Live Unchained has featured over 100 artists from over 16 countries of various artistic backgrounds. Below is just a small sampling of our unchained interviews.
Nina Chanel Abney – U.S.A, NY
From an early age Nina Chanel Abney created pieces that resonated with her, even if they didn’t fulfill others’ expectations–i.e. young Nina’s painting of a bloody eyeball that caught her art teacher off guard. Paper Magazine described her work as combining “strong feminine and masculine images infused with humor, irony, perversity, satire and fantasy.” As to the playful, challenging nature of her paintings, she says they’re “easy to swallow, hard to digest.” Having exhibited works throughout the United States and abroad, being featured in The New York Times, Essence and Glamour, people like us, are eager to see the stories her paintings have to tell because they make us better–even if we have to choke a little. For Nina, to Live Unchained means: “…living for myself without regrets and obligation.
Issa Rae – U.S.A., CA
Issa Rae is well on her way to becoming what she calls the “Black Tina Fey” or the “Female Donald Glover” with her shorts The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl, FLY-GUYS present the F Word, Dorm Diaries, and Rachetpiece Theatre. This producer, director, and writer uses her humor and entrepreneurial skills to showcase various sides of the black community. Recently signed with UTA and 3 Arts Entertainment, Issa hopes to present the entertainment industry with a new definition for black comedy. For Issa, to Live Unchained means: “refusing to accept barriers,” “not making excuses,” and “not holding back.”
Laverne Wyatt-Skriubakken – South Africa/ Norwary
The South African-born, Norway-based graphic designer Laverne Wyatt-Skriubakken is working to spread “sunshine, creativity, optimism, color, and design” throughout the world. As the Founder and Art Director of mZansi Life, she strives to “enjoy the ‘Southern Life’” and expose others to its freedom of expression. Though Laverne is “still trying to [figure] out” what it means to Live Unchained, this mother-to-be has come to realize that “financial freedom is very, very important…” and she encourages collaboration with other artists as a mode of expression.
Delphine Diallo – Senegal/ France
Having an African dad and a French mom helped Delphine Diallo to realize that “[she] might have something different to express.” This photographer, graphic designer, illustrator, and filmmaker, who’s worked for artists such as Coldplay, Smashing Pumpkins, and Manu Chao, creates artwork that’s “personal and very emotional.” She believes that art is the way to “as an individual, […] contribute to improve others’ lives.” For Delphine, to Live Unchained means: “… to discover everyday what [she is] going to become – with no fear.”
Lucía Asué – Spain/Equatorial Guinea
As a world traveller, journalist, activist, and filmmaker, Lucía Asué Mbomio Rubio is spending every day living unchained. She is a reporter for Españoles en el Mundo and is the Director of Communications and Media at Alto Consejo de las Comunidades Negras, but finds joy in creating documentaries. One of her latest works, The Invisible City: Voices in the Cañada Real Galiana has worked to artistically capture the challenges facing the residents of Cañada Real. Her connection with Alto Consejo de Las Comunidades Negras has greatly inspired the work at Live Unchained.
Alicia Anabel Santos – U.S.A./Dominican Republic
Alicia Anabel Santos, the New York-born Dominicana, is an activist and the series co-creator of the Afro-Latinos: The Untaught Story documentary project. This tribute to our African ancestors and their descendants currently living in Latin America and the Caribbean was meant to start a movement that would show “who Afro-Latinos are and how the African influence mixed with Spanish culture has made Latin America what it is today.” Alicia finds the term “African Diaspora” important because it “includes the descendants of Africans who were dispersed throughout the world […making it an] inclusive group.” For her, to Live Unchained means connecting with your roots and being active for a greater good.
Kameelah Rasheed – U.S.A., NY
For years, Kameelah Rasheed, a documentary-based photographer and co-founder of Mambu Badu (a photography collective that highlights female photographers of African descent), has been in search of the narrative of the “regular” people. After attending Pomona College at 16 years-old and receiving the U.S. Fullbright Grant to study urban planning and housing in Johannesburg, South Africa, Kameelah has let her curiosity guide her photography of townships, nation-wide strikes, political events, community events, and city life. She claims that good art is “anything that causes you to pause and rethink your next set of behaviors,” and strives to do so in all of her work. For Kameelah, to Live Unchained means: “not waiting for permission to be great.”
