mixed media collage by Tamara Renée Davidson.
A series of short film vignettes filmed in Dakar, Senegal. April 2017.
i inherited shame before i knew what it was. at an early age i understood that my body was “too much” and if revealed (as in simply existing) it may overwhelm others. i have spent so much time being ashamed of my body and its form. i grew to hate attention to my body and actively took measures to steer away any attention.
as a child i was a tomboy who was often mistaken for a boy till puberty hit me hard. at 13 i grew large breasts and ass and my boyhood was gone. becoming a woman was thrown on me. i was called a tomboy before i had words for it and same goes with being a woman. in the 7th grade my classmate (a white boy) told me i had a body of a porn star. in highschool i was told i was a “whole lotta woman.” yet i was still just a girl. as much as i noticed my mother trying to shield me from the pain of growing into a woman, i was hurled into an existence that i did not understand or ask for. the first thing that struck me as a painfully shy adolescent was the unwanted, unsolicited attention from men and women. now, i am almost 30 and i have come to understand the power and strength in high femininity and my “overwhelming” body.
the month i spent in Senegal helped heal my inner child. the parts of me that enjoy to be seen and loved. that adore fabrics and the feel of satin on the skin. the parts of me that love to giggle and play dress up. i learned from the beautiful people of Senegal to wear your best clothes each day and pray--pray anywhere in your finest, on your knees with devotion. chant your morning psalm. drink tea with lots of sugar and sing songs with laughter. approach the world with this child-like innocence and you will find the essence of life and key to forging powerful relationship with self and others.
Modou is the tailor that i collaborated with in Senegal to make the clothes you see here. he was a gentle and quietly intense aries man. a self proclaimed legend, he encompassed the attributes of a successful, dedicated person who does not need the reassurance of the outside world. we had a very natural collaboration. his workshop was right across the street from where i lived in St. Louis. i designed the clothes, sketched, and showed them to Modou. we looked at different images and discussed how we wanted the clothes to look. i went to the nearby markets and picked the textiles out of hundreds of delectable options. he would come and take my measurements, and over the course of two days, we would do fittings and like magic, our designs came to life.
as someone with measurements that do not fit a beauty ideal, making these clothes with a young African man who respected and listened to my ideas, while simultaneously revered my beauty was healing and life affirming. one of the fabrics that i chose was a beautiful lilac color with embroidered beads. a fabric so exquisite that it is usually used solely for wedding dresses. before Modou made this fabric into a two piece skirt and top, i traveled to Dakar and bathed in the ocean with the fabric. after this, we made it into a dream outfit of mine. to be able to get so close to the fabrics and enact ritual before i wore them was a very special experience for me that i will never forget.
we made three different pieces and then traveled to the village that Modou grew up in. there were acres of sand and baobab trees. goats and sheep ran wild. a group of young boys came to watch us and we ended up taking photos together creating some of my favorite images. we shared in mutual adoration and my inner tomboy was thrilled. i found inspiration in each person, young and old because of the attention, care and creativity their outfits exuded. as an American, so much of fashion is associated with capitalism and ego. unfortunately, specifically in America, it is often a privilege to know who makes your clothes and to have an active part in the creation of what you wear. in Senegal, however, it is very common and affordable for people to have their clothes made. it was refreshing and a great reminder that your clothes are an extension of self and creativity and should be treated with dedication and care.
after Senegal, i am ready to embrace the home i have created within my body. it is my sanctuary.
written by Tamara Renée Davidson
edited by Linara Davidson
tailor: Modou Gueye
photographer: Abdoulaye Toure
graphic design: Patricia Encarnación
design + styling: Tamara Renée
we have been big admirers of the work of Brooklyn based artist, Sofya Levina for some time now. her strong visual language takes form in many mediums. from animation, painting, embroidery and sculpture Sofya creates a world all her own. we had the pleasure of asking Sofya some questions and learning more about her journey as an artist. a fascinating lady indeed! follow Sofya's instagram to see more of her work and enjoy the interview below.
can you tell us where you are from and how you began your journey as an artist?
