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contents issue four | 2013

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Editor’s Desk Championing Indigenous Rights Extensions Of Neila Angles Of View “Mosby Man”: A Journey Of Light

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Capturing Ancient Mexico Identity: Feathered Headdress of Mexico

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Crazy World

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Mexican Designers Merge Cultural Heritage & Haute Couture

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Editor’s Desk It seems like yesterday when the idea of developing an integrated international platform that supports creativity and gives greater access to the Creative Industries was born. Cultural Voice eZine grew out of a culturally focused blog, which recently won an award in the category Best Jamaican Art and Photography Blog, with its first issue published in May 2012. Since that time, Cultural Voice (CV) has engaged some 700,000 readers in more than 70 countries worldwide through our blog, website, publications and events. One of CV’s many distinguishing features remains our strong writing and diverse content. In this issue, we are proud to feature creative trends, outstanding and emerging talents from Mexico, India, Jamaica, Canada and The United States of America. We pay tribute to the groundbreaking work of Dewey Mosby, the first African American to obtain a PhD in Art History from Harvard University, who passed on in 2012. We also acknowledge the article contributed by Mexican Ambassador Alfonso de Maria y Campos on the Feather Headdress of Ancient Mexico. Our contributing and staff writers have consistently produced intriguing, relevant material and worked tirelessly scouring the networks to find the very best in arts and culture globally. We thank you, our readers, for the continued support and always encourage you to feel free to share culture! We welcome comments, reviews and your interaction with our writers. Email us at culturalvoice@gmail. com, join the conversations on our blog www. culturalvoice.blogspot.com and follow us on Facebook and Twitter @culturalvoice.

Blessings, Steffi T

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Cultural Voice, winners of the

“Best Photography/Art Blog� for the 2012 Jamaica Blog Awards.

We would like to say thank you for the continued support! Check out our blog at http://culturalvoice.blogspot.com 5


Powless Defending the Powerless:

Champion for Indigenous Rights By Kira Hibbert

There are many titles to ascribe to Ben Powless, including freedom fighter, photojournalist, writer and speaker. However, it is his passion that defines his character. Powless is deeply moved by the preservation of the rights of indigenous communities, climate change, environmental justice, sustainability, and keen on positively changing the perceptions and actions of global citizens. Powless is not afraid to challenge authority, including political powers, and uses his access to the international networks to further his understanding of complex realities and to find ways to engage citizens towards positive action. He works closely with the Indigenous Environmental Network, hosts a blog, mobilizes individuals for causes, and publicizes actions. The Canadian-born Powless identifies as an indigenous Mohawk, and is strongly connected to the preservation of cultural histories. We interviewed Powless and were struck by how much thought he gave to each question. Before answering, there would be a pregnant pause as he carefully considered his response.


CV: You identify as an indigenous Mohawk. Tell us more about your background. BP: My parents come from two different nations – my dad is Mohawk and my mom is Ojibwe. I was raised more by my mom, who didn’t grow up with much of a connection to her culture. She began to recover and learn more about her culture in adulthood. My dad, on the other hand, grew up in his community and has a deep connection to the land and territory.

I spent a year in an exchange program in Mexico. There I decided there were a lot of good things to do and be involved in outside of traditional fields.

CV: What has been your most defining moment to date? BP: A defining moment for me happened in 2009, while I was in the Amazon, Peru for a conference. The day we were scheduled to leave, our flight got cancelled. That same day, we heard reports of a large scale massacre of the indigenous people of the Amazon. The gravity of the situation was insurmountable. Peru’s President at the time, Alan Garcia, had recently declared indigenous elements to be standing in the way of national progress, thus preventing national growth and the use of resources the Amazon had to offer. Naturally, the indigenous groups protested, stating that the laws threatened the integrity of cultural and biological diversity. The resulting bloodshed, as the government sent in police and military to curb the clash, represented a moral failing based on a widely understood truth. Quite by chance, I was able to work alongside media personnel from Peru. It was evident from this experience that the media’s coverage was biased and sided with the government. Media teams were under military curfew and during this period, we met and spoke to many people affected, including some for which warrants had been issued. It was a serious time. It was then I realized the power of simply capturing portraits and this made me decide to take photography more seriously.

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I’m planning to do a trip across Latin America, where I will travel and visit different indigenous communities that are engaged in different land defense struggles across the Americas and to document what these communities are engaged in, and what they are all about, through photojournalism.