Mem Nahadr – U.S.A., NY
An artist of many talents, Mem Nahadr follows her “continuous desire to expand and explore art form” in her off-broadway show Madwoman: A Contemporary Opera. This albino composer, performance artist, musician, actress, dancer, author, producer, audio engineer, filmmaker, graphic artist, and philosopher wrote and performs in Madwoman, as it engages the audience through aromas, industrial sounds, and double entendre. Mem’s celebration of difference in her art has been featured in National Geographic, Elle Germany, and Maxim. For her, to Live Unchained means: “ [Knowing] yourself. Being aware of your own feelings and preferences deeply enough to value them as you would value breathing.”
Nnedi Okorafor – U.S.A./Nigeria
Nnedi Okorafor, an author and professor at Chicago State University, never saw herself as a writer, much less as an award-winning novelist who’s latest book Who Fears Death won the 2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Fantasy Novel and is being made into a film. Her books typically center on the journeys of girl heroines who are typically “different or deformed” in some way, but who learn to navitage life as they are, without changing themselves. With Nigeria (her homeland) as her muse, Nnedi has learned how to handle “some subtle animosity from some African men” in regards to her status as a science fiction author. For Nnedi, to Live Unchained means: “you’ll laugh more,” “you’ll see more,” and “you’ll weigh less [because] most people find wearing their ‘chains’ quite fashionable.”
London Bridgez – U.S.A., NY
With a name that “(sums) up (her) creative process of transforming poetry to be listened to by audiences,” London Bridgez is an afro-punk spoken word artist/performer and activist who is reminding listeners that “we are no invisible.” She and her wife are co-writing an anthology of writing called Going Public: Black Women Reflect on Love, Relationships, and Coupling that aims to address issues of coupling in the Black community. Her work and support for the LGBTQ community are both attempts at “telling the (vital) stories of black women.” For London, to Live Unchained means: “to not be locked into other people’s definitions or expectations.”
Daisy Giles— U.S.A., MN
A passionate painter and art enthusiast, Daisy Giles aims to “explore the beautifully natural and the stunningly fantastical… to express things that are inexpressible in words, which only live on the tips of tongues, in the subconscious, and in dreams of suppressed purposes and identities.” She likes to think that there’s “something hidden and secret, something private” in her paintings that helps to express an unspeakable emotion. For Daisy, to Live Unchained means: “following your gifts and your passions, without fear.”
Nijla Mumin – U.S.A., CA
The screenwriter, photographer, filmmaker, and creator of Sweet Potato Pie Productions Nijla Mumin is only concerned with “getting to the core of human emotions, interaction, and interpersonal struggle and triumph.” Her latest film Salaam depicts the coming of age of a Black Muslim female in the Bay Area in the late 90’s, and is based on Nijla’s own story. Nijla strives to create beautiful and moving films that “provide a mirror of sorts to the audience.” For her, to Live Unchained means: “creating, loving, and living the way you want to.”
Yaye Marie Ba / Dakar, Senegal
Senegal writer and creative blogger Yaye Marie Ba has always had a passion for celebrating the beauty, style, and culture among different African nations. This desire was manifested into reality in 2006 when Yaye began her blog out of curiosity and hunger for knowledge about African culture. With her blog, Yaye aims to “encourage young women and men to believe in ourselves.” Yaye wants to have her work “focus mainly on African people because there aren’t enough outlets that celebrate us.” With a blogroll that links to over 30 African countries as well as having her blog featured in the November edition of ARISE Magazine, Yaye’s goal to speak from an African point of view to other black women from the world has truly come to life. For Yaye, to Live Unchained means “…finding the true vision of your life and trying to paint it despite the struggles, despite the hurdles.”
