By Glory Okeleke, August 29 2023—
At the essence of us humans, we have a makeup — a unique theme that marks our existence at the core of our beings. This past Saturday, I had the privilege to sit in on the 2nd edition of Black Fest, an event hosted by the honourable Black Inclusion Association, a collective with the primary mission to facilitate a community and space that celebrates the diversity and excellence of Calgary’s Black Community.
On this day, it was a mission of mine to discover and uncover the individualities of the Black artist: the intricacies, unconventionality and originality they each uniquely possess. Through the guidance of some indicative questions, I was able to hold some truly meaningful conversations. Here are some of my recollections.
How did you discover your passion for making music and when did you realize you were willing to commit your all to it?
“[Honestly] It was while growing up, at the age of 12, I had started doing freestyles on my own… and then just over the years in high school, through grades 9 and 10, that’s when I got good at it,” said Timmy Ifidon, who’s stage name is “‘Stro.” “At a point, I thought to myself, ‘let’s actually cultivate a skill out of this,’” he added. Ifidon recounted that from then on, he made the resolve to turn his talent into a skill.
So what is your central message? A piece of yourself you hope to leave with everyone who engages with your craft.
“I think maybe just the authenticity of actual art [and] creativity in a sense. When I make a song, I want people to listen and connect to how real and authentic I’m being,” Ifidon said.
Another central message of his is to be a light through his sound, using music as a medium to spread the good news.
“If I make a song you’ll hear it and then you’ll see my actions backing it up as I walk by, with faith and trying to embody what God has done in my music,” he concluded.
What do you hope to see more of within your industry?
“I hope to see more collaborations, between artists, creatives and entrepreneurs on different levels and on different genres, whatever it may be, just collaborating more in different creative ways,” Ifidon said.
What piece of yourself do you hope to leave with everyone who engages with your songs?
“I’ll say just to believe, believe it till you see it,” he said. “[I feel] you have to have a level of delusion when it comes to moving within this space, you have to believe it until it comes into fruition.” For Williams Sobowale, also known as “WILL” while on stage, a central message is to inspire others — even despite not seeing results immediately, we ought to believe until the fulfillment of that dream or vision.
How has being a Black Artist played a role in your craft? Would you say it has advanced you or have you faced some setbacks as a result?
In this regard, Sobowale said that being Black while simultaneously being an artist has favoured him somewhat. “It has its pros and cons, some people may think ‘he’s black, he makes music, [and thus] has rhythm probably’, [but] at the same time some may think ‘oh he’s black, he’s probably making that trap music,” he said. “I think people who haven’t heard me sometimes limit me and expect a certain kind of sound from me.”
What practices do you engage in to maintain a centred and well-balanced lifestyle?
“I like to do anything from basketball to football – European football,” he said. “I just try to maintain an active lifestyle and make sure that my values and core beliefs are being improved every step of the way.”
ANNI, VISUAL ARTIST
Describing her talent as a “God-given natural talent”, Anni, who is also known as ‘TheeButterflyArtist’ started drawing all the way back from nursery school.
“It was ingrained in me from young and I had always taken it somewhat seriously…but it’s only this year I decided to take it further,” she said.
What piece of yourself do you hope to leave with everyone who engages with your art?
In response to this question, Anni gave a summary of the different phases of her artistry and how her evolving style had impacted her over time.
“If there’s anything I want people to take away from it, I think it’s to hold on to that child-like innocence and to reconnect with your inner child,” she said.
What practices do you engage in to maintain a centred life and to be the best version of yourself?
To help remain well-balanced in her day-to-day, Anni, emphasized her love for journaling.
“[Journaling] is definitely one of the biggest things for me, and then next would be art,” she summed. “[Through] my art, I love to tell stories. All my paintings have some kind of meaning behind them…I never want it just to be pretty pictures, I want it to be a message.”
Upon witnessing Sumayyah Bakare on the runway, I could instantly tell that she was not the typical model. I saw an individual brimming with personality and so much passion for what she does.
At what point in your journey did you discover that you had a passion for modelling?
“Probably last year when I picked it up again, after COVID, and I decided I liked it…I had gone through a phase of trying to do it all independently,” Summayah said. “But then also being a full-time engineer I decided to sign with an agency…I’m only one person,” she jokingly admitted.
What was it about modelling that appealed to you?
“Well, [I think] a lot of people see modelling as this weird thing where everyone is rude, but to me, it’s just fun, it is a way of being creative,” Bakare said. “To me, modelling is a lifestyle too — it is what you bring into it that makes it what it is for you, add in a little bit of you.”
What would you say is your central message through what you do?
“Love yourself,” she said. “Just love yourself. It might take some time to get there but just be you, be free and love yourself.” Be happy and find joy in what you do: This is the central piece Summayah hopes to leave with everyone who encounters her in her element.
Only just showcasing her work for the first time on the runway during the Black Fest event, Pelumi, who also goes by the name “P.A.O Fashionz”, is a designer who ventured into fashion and design from early on, out of her love for simplicity.
What is a piece of you that you hope to leave with all who encounter your skillset and craft?
“I want to leave with them the fact that you can make your own clothes and that’s probably the most confident you’ll ever feel — in clothes that are made by you and for you,” she answered. “And modesty is also my big thing. There’s something about simplicity in you wearing the dress and not the dress wearing you.”
Being a Black artist, how has this played a role in your creative process?
“I think what has really helped me is African history because Ankara [African print fabric] is my favourite material to work with…and then I feel that it is within spaces like these that people understand the difficulties and nuances that come with making these dresses,” she explained in detail.
What are some of the practices that you engage in to live a well-balanced life?
“I’m telling you it’s God. It’s God, it’s God, it’s God,” she answered unswervingly. “It’s really just realizing and asking myself the question, ‘If I didn’t have all these things that I do, who would I be?’ Because, at the end of the day, it’s not all the things that I do, but it’s who I am.”
And so, Black Fest, something which was once only the byproduct of a “1 am rant session” between co-founders Ganiyat and Keren, has now astonishingly birthed a space for all of this genius and artistry to be harnessed.
“Though it be a thrilling and marvellous thing to be merely young and gifted in such times, it is doubly so — doubly dynamic — to be young, gifted, and black.”Lorraine Hansberry