CV: This is quite an unorthodox career choice. How did you choose your path? BP: I actually started studying physics and I was really interested in a career in that field. It was something I was good at and the thought of making possible scientific breakthroughs working on alternative energy was intriguing. But tragedy struck in my first year in university. I lost my girlfriend, Trisha Nagpal, who became ill and never recovered from a genetic disease of the liver. I was in love with her at the time, and when she passed away, I was completely devastated and decided I didn’t want to continue that career. I spent a year in an exchange program in Mexico. There I decided there were a lot of good things to do and be involved in outside of traditional fields. When I decided to go back to university, I focused on human rights, indigenous and environmental studies. CV: How do you use your art to further causes dear to you? BP: I would say it really depends on what the issue is, and the available mediums. For the most part, I have been maintaining a blog on my alternative youth organization in Canada and that is probably the most attractive way to get my photos out. I often do a quick summary of different events and things that have happened.

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Other times, I write articles for magazines, for books and publications and that can also be very effective. I’ve been asked for requests lately by other people writing books, magazines, publications just to be able to use some of the photos to help tell their story and I think that’s also very much effective as well. CV: In your travels, where are the most interesting places you have been to? BP: The most interesting places include Mexico, It’s like a home away from home; Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. I like Italy mostly because of its culture and history. I travelled by bus, truck, boat and land, all the way from South Africa to Kenya. I really liked Kenya and Tanzania. The region is beautiful with amazing people. While in Asia, I had a chance to visit the wonderful, beautiful Thailand. CV: What’s next? Where do you see yourself in five or so years? BP: Well, I have a few different plans. A lot of people are probably familiar with the story behind “The Motorcycle Diaries.” I have had a very similar idea for a very long time. I’m planning to do a trip across Latin America, where I will travel and visit different indigenous communities that are engaged in different land defense struggles across the Americas and to document what these communities are engaged in, and what they are all about, through photojournalism.

CV: You have an extensive catalogue of riveting pictures from your work as an activist and beyond. What are the most powerful pictures you have taken?

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Location: Wawas, Peru It is a picture of a widow of a man who was killed by the military while protesting. It is taken of his widow and new born son, whom he never had a chance to meet. There are other children and his mother all sitting on the bed, but only the mother is looking at the camera, very strong and focused. It is a very haunting powerful image.

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Location: Northern Alberta, Canada It is actually of a family member of a friend. The story is that she was working for years in the petroleum industry and had developed cancer – two different forms of breast cancer, which she beat. The picture is of her taking off her wig and looking at the camera, and the fact that she’s bald and still very beautiful, makes this a very powerful image.

3 Location: Washington D.C., USA This image became powerful because of the way it was used. It was taken in September 2011, while I was covering a massive protest against the pipeline development in Canada that would go through the US. I happened to get a picture of the Chief Scientist at NASA being arrested for being a part of the protest. The picture was picked up by “Rolling Stone Magazine,” and they compared it to a photo taken in the 70s of the earth, from satellites that really change our perspective. They used the fact that the chief scientist of NASA was willing to get arrested for the cause of climate change as a wakeup call for people around our planet to look at the impact we have on our environment.

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Extensions Of Neila By Derefe Chevannes

Cultural Voice (CV), spoke with Neila Ebanks, a dancer, choreographer, lecturer and artiste.

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Neila Ebanks in the NDTC’s “Congo Laye.” Choreography: Arsenio Andrade

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Neila Ebanks is a driven artiste. She oozes a deep, untainted passion in all extensions of her life. Her love is as red and bright as the wine she drinks.When discussing her love for dance and its importance, she piercingly reveals, “If I didn’t (dance), I would die. I can’t remember making a conscious decision in favour of dance.” Dance gives her an unrivalled level of satisfaction, equal to no other known pursuit.

“It was not until I was sitting my first sociology exam in my first year, I said to myself, this is not what I want to do.”

Our sitdown with Ebanks allowed us a glimpse into her artistic genius. Consistent with the dreams of most 18 year olds, Ebanks decided to attend a traditional college. Having attended the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, she graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology. It was during those years that she knew something was wrong. “It was not until I was sitting my first sociology exam in my first year, I said to myself, this is not what I want to do.” She later course-corrected and decided to head straight to the dance stage by studying Dance Theatre & Production at the Edna Manley College, an art-based school on the island. This was her watershed moment. She notes confidently, “From then, it has been an awakening not only to the possibilities of a professional artiste, but also an awakening to the deeper things I had to say and the many roads that I could travel as an artiste.”

