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Brandon Deener creates art that is warm and compelling, taking us on a nostalgic journey to when Rhythm and Blues filled the air. Reminiscent of Jazz, free and expressive, take a look at the Rebirth of Cool....

“Side-Eyes Through Tortoiseshells” 2020

Oil on Canvas

What inspires you to create?

I humbly like to consider myself as someone who’s permanently inspired, as I’m always working. However, inspiration stems from many branches. Sometimes I’m inspired by photography, other times the music I’m listening to inspires my work or sparks an idea.

Inspiration can come from a conversation, books, movies, documentaries, nature, the list goes on and on. I’m always open to receiving new information in hope that it will inspire.

“I Promise Imma Make It Through This” 2021

Oil and Toilet Tissue on Canvas

How important is expression?

Expression for me is incredibly important. I’m from a musical family with a very rich musical background, but expression within the arts was something I really zoomed in on and examined further as I began to dive deeper into painting. Whereas music plays an integral role in my painting practice; ironically, “expression” within the realm of visual art became more important as I dissected my “why”.

I noticed the paintings I made when I first started were really good and they displayed great skill, but there was something missing. I painted a lot of still life’s, objects and things, not people - and people can relate to that humanity when figures are present on canvas. I also noticed that I wasn’t speaking about them long when people asked their meanings.

So I did some soul searching, started aligning with other Black artists, and really studied some of the great Black Artists that I admired. Then everything changed, it was like a light came on inside. I found why “expression” was so important! Especially being a Black artist in America! It became important to me to put my experiences in my work, Black experiences.

As a Black man in America, there’s so much substance to be added to the work. All I had to do was look around, read books, look at the news, go out in the world, etc,. I learned that WE ARE THE CONTEXT!!! So I began painting melanated people and representing us HEAVY in my work. Everything changed!!! So it’s an honor to express my deep respect and love for my people in my Art.

“Afro Tassels” 2020

Charcoal on Paper

“Do Revolutionaries Eat Fried Chicken” 2020

Acrylic, Oil, and Pencil on Wood Panel

If your Art was music, how would it sound?

My art would truly sound like Jazz! Specifically Miles Davis, but that 1950’s-1960’s Sketches of Spain Miles... Or Fela Kuti, anything with tribal drums, full of soul and energy!!! Great question!!!!!

“Lightyears Ahead” 2020

Oil on Canvas

What is your life philosophy?

Do good and good will come back to you. Always be a good person. Don’t get consumed in what others are doing and not doing. Mind yo bidness! Never hesitate to help others, GIVE BACK AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY and always stay on the path to righteousness!!!

All images by and courtesy of Brandon Deener

Instagram: @brandon_deener

Facebook: brandon deener

Stunning, captivating and draped in tradition. Oscar Korbla Mawuli Awuku - Yonga Arts is a cultural activist, body artist, painter and sculptor. Yonga Arts tells African stories influenced by historical Ghanaian Adinkra symbology.

Can you share with us the origins of your work?

My body of works explores pre-colonial culture but also addresses decolonized practices in contemporary culture, the essence of identity of the black body, advocates for women and seeks to ask empowering questions in society.

Please tell us more about the history and knowledge you wish to convey...

My experimentation with my body of art has been largely informed by the historical and design decisions that have characterized the production of Ashanti and ewe kente cloth.

This includes the weaving process where threads is thrown over and beneath others in a repetitive, rhythmic manner to form patterns and shapes in the overall design. This rhythmic action draws my attention to the crafty yet mythical Ghanaian folkloric character: Kweku Anansi.

Share with us your process and Anansinisim.

Anansi is an Akan name given to the mythical figure which represents in the form of a spider. It’s meticulously crafty nature, complex and embolic of the spider web making process is a process I have appropriated for my body of art which I call Anansinisim.

I carefully fuse visual network of designs in a syncopated manner, loaded with historical Ghanaian Adinkra symbology to create both personal and traditional symbols and designs that are painted onto the body.

The designs on the body re-echoes the collective knowledge and wisdom of my ancestors which are gradually losing their values to contemporary audiences.

My constant use of the ritual mask is based on the believe that it conceptually turns the wearer of it into the spirit represented by the mask itself.

Women are celebrated in your work, can you tell us more about this?

My works mostly portray the advocacy and empowerment of women in other to stand equally for leadership roles just like we men do in society.

Is there a piece of wisdom from our ancestors you hold close?

Ati ɖeka me wɔ na ave o. (A single tree cannot make a forest).

A single tree refers to an influential, prominent, elderly or rich person in society e.g., a King, President or Chief. The forest also refers to an institution, family or community.

The proverb therefore depicts that a rich or prominent person alone cannot constitute a family, region, state or nation. There are forest areas in the Ewe land, and during the farming season it calls for communal spirit and team work.

The proverb teaches against over-reliance on individual efforts but advocates cooperation and unity among the people to achieve set goals. It inculcates teamwork and communal spirit among the people.

All images by and courtesy of Oscar Korbla Mawuli Awuku

Website: Yonga Art

Instagram: yonga_arts

Esther Phillips was an R&B singer and multi-instrumentalist, her gritty and distinctive voice delighted audiences and she was a prolific R&B vocalist of the 1950s through to the 1980s.

After singing in a local church contest, Esther and her sister was sign by bluesman Johnny Otis. Esther went on to record on Otis's record label, and perform in his revue. Otis gave her the moniker 'Little Esther' that would follow her throughout her career.

From a young age she become dependant on heroin and years of addiction had taken a huge toll and later led to her death in 1984.

Home Is Where the Hatred Is - written by Gil Scott-Heron become a huge hit for Esther and the song was nominated for a Grammy Award. Aretha Franklin won the Grammy but presented it to Esther Phillips because she felt she deserved it.

Esther Phillips leaves us an impressive body of memorable music!

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