1. The journal of Birdspeed
Birdspeed is a poet and dancer - here are her thoughts on her GLOBALEX experience:
3.3.18 - 1st Impressions Bob-Nosa and I have been in contact already so I know that we are both eager to see where this opportunity may lead us. When I first saw Bob-Nosa’s work I was immediately aware of the painful rhetoric embedded in his art that is shared by people of colour and felt a deep resonance concerning my work. I do not know what motivates him but there is a powerful message I am seeing behind the paintings and what I am excited about is exploring the darkness that is initially presented. Like my poetry, the message seems obvious at times, but I’m very sure there is a lot more than meets the eye. People often think that it is very easy to do what I do, they think it’s just about making a few body shapes and writing a bunch of sentences based on social commentary that sounds good together. However, this couldn’t be far from the truth because within every single word or rhythmic gesture there is a thought process, a spiritual journey and a whole heap of research. So, though I don’t know Bob-Nosa I have a feeling that behind every brush stroke there is a complex web of thought and emotions. I could be wrong, but as a black artist I already know you are playing with fire to make a conscious decision to portray something so emotional presented in a way that is unlikely to be received in the same welcoming manner compared to other art which is created for “feel good” purposes.
9.3.18 - 1st telephone conversation First of all I would like to say “thank you” to Globalex, because when you are so immersed in your art and often met with challenges protesting the political energy of your work you often become lonely. So, now I have started a dialogue with Bob-Nosa I am very grateful to have found that there is another artist going through similar adversities despite them being on the other side of the world. What was apparent was that we both felt a responsibility as artists to challenge corruption and bring to light serious subjects that others are unaware of, or are aware of but the topic may no longer be a “hot talking point.”
So having established what is paramount in our art and what drives us we talked about our hair. Our locs. Locs globally are connoted as a rebellious hairstyle so it is interesting that our personal style also plays a part in how we represent our art. Bob-Nosa noticed my style and commented on how Western fashion is more likely to be accepted as “high fashion” just like African art was never “high art”or part of “high culture.” Bob - Nosa then introduced me to the idea that many West Africans would rather forget he fashions of their heritage because the West deems these fashions to be “unfashionable.”
It dawned on me during this part of the conversation that both of our styles are literally “unfashionable” and only become acceptable in the mainstream when “cool” and “trending.” Our dynamic takes on our art may become a refreshing showcase in the West, but eventually “pretty” paintings will take precedence and people will feel more comfortable hearing a specific rhythmic pattern or synchronised structural dance motif. Maybe. We then continued to talk about art being a “weapon”, a “defensive mechanism” but also an act of uniting people. One of the most beautiful things about our conversation was the realisation that although we are so far apart we are experiencing the same effects of colonialism, racism and elitism. Not to mention I was fascinated and disturbed from hearing the extent to which this is happening in a place my ancestors may well have come from. Since finding out about the enslavement of African people in Libya Bob- Nosa has sought to push the boundaries of his work to remind people about the horrors which are still very prevalent in the modern world. He feels very strongly about continuing down this theme to use as part of the project and I think that though his work may seem literal I think that my job could be to bring his work to life and assist in transcending people further into the darkness. On people’s reactions to his work, it is clear that some truths are too disturbing for some and on the other hand there is also a desensitisation to traumatic subjects. Language allows me as a poet to engage with the audience by creating narratives in a unique way and will perhaps allow me to personalise the subjects in Nosa’s work so they do not appear to be too abstracted or dance into the abstraction which encourages the audience to have the desire to understand more.
The most important thing is that we care about what is going on and both feel responsible to do something about it. Though I have never done a poem about slavery per se, I have drawn upon the history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade as references in my work and often talk about the new bondage and branding that black people may find themselves to be a part of. Notions of branding and commercialising blackness as a commodity can be found everywhere in the west which I myself have been a victim of and use my own personal stories in my work. Therefore, it will be a challenge in my work to discuss physical bondage which I have never witnessed, I will need to do as Toni Morrison once said which is to unlock a “spiritual” memory . 1 Words which stood out in the conversation that I would like to explore: Disturbing, Challenge, Rebellion, Responsibility, Alien, Protest, Shackles, Locs.
Bob Nosa's final GLOBALEX piece after collaborating with Birdspeed.
Artist: bob-nosa uwagboe
Medium: Acrylic spray paint,fabric collage on textured canvas.
Size: 136cm by186cm.
10.3.18 - Some Poetical Thoughts I Had
Bob Nosa told me
“I really like Bob Marley
his songs are sung inside me.”
I went to Jamaica I saw Bob Marley’s face on
everything I saw
his face painted on rocks and toilet covers
Songs of freedom still play
I saw this in Negril
The place where the celebrities go
The grand hotels with swimming pools
When there is a beach next to the swimming pool
Rocky patches left for locals
2 I told Bob- Nosa
Bob Marley lives on
His voice lives on
And his message can be found
Somewhere I told Bob - Nosa
“I dance to West African drummers
that’s my heartbeat.”
He hears Africa
Everywhere Literally everywhere
He saw skin bleaching
He saw people cast their eyes away from his work
He saw the crumpled faces as they saw a reflection
Eyes are averted often
Attentions are elsewhere
Someone misses a beat
And we all know its a sin
For a black to be discordant
2 Before starting this project I had recently taken a trip to Negril, Jamaica and wanted to draw on similarities with my experiences there and the topic of my conversation with Bob-Nosa.