I was born and raised in a city called Yekaterinburg on the Asian side of Russia near Kazakhstan. When I was 6 I moved to Kiev in the Ukraine, and then moved to Vermont with my family when I was in middle school. I've always really admired artists, musicians, dancers etc. and drawn little doodles and stuff, but it wasn't until about 2 years ago that I actually had the confidence to start seriously working on my own things. I guess I always felt compelled to express myself in some artistic way, and once I really started focusing and challenging myself I couldn't stop.
we love the visual language that you have established can you speak about some of the mediums you use and your inspirations? i love you that you do collage, animation, painting and embroidery!
Thank you! It definitely did not all come to me at once. Each medium has brought me to the next. Originally, when I decided to started making things I would only draw in Photoshop with an animation pad because I thought I was only going to be animating, and didn't think I was good enough at drawing to actually go out and buy art materials. But I practiced a lot and eventually got over myself and started doodling every day, and then that brought me to painting. That really opened me up to use of color, brush stroke detail, layering. Basically all the things I was doing in Photoshop, just not on the computer. That made me realize that I actually really disliked making things digitally and from that point on I've just been exploring with physical mediums. After painting, animating, and collaging came sculpting, and it's only very recently I started working with fabric and embroidery. Not really sure what drove me to start doing that exactly, but after I started, I learned that my great grandmother was an amazing seamstress who survived alone with her children just sewing for people in a very harsh social climate. She taught my grandmother to sew, who taught my mom, who taught me. It just feels really good to channel my female ancestry like that. I was even fortunate enough to have my mom hand down some embroideries from my great grandmother to me, and I look at them every day and just try to get to her level of skill and precision. I love to imagine what she thought about while she was sewing because the process is a meditation. Russian art and culture are also a huge inspiration to me, especially now that I'm older and can appreciate my birthplace. Also I think that's the reason I use red a lot subconsciously. Other than that, I would say my greatest inspirations are music and nature and just all the things we've been given on this Earth. I'm trying to disconnect myself more and more from the synthetic loops I've been stuck in, and just trying to remember that nothing man made can ever match the beauty and the versatility of the gifts of the Earth, and as a natural part of this planet, I really don't need anything else to inspire me. Of course, I am also inspired by other artists, but at the end of the day I try not to pay too much attention to the work of others because for me successful art comes from the dissociation from the known, and I just try to work slowly towards that every day.
what has been your experience being an abstract woman artist? (if you consider yourself that) what does abstraction mean to you?
I don't know if I would call myself an abstract artist because I really don't think I've honed in on a stylistic idea yet. Like, recently I read this short book Dali made with his friend Philippe Halsman called "Dali's Mustache" and it made me realize that yes, these artist were "surreal" but they didn't become like that because of the way they painted or took photos, they made things that way because that's who they were. The person comes before the art and I don't think I've found myself so concretely yet to say what group I belong to. Abstraction doesn't really mean very much to me anymore just because it sometimes just feels like a synonym people use to say random, or open to interpretation. But you can literally say that about anything that's every been made by someone who considers him/herself an artist. Just the odds that you would be alive to make something in that moment are infinitely small, not to mention that you would make choices to create what it is that you are making. It's a culmination of mindset, time, place, choice, and aesthetic and I think those concepts I try to think about when creating are abstract but not the finished work itself.
you have collaborated with musicians such as pink siifu + yung morph what is your relationship with music and how does music influence your visual art?
Music is my very first love. Since I was born probably. My mom is a piano teacher and back in Russia my dad has a huge record collection so I probably got all of that from them. In my loneliest moments before I had art or anything like that to help me through, I would turn to music religiously and still do. I've been incredibly fortunate to meet people who share my musical tastes and then take it one step further and make the music I like to listen to. It's seriously a blessing and without that I really don't know where I would be today. Working with contemporary musicians who inspire me, I really couldn't ask for anything better. They set my mind right with their work. Music gave me the rhythm to make art and without that I know wouldn't be making anything today.