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During the late 1990s, being a dancer in Jamaica was particularly difficult, partly due to the lack of dance awareness in the country’s collective psyche. “In hindsight, the highs have not necessarily been particular moments of achievements, or particular moments of performance. The high is, at least since 1999, I have lived and work independently as an artiste in this country, and as a dance artiste, no less,” she states, adding that the secret to success is being “entrepreneurial and seeking out opportunities.” With a deep sense of admiration and relief, her voice crackles as she confesses, “I have not had to sacrifice a passion for a cheque.” And so, for Ebanks, exploring avenues associated with the arts was a critical juncture. Part of that entrepreneurial exploration led to her founding “eNKompan” (pronounced En-com-pan-ee). This concept was born to meet a need to diversify her talent and passion for the arts, discovering ways to make what she does cutting-edge.

“In Your Presence” for Armchair Revolution, 2010

Developed in 2009, there was a deeper thought at play for creating eNKompan. “It’s not about being another dance company,” she says. “I remember one of my mentors, the late Howard Bailey, said, ‘What Jamaica needs is not another dance company, but a change in dance consciousness.’”

“If I didn’t (dance), I would die. I can’t remember making a conscious decision in favour of dance.”

Having been on the scene for many years, Ebanks offers artistes invaluable tips for preserving and copyrighting their art. “You can document your ideas and date it, put it in an envelope, selfaddress it, mail it to yourself and never open it,” she advises. It now becomes evidence in court in claiming your exclusive right to the piece. She also speaks about the different types of notations one can use to protect original works of art.

“Stained Soul” Oneil Pryce, 2011

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Neila Ebanks in the NDTC’s “Congo Laye.” Choreography: Arsenio Andrade

Being a dancer, choreographer, teacher and producer, Ebanks is a jack-of-all-trades. When asked which is her most fulfilling role, she pauses and defiantly notes, “I feel as though I am choosing between children.” After the initial shock of the question, she offers up a response: “It depends on what moon is up. It’s about what idea I need to express.” She clarifies that different emotions and concepts might be better expressed by choreography than by performance, for example, or vice versa.

Wanting to develop her craft, Ebanks soon looked overseas for those opportunities. She later completed a joint Masters in Physical Theatre degree between Royal Holloway University and University of Surrey in London. She describes this experience as liberating. “I learnt how to open my voice. Dancers are actually taught to be mute; dancers are not generally asked to speak,” she shares. This exploration of self led to her seeing “that I became a more whole instrument.”

Ebanks has a lot of plans in the works. She incorporates film in dance, describing what she calls “exploding the possibility of dance through film.” Adding to that, she is also interested in art advocacy, carrying the banner of the artist and “changing people’s lives. We need the arts as a mirror to ourselves.”

Having these experiences, Ebanks realizes the paramount importance of art, especially for kids and that is part and parcel of her advocacy. “You can use the arts to teach numeracy and literacy skills. You can use it to teach civics and responsibilities and manners,” she says, pointing to one particular example when she worked with children from vulnerable communities who lacked social and economic support. “They would fight and quarrel,” she says, referring to these young kids when they were together, “and when I asked them who can hand-stand the longest, there were no fights.” This, she argued, changed the narrative of what is possible with art alongside child development.

“I learnt how to open my voice. Dancers are actually taught to be mute; dancers are not generally asked to speak.” 15


“Descending the First Staircase” Safi Harriott, 2011

This approach was not only novel, but substantive. She hoped to reinvent how music and dance, particularly in a sexualized culture and atmosphere like Jamaica, could change some conversations. “You can show them that their bodies aren’t for objectification, but for work.” She notes how elementary and basic these art-related instructions can be regarding incorporating them into the school curriculum. “The child is always the artiste,” she opines, implying that they will take well to these instructions. Can an art-based career really pay? Is there money in it? Ebanks answers resoundingly, “There is money in everything!” She reiterates the importance of being an entrepreneur and the ability to multi-task. “You can dance and own your own clothing store. If you’re an academic (as she is), you can write and you can lecture.” Despite her undying love for the arts, CV was intrigued to find out what else could Neila Ebanks do with her life? As it turns out, she informs us that working with the United Nations (U.N.) would be a lovely consolation prize because she is an advocate for peace, understanding and negotiations.

Ebanks explains that she is guided by three main principles: integrity, expansion (of the mind and body) and God. For the latter she notes, “What I do is more like co-creation with God, in terms of listening when God is saying, ‘move that way.’”

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Ebanks explains that she is guided by three main principles: integrity, expansion (of the mind and body) and God. For the last named she notes, “What I do is more like co-creation with God, in terms of listening when God is saying, ‘move that way.’” There’s much more we can expect of Ebanks. In fact, she speaks optimistically about leaving a legacy. “It’s a time for legacies now,” she quips. “I think the legacy I would love to leave would be a full-on change in Jamaica’s consciousness, a more inclusionary consciousness, a more respectful consciousness about people’s different choices.” She feels that misconceptions that are often dangerously associated with male dancers pose a critical challenge to her as a dancer and choreographer. They are, she reveals, “a number of males who feel uncomfortable to come and dance because they are afraid of stigma.” Ultimately, Ebanks wants her legacy to be “emancipatory, not marginalizing the arts and the artists anymore. That’s my dream.”