Lulu Kitololo / Nairobi, Kenya / Manchester, UK
Kenyan designer, storyteller, and self-proclaimed “idea-monger” Lulu Kitololo uses painting, graphic design, illustration, writing and workshops, to tell stories that honor the beauty in women, Africa, life and nature. Creator of the Afri-love blog, Lulu has invented a space for inspiration, tips and reflections on creativity, making things happen, pursuing your passion and being true. To Lulu, “Afri-love is a feeling…a love for the lands that were so much a part of us, no matter where we happened to be.” With the Afri-love community, Lulu hopes that if everyone can come from a place of self-love and self-knowledge, then “we can honestly all work together for the benefit of all.” For Ms. Kitololo, to Live Unchained “…is setting my passions free and following them where they will take me.”
Ain HD / VA, U.S.
American poet Ain HD (Ain Heath Drew) considers herself a writer with a passion for “poetry, African-American literature, children’s stories, music, revolution, experimental fiction, thrift store hopping, and all things artsy”–not to mention tattoo collecting. Ain has been featured in PoetTree Magazine and the Kankazine and her work has also been on literary sites such as Dotlit and Identity Theory. Her self-published poetry collection, [If] Life’s Rotten: Write to the Core, explores love, social problems and self-discovery. Ain has never been one to write sweet, sappy poetry – instead, her work focuses on “a lot of rotten things that the world hands to us, including poverty, discrimination and inequality.” To Ain, Live Unchained means “defining success for yourself and refusing to bend to the expectations of others.”
Oneika Russell / Kingston, Jamaica
Jamaican artist and blogger Oneika Russell is making waves in the modern art world. Her blog, Art: Jamaica, exhibits a collection of interviews, profiles and pieces from contemporary Caribbean artists. Having worked with the PBS Art:21 partnership program as well as studying and creating art in Jamaica, the United Kingdom and now completing a residency at the Kyoto Seika University, Media Arts Department in Japan, Oneika has become a powerhouse in international art centers. Oneika believes that, “At times [modern art] can be inaccessible” but also has the power to generate “…some of the greatest catalysts of political movements, social change, technological innovation and critical thought.” For Oneika, to Live Unchained “would involve travel to expand the mind, new ambitions and challenges to push your limits and abilities.”
Queendom / Oslo, Norway
Norway-based, Pan-African music group Queendom are creating and re-affirming conceptions of black femininity. Queendom “is a sisterhood, a mindset, and a creative space where we can express ourselves freely and be proud of who we are, despite our imperfections.” With members from Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Uganda, Queendom is really working to challenge all the negative images of Africans that people are presented with through Western media. Although they are just one collective of artists, their music “highlights important societal issues, provides comfort, empowerment, and strengthens people’s spirits. This, in turn, can inspire people to fight their own private or political battles.” With a positive message and groovy African beats, Queendom is shining the light of African intellect and creativity in the face of a racist, male-dominated society. To Queendom, to Live Unchained means: “…artistic freedom, brutal honesty and quirky personalities – but also respect and consideration for our fans.”
Noah Sow / Germany
An Afro-punk musician and minority and women’s rights activist, for Noah Sow, race is not just some categorization she wishes would disappear so we could all live in peace. Blackness represents the heritage she, and many Black Germans don’t want to continue to see attacked or minimized. Noah sings with passion and intensity on all her songs, and this especially comes across in songs like, “Be Calm,” which criticizes European beauty standards and black stereotypes in popular media. She was a member New York’s, Anarchists of Color, whose 3-word motto, coined by fellow Afro-punk artist militiaA was: “Disgrace Your Stereotype.” For Noah, to Live Unchained means: “Creating and talking about my art without being reduced to some fantasy image of what a Black Woman’s art is supposed to be. Being without having to explain” as well as “being able to make a living from my own ideas and being independent in my choice of projects and work.”
Shantell Martin / London, U.K.
London-born and Brooklyn-based digital artist Shantell Martin is re-defining the phrase, “do less, be more.” She says, “I want to do everything: I want to travel everywhere, I want to make films, tattoo, draw on walls, be in a band, write, create visuals, learn to house dance, swim and so on and on and on… It’s like trying to go down ten roads at once – you won’t really get anywhere.” Putting her focus into becoming an expert at drawing has really payed off for Shantell, leading to collaborations with 3×1 jeans and NikeiD sneakers. It’s exciting for Shantell to see her art appear on solid, finished products because, “You get to work with talented people and share your work with people outside of your normal reach.” We’re excited to see Ms. Martin become a household name. Until then, Shantell continues to Live Unchained “finding that thing in your blood that you’re passionate about and pursuing it, chasing it, living it, being it…no matter what.”