All images by Sofya Levina.
Interview by Tamara Renée Davidson
haii snow day! enjoy this hibernation time and watch this brilliant film! (one of my favorites) Claudine! released on april 22nd, 1974 and starring Diahann Carroll and James Earl Jones. set in Harlem, Diahann's character, Claudine, a single mother of 6 falls in love with James' character, Rupert. Claudine, who is on welfare, has been married twice and at this point does not believe that she will find love again. plus her welfare check is dependent on her single status, thus if she ever remarries they will cut her government assistance. this very real love story displays the difficulties of single black motherhood, and black love in general.
and to top it all off, the film is scored by the one and only, Curtis Mayfield, and performed by Gladys Knight and The Pips. (it really gets no better than this yall!) the soundtrack is gorgeous! it features a gorgeous remake of the mayfield classic "the makings of you."
please enjoy with a full link to the film below!
we are utterly inspired by the fiercely feminine and androgynous presence of the beautiful, Nicaraguan born former actress and now human rights activist, Bianca Jagger. she is able to kill it in a suit or a long dress as she is unabashedly herself. please enjoy some of our favorite images of her as she is effortlessly fashionable exuding vulnerability and strength within each foto.
"lone me your funky mind cause nothing is good unless you play with it and all that is good is nasty."
a visual excursion through funkadelic album art.
in april i attended the afrofuturism film festival at BAM. i had the pleasure of viewing a once in a life time screening of the series, Cosmic Slop. called a "multicultural twilight zone,"the trilogy was created by Reginald Hudlin and executive produced by Reginald and his brother Warrington Hudlin. Reginald was also the director of House Party and Boomerang. the triology aired on HBO in 1994, hosted by George Clinton it borrows it's title from the 1973 Funkadelic album. unfortunately after the pilot season was aired HBO received death threats concerning the radical topics covered in the series including racism, catholicism, african spirituality, and domestic violence. HBO was force to stop the airing of the series and it was eventually banned. because of this it is very rare to be able to view the trilogy in its entirety! viewing the series in 2015 i can say that it was light years ahead of its time! there is nothing like this on tv now and i don't think there has ever been. i can see why it was banned! its honesty, accuracy, and creativity, created a truly masterful piece of work. it is a shame that more people are not able to see it.
luckily the first part of the trilogy entitled, Space Traders, based off the short story written by Derrick Bell is available on youtube. the premise of the story is that aliens come to the earth and essentially promise world peace and a solution to poverty and hunger in exchange for all black people on earth. the aliens do not say what they will do with the black people, but they just ask for every human with melanin. you can imagine the the raucous this stirs! it is a really an incredible story, transformative, uncomfortable, painful, and also rather humorous to watch this episode.
please watch below! comments are encouraged! this is a really great conversation starter. if you are interested in reading the short story, Space Traders written by Derrick Bell you can find the pdf here. also if anyone is interested in collaborating in putting on a screening of this please email email@example.com
below find excerpts from poems from Sun Ra's poetry book This Planet is Doomed.
"the player sat in space as all players do.."
space age needs
there must be a cosmic
dimension of music
which is attuned
to the space-age needs
of the rulers
as well as the peoples of the earth.
