Vedge. Now we spent an amazing day in Amsterdam, but it's definitely not the last time for this dynamic intersectional vegan duo!

Vegan Mofo Day #19: Airport Vegan: Johannesburg Edition

For Vegan Mofo #19, I rather enjoyed my stay in Johannesburg. A beautiful, charming, unbelievably sublime place filled with too many sights to see on so short a visit. After escaping off airplane shuttle van, having told the driver I planned to return next year, I was in O. R. Tambo International Airport for a majority of a Sunday. First thing I did-- headed to the fancy-schmancy Woolworths for breakfast, finding a package of tasty Hot Cross Buns-- 100% vegan. I would love to make my own vegan hot cross buns someday. They're divine.
This is my first time having them! These cute, small buns were easy to break apart for ravenous devouring. Currants, raisins, cinnamon, and all kinds of holiday reminding flavors crept onto tongue and stayed between satisfactory chewing.I could have eaten the whole six pack.
See the softness?
In between window shopping at souvenir shops and free standing kiosks, travel companions are excited about lunch-- despite one not being able to consume. The mixed berry smoothie is the start off.
Vegetable korma curry and vegetable rice.
I am a little questionable about the vegan authenticity of this dish. My waiter claimed there was no butter or milk in this. Perhaps he was right. I could barely taste the coconut. I've had plentiful coconut dishes in my six days and had yet experienced something lacking that strong, present taste. Yet, I asked another waiter and he sad, "yes. There is butter and milk in that." So..... Although, my waiter came back and repeatedly rested his case, I couldn't finish my meal. I didn't have the usual stomach symptoms when having an accidental dairy moment, but couldn't fathom how one waiter insists that it's 100% vegan while another waiter is clearly unsure what's in the food. Maybe I was being too severe and feel a little guilty, but I wanted to be consciously aware as opposed to not being entirely certain.
An hour before boarding the plane, which would be leaving at 11:30PM, I discovered Mugg & Bean, a coffee bar restaurant near the gate. From the Mexican Style Street Food Menu, I ordered the pan friend mushroom torta (excluding mozzarella) with garlic, rocket (arugula), tomato, and fresh basil and a side of hot, chunky cut, rosemary-salted fries and bottomless lemonade.
Mushrooms were flavorful between warmed bread-- just needed a bit more. Fries were delicious. I'm thankful to have eaten this prior to boarding Dutch airline-- an all out cheese fest failure. Something needs to be done about KLM that's for sure.   

Monday, November 28, 2016

Vegan Mofo Day #18: The Greenside Cafe

For Vegan Mofo #18, Joburg's The Green Side Cafe in the Greenside neighborhood (near Conscious 108) offers a range of burgers, pastas, pizzas, and milkshakes. In other words, it's another vegan comfort food haven. They also have a meditation center-- how thoughtful! I caught an Uber here on a Friday night, set on painting the city red with plant based spirits.
Their menu had mouth watering appeal such as Phyllo Delight Stew (tofu and sweet potato stuffed napolita), whole grain sushi, mince and vegetable pie, raw maple cheesecake, and so much more.
This is the yummylicious Lazy Boy Smoothie consisting of coconut milk, almond butter, dates, and vanilla bean.
I ordered Lasagna a la Tegan-- pumpkin, mushroom, tomato, sauteed tofu, and macadamia nut and rosemary cashew cream. It comes out in the pan it was baked in-- nice and hot. Kind, gracious waitress, with shaved sides and dyed green, short length straight back braids, also brought a degree of spunk to the place. In fact, I rather liked each individual woman walking to and fro, there was something special about them.
I felt incredibly blessed to have dinner at such a charming dining establishment, a place finer than a lot of places I've frequented in the states. Fine quality food, fresh flowers in clear water filled vases brightening every table, and affable beautiful staff.... I couldn't have asked for a better spot.
I found it impossible to finish this rich, incredibly savory dish that tasted of autumn delight. Even though at one moment, all of the restaurant's power went out and waitresses scrambled over to tables with tea light candles, I continued eating in darkness, with eyes closed, humming over such divine comfort. Sadness did arrive when the waitress said, "I hope you come back." I really, really want to.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Vegan Mofo Day #17: Matlombe Lounge: A Divine Culinary Experience

For Vegan Mofo post #17, I wasn't particularly interested in taking lunch vouchers at the conference. My mind imagined meat sandwiches and cold salads with honey dressing. I didn't want to take chances. So imagine the surprised look on my face as while walking to Newtown Junction Mall with two other conference ladies, we spied a sign for Matlombe Lounge-- a new vegan/vegetarian restaurant. While the ladies continued for the mall, I headed towards this establishment-- giddy and excited.
When I ordered falafel, I hadn't expected it to arrive like club sandwiches. It was a terrific surprise! Grilled pita bread with flattened falafel patties, pickled crisp mixed vegetables, and avocado inside. If anyone had told me this was a falafel sandwich, I would deem them lies. I'll see if I can mimic this delicious creation at home-- so good. 
While the sandwiches were indeed incredibly scrumptious, the fries were lukewarm and greasy.
This is decaf Gingerbread Latte with Soya Milk-- fantastic and so much better than expensive Starbucks red holiday cup.
Varied sugars inside a red and white beaded cup.
They also cater for events.
Before I paid my bill, the waiter asked, "how was everything?"
"Incredible!" I told him.
We high-fived each other-- both of us happy and proud. 

Saturday Morning Breakfast

"I remember you here from yesterday," said the brown eyed waiter, dressed in clean, starched black uniform.
"You do?" I asked, surprised. I hadn't recalled seeing him.
Inside, I also hoped he didn't see me mauling falafel as though it were my last meal on Mother Earth.
"Yes," he said, offering a polite smile.
"I just love the food."
"I see that. Thank you for returning."
I grinned.
Such a wonderfully cordial exchange.

The next day, before conference's final day, I ate breakfast at the lounge, having enjoyed last visit. I started off with this awesome Nutty Banana Smoothie.
The Sunrise Breakfast Platter contained vegetable tofu scramble, grilled zucchini, sliced tomato, avocado slices, and hearty toast.
Ravenous and blissful, I devoured my morning meal with ease. Although I picked out black olives (I will never ever like olives), the vegetable tofu scramble fulfilled appetite. Pieces of mushrooms and green and red peppers tasted
Naturally, I spread avocado on the toast instead of the two butter options. I think I made right decision.
This breakfast truly fit well together! I was well satisfied on final conference day.