Idil Ibrahim / NY, U.S.A. / Somalia
American-born with Somali parents, filmmaker Idil Ibrahim’s work is aimed to “bridge cultures, communities and perspectives through art.” And she is doing just that with the formation of her own New-York based production company, Zeila Films. Idil chose the medium of film-making to make a difference because she loves “that film can educate, entertain, inform and potentially change the way people interact with reality. All art forms are powerful tools of expression with the capacity to connect and reach others.” Art is her way of contributing to the Somali community. She is passionate that “applying art to conflict and post conflict settings can help serve as a tool for dialogue, expression, awareness building and hopefully healing and peace-building.” To Idil, to Live Unchained means: “…my personal effort to live free—free from social expectations and conditioning.”
Kenya Robinson / FL, NY, U.S.A.
Self-taught performing artist Kenya Robinson’s work is critically engaging and empowering. A past resident of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s WorkSpace Program (2009-2010) and the 2010 Triangle Arts Workshop, her sculptural work has been exhibited at The Museum of Contemporary Diasporan Arts, The Jersey City Museum, The Aljira Center for Contemporary Art and The 60 Wall Street Gallery at Deutsche Bank. In addition, her performances have been featured at Rush Arts Gallery, MoMA PS1, The DUMBO Arts Festival, Recess Activities Inc. and Cabinet Space. Her motto is to “pay more attention to the world in general for my personal and professional life…I think my upbringing was all about learning by looking, watching, paying attention…besides that, there was a definite belief that through observation, you might navigate social relationships better and, more importantly, avoid being duped by this system.” For Kenya, to Live Unchained “is a continued embracing of awareness of the environment, history, relationships, responsibility, and personal power.”
Minna Salami / London, U.K. / Nigeria
Nigerian-born blogger Minna Salami has created a revolution of words about the complexities of being a woman of African descent. She created her blog Ms. Afropolitan as a way to share her thoughts on a wide variety topics ranging from matters of sex to globalization, for example–topics that reflect the diverse interests of a global black community and complexity of us as women. What does being Afropolitan entail? A term coined by Taiye Selasie, the definition of ‘Afropolitan’ is “a willingness to complicate Africa – namely, to engage with, critique, and celebrate the parts of Africa that mean most to them.” Minna’s main goal is to reach out to communities within the African Diaspora “that are looking to discuss and promote alternative and enlightened views of Africa.” And she is doing so with flying colors, connecting and uniting diverse women across the globe. To Minna, to Live Unchained means: “…making friends with freedom.”
Peju Alatise / Nigeria
Nigerian artist Peju Alatise’s criticisms of the challenges facing black women are as impassioned as her hope that we can make things better and that art can help. To Peju, one of the most complex challenges facing African women is the right to choose: “to choose your life, to choose education, to choose health, to choose love, to choose her governmental representatives, to choose who and when to marry, to choose how many children she wants, financial independence, self-improvement, faith, what to wear…and, I could go on.” Through her own determination and free-will, Peju is creating artwork that can be used as an instrument of change. For Peju, to Live Unchained means: “’the freedom to be me,’” as I live an unchained existence.”
Zaki Ibrahim / Canada / South Africa
Canadian-born, South African musician Zaki Ibrahim describes her music in three words: “Past. Present. Future.” Blending, electronica, R&B and Zaki’s soulful voice, her new album Every Opposite takes place outside of conventional time, describing a sequence of events and consequence without any particular order. The timelessness of her music and the stories that she tells are her way of empowering herself and other women. Referring to women in a 2007 interview, Zaki said: “You need to claim your place. Your root. You are here, you are woman…and very powerful. That is something to know, not something to work towards.” To Zaki, “Living unchained is something to constantly work on because sometimes when you fight for freedom, you may unconsciously create another chain in the other direction.”