angels & demons
my music sings of the discipline of the depths
and darkness of space as matter
and matter of outer space as tone, and it
relates-reaches through the void to stars
beyond the places of thought-worlds
touch the stars
at night I sleep my sleep
and dream my dreams
reach into the darkness
and touch the stars
place them in new places
where I would have them
pattern them into another design
of another tomorrow's destiny
I am an instrument
I am an instrument
the timbre of my voice flies with the winds of heaven
I belong to the one who is more than a musician
he is an artist
I live to be his pleasure,
I do not flee from him when he comes to me
for instrument are not sufficient in themselves
they are old and lifeless without tortured hands and mind
the artist holds myself tenderly in his hands
first he touches the strings of my heart
too fine to be in tune with the universe
then suddenly vibrant thoughts strikes there
and music from the world of time and space is born
I am strange
I am strange
my mind is tinted with the colors of madness
they fight in silent furor in the effort to dissolve each other
I am strange
I have a potent degree of love that is so unwise
in one world that it is wisdom in another
I am strange
I no longer have respect for hate
for I am stronger than hate...
collages by Tamara Renée Davidson
we are pleased to feature the amazing artwork of our dear friend Tulsi Maya. these images are from her COPS! series under her moniker "prettywhores." Tulsi describes prettywhores as "the darling & the dirty". Tulsi is an Australian artist who "vomits up futuristic nostalgia." she is quite prolific and diverse in her imagery. The COPS! series stroke me particularly because it tackles the prevalent issue of police brutality which Tulsi describes,"as a new form of genocide against people of color." and indeed she is absolutely right. this week alone we have seen police harassment against peaceful teens in Texas and the suicide of our black angel, Kalief Browder. Tulsi uses archival black and white images of police harassment and integrates surrealism and fantasy with her illustrations. the police officers become literal monsters with tentacles, horns, and ghoulish eyes. we are a big fan of fantasy, surrealism, and science fiction at black de cool sun, because it offers us ways to push the boundaries of the way we look at our reality. Please check out the work below.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS By James Baldwin from Creative America, Ridge Press, 1962.
Perhaps the primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid; the state of being alone. That all men are, when the chips are down, alone, is a banality—a banality because it is very frequently stated, but very rarely, on the evidence, believed. Most of us are not compelled to linger with the knowledge of our aloneness, for it is a knowledge that can paralyze all action in this world. There are, forever, swamps to be drained, cities to be created, mines to be exploited, children to be fed. None of these things can be done alone. But the conquest of the physical world is not man’s only duty. He is also enjoined to conquer the great wilderness of himself. The precise role of the artist, then, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.
The state of being alone is not meant to bring to mind merely a rustic musing beside some silver lake. The aloneness of which I speak is much more like the aloneness of birth or death. It is like the fearless alone that one sees in the eyes of someone who is suffering, whom we cannot help. Or it is like the aloneness of love, the force and mystery that so many have extolled and so many have cursed, but which no one has ever understood or ever really been able to control. I put the matter this way, not out of any desire to create pity for the artist—God forbid!—but to suggest how nearly, after all, is his state the state of everyone, and in an attempt to make vivid his endeavor. The state of birth, suffering, love, and death are extreme states—extreme, universal, and inescapable. We all know this, but we would rather not know it. The artist is present to correct the delusions to which we fall prey in our attempts to avoid this knowledge.
It is for this reason that all societies have battled with the incorrigible disturber of the peace—the artist. I doubt that future societies will get on with him any better. The entire purpose of society is to create a bulwark against the inner and the outer chaos, in order to make life bearable and to keep the human race alive. And it is absolutely inevitable that when a tradition has been evolved, whatever the tradition is, the people, in general, will suppose it to have existed from before the beginning of time and will be most unwilling and indeed unable to conceive of any changes in it. They do not know how they will live without those traditions that have given them their identity. Their reaction, when it is suggested that they can or that they must, is panic. And we see this panic, I think, everywhere in the world today, from the streets of New Orleans to the grisly battleground of Algeria. And a higher level of consciousness among the people is the only hope we have, now or in the future, of minimizing human damage.
The artist is distinguished from all other responsible actors in society—the politicians, legislators, educators, and scientists—by the fact that he is his own test tube, his own laboratory, working according to very rigorous rules, however unstated these may be, and cannot allow any consideration to supersede his responsibility to reveal all that he can possibly discover concerning the mystery of the human being. Society must accept some things as real; but he must always know that visible reality hides a deeper one, and that all our action and achievement rest on things unseen. A society must assume that it is stable, but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven. One cannot possibly build a school, teach a child, or drive a car without taking some things for granted. The artist cannot and must not take anything for granted, but must drive to the heart of every answer and expose the question the answer hides.
I seem to be making extremely grandiloquent claims for a breed of men and women historically despised while living and acclaimed when safely dead. But, in a way, the belated honor that all societies tender their artists proven the reality of the point I am trying to make. I am really trying to make clear the nature of the artist’s responsibility to his society. The peculiar nature of this responsibility is that he must never cease warring with it, for its sake and for his own. For the truth, in spite of appearances and all our hopes, is that everything is always changing and the measure of our maturity as nations and as men is how well prepared we are to meet these changes, and further, to use them for our health.
Now, anyone who has ever been compelled to think about it—anyone, for example, who has ever been in love---knows that the one face that one can never see is one’s own face. One’s lover—or one’s brother, or one’s enemy—sees the face you wear, and this face can elicit the most extraordinary reactions. We do the things we do and feel what we feel essentially because we must---we are responsible for our actions, but we rarely understand them. It goes without saying, I believe, that if we understood ourselves better, we would damage ourselves less. But the barrier between oneself and one’s knowledge of oneself is high indeed. There are so many things one would rather not know! We become social creatures because we cannot live any other way. But in order to become social, there are a great many other things that we must not become, and we are frightened, all of us, of these forces within us that perpetually menace our precarious security. Yet the forces are there: we cannot will them away. All we can do is learn to live with them. And we cannot learn this unless we are willing to tell the truth about ourselves, and the truth about us is always at variance with what we wish to be. The human effort is to bring these two realities into a relationship resembling reconciliation. The human beings whom we respect the most, after all---and sometimes fear the most—are those who are most deeply involved in this delicate and strenuous effort, for they have the unshakable authority that comes only from having looked on and endured and survived the worst. That nation is healthiest which has the least necessity to distrust or ostracize these people—whom, as I say, honor, once they are gone, because somewhere in our hearts we know that we cannot live without them.
The dangers of being an American artist are not greater than those of being an artist anywhere else in the world, but they are very particular. These dangers are produced by our history. They rest on the fact that in order to conquer this continent, the particular aloneness of which I speak—the aloneness in which one discovers that life is tragic, and therefore unutterably beautiful—could not be permitted. And that this prohibition is typical of all emergent nations will be proved, I have no doubt, in many ways during the next fifty years. This continent now is conquered, but our habits and our fears remain. And, in the same way that to become a social human being one modifies and suppresses and, ultimately, without great courage, lies to oneself about all one’s interior, uncharted chaos, so have we, as a nation, modified or suppressed and lied about all the darker forces in our history. We know, in the case of the person, that whoever cannot tell himself the truth about his past is trapped in it, is immobilized in the prison of his undiscovered self. This is also true of nations. We know how a person, in such a paralysis, is unable to assess either his weaknesses or his strengths, and how frequently indeed he mistakes the one for the other. And this, I think, we do. We are the strongest nation in the Western world, but this is not for the reasons that we think. It is because we have an opportunity that no other nation has in moving beyond the Old World concepts of race and class and caste, to create, finally, what we must have had in mind when we first began speaking of the New World. But the price of this is a long look backward when we came and an unflinching assessment of the record. For an artist, the record of that journey is most clearly revealed in the personalities of the people the journey produced. Societies never know it, but the war of an artist with his society is a lover’s war, and he does, at his best, what lovers do, which is to reveal the beloved to himself and, with that revelation, to make freedom real.
THE ULTRA VIOLET EP by Tamara Renée
The Ultra Violet EP is the second electronic EP released by Harlem artist, Tamara Renée. The Ultra Violet EP blends electronic, funk, jazz, hip-hop, trip-hop, soul, blues and reggae, creating a deliciously mystifying and mood altering experience. Violet is the color of the 7th, crown chakra and the highest frequency in the visible spectrum, it is a point of alchemy and self-transformation. Violet is wholeness, completion, illumination and rebirth. The Ultra Violet EP is an offering, a mantra of the new age-the golden age. In making the EP, Tamara embarked on an initiation in which she emerged from the nine realms of darkness, letting go of a depression and instead entering the void of fearlessness, magic and illumination.
As an artist, Tamara Renée embodies the spirit of the black jaguar bolting herself into the next stage of her journey as a musician, healer, and wild woman. As stated by Maya shaman Ohky Simine Forest, “In the early Maya matriarchal civilization, the jaguar clan was a high cast of priests and priestesses. The jaguar is the greatest feminine shield of all animals. In ancient times, to become a jaguar priest involved mastering the art of shape-shifting. The jaguar is connected to the mysterious, sexual center, and the heart center using the power of pleasure and eroticism to transform the self; tantra.” Tamara has become a shape shifting woman effortlessly embracing wisdoms of ancient traditions and thus transcending genres and mediums as she explores her Self- a being deeply connected to all of her ancestors and the earth. Listen as she sings, howls, purrs, raps, moans, and groans herself into existence.
All production on the UV EP is done by Tamara Renée and Javi Santiago. The project features one track produced by Art Vandeley, and a guest feature by Guitarist Justin Matthews. Tamara worked closely with producer, guitarist, and engineer Justin Matthews to take the project to it’s final stages. Tamara cites various influences for this project including: Bjork, Sun Ra, Missy Elliot, Sade, Busta Rhymes, Massive Attack, Prince, Daft Punk, Jimi Hendrix, Jill Scott, Slum Village,Brandy, Marvin Gaye, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Melvin Van Peebles, Erykah Badu, Parliament Funkadelic, Digable Planets, A Tribe Called Quest, Curtis Mayfield, Billie Holiday,Sizzla, Martina Bird, Beenie Man, Kendrick Lamar, Janet Jackson and Minnie Ripperton.
to listen and download to the ULTRA VIOLET EP
for a free download code of the project email firstname.lastname@example.org
when you can no longer hear the hum in my heart
but can trace the pain down my neck,
bring your ears to my palms and remember for me:
how the power dances on the tip of my tongue,
how it curves into my hip.
its easy to forget in the routine of sleep
ashe is always with me.
listen to the moon for me-
see her shelter just underneath my nails
and when I can’t light my own eyes,
I need you to look for me.
pinch me into woke, into Destiny
we Earthseed are otherworldly
and like, shells break but remain whole.
this is a spiritual warfare
casted upon a previous lifetime.
remind me of truth stained into the shores of Ayití
all the way to Ferguson, Staten Island, and Baltimore.
nina simone your way into my memory
you heard assata:
we have nothing to loose but our chains.
blessings to the legend joni mitchell. a soul that has walked this earth many times. she has shared her pool of songs with us all. she is truly healing and cooling. she is currently in very poor health so send your blessings to this rainbow warrior.
below find two exquisite live videos of joni singing "woodstock" a song she wrote about the music festival that she missed in 1970. this song is quite beautiful! wow. and it is very fitting for now, another time where young folk are searching to find the truth amongst so much turmoil and strife.
the first video is her playing it in 1970 on a piano, she is around 27 so you can see she is young and almost angelic. very pure and clear. the second video is much later and on guitar! she clearly has the growth of a wild woman, who has been through winds. her voice a bit raspier and her stage presence a bit more powerful and sexy. i love them both. so thankful for a woman artist who showed you could be vulnerable, sweet, sexy, angry, powerful, and control your own vision.
We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden
Fame by Anaka Morris
the series entitled, "Fame," by Portland born, LA based photographer, Anaka Morris. we asked her a few questions about her elegant photos, all taken with film. please enjoy her images and words below.
FAME by Anaka Morris