View

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“Last Work of the Day” Picture taken at Mallick Ghat, Kolkata – He collects wood from rubbish for cooking and home use.

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Paul Nilot is an Indian photographer who constantly explores the cultural paradigms of his homeland from varying angles. With more than 1,000 languages and diverse cultures, Nilot is very proud to be Indian. His powerful images speak for themselves and allow us to change how we perceive others and ourselves.

“Angel From Heaven� Picture taken at Kolaghat near Rupnarayan River.

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“Waiting For Return” Picture taken at Canning, located near to the Ganges River. The people in the photograph are waiting for their family to come back from fishing.

Nilot swears by his Canon EOS 7D and 550D cameras and prefers shooting in Aperture mode. His favourite time for taking pictures is in the evening – “the blue hour” and he is especially fascinated with capturing portraits. “My father is an ex-airman in the Indian Air Force. I inherited my love of travel from him,” he shares. “I am inspired by my 72-year-old friend, Rabindranath Dutta.”

“Street of Kolkata” Picture taken on an average Sunday morning, in the streets of Kolkata.

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“Devotee of Chat Puja” Picture taken at Baranagar, at the time of the procession of Chat Puja, a festival of Bihari Indians that occurs in October to November.

“Checkmate” Picture taken at Mallickghat, Kolkata near Ganges River.

Chess Board By Monica Minott Where you born and what they call you: white man, coolie man, nayga or jew, is chance. Whether you worship Mohammed, Buddha, or Jesus is moretime connected to the square of land you land on; birth place some call it. Lines of demarcation may be chiseled in stone but the secret is in the soul. Souls have feet can march, can stomp out separation, and arms wide enough to embrace plenty. Souls have wings, and can fly. Your Jiva makes you stronger than name tags: pawn, knight or king; escapes confinement, escapes karma. Name tags are man made. You are on the board, the game is in play, and every dog have him day to be king.

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‘Mosby Man’:

A Journey of light

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By Stefanie Thomas

Quite possibly the first African American art historian to be decorated with two of France’s highest cultural awards, Dewey Mosby’s trailblazing “appointment” started in his youthful days while growing up in eastern Texas, “a stone’s throw away” from Louisiana. Perhaps, if Mosby, affectionately called ‘Dewey’ by loved ones, were here to tell the tale, he would single out the day in November 1979 when the French government bestowed the honour of ‘Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters’ as his most memorable. He was later promoted to the ‘Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters’ in 1997. As a tribute to a formidable art historian, who respected his craft, worked tirelessly to maintain excellence and was good at whatever he pursued, Cultural Voice (CV) spent some time talking with his widow, Rebekah Presson-Mosby, who gave us greater insight into his life, loves and legacy. Mosby died on August 1, 2012 in Cooperstown, New York, United States. Throughout Mosby’s lifetime, he was revolutionary. As the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in Art History from Harvard University, the first Black American to be curator of European Art at a major American museum – The Detroit Institute of Art, and the first Black American to direct a non-ethnographic museum, the Picker Art Gallery at Colgate University, Mosby’s legacy is undeniable. He was cited as ‘Man of the Year’ in 1978-79 by the Michigan Chronicle. Based on accounts from his schoolmates, childhood barbers and family members, Mosby showed exceptional potential from a very early age, and his community, cognizant of the need to make special efforts to break down racial barriers, took care to nurture this potential. Rebekah shares that at Mosby’s 50th high school reunion, there was a resounding acknowledgement from his classmates that there was great hope he would be the one to transcend boundaries.

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Mosby grew up in the south in the days of Jim Crow laws, where he had to endure and overcome the reality of separate drinking fountains, segregated bathrooms and rampant race-based hate crimes. He would share many of his childhood memories with Rebekah in the middle of the night. Sometimes, they spent all night talking about his days in Orange, Texas. Rebekah stresses that there was always open dialogue about issues dealing with race in their household and it was an important topic for them both. She recalls stories of Mosby participating in resistance against the established racist order, including lunch counter sit-ins. Mosby was in the 2nd class year to accept black students at Lamar University and, even then, he was invited to dances but not allowed to dance. He formed the first Black fraternity while at Lamar. Throughout his life, Mosby was cognizant of the potential obstacles for an upwardly mobile Black scholar, but this only strengthened his resolve. It was very important for him to be above scrutiny. Rebekah tells CV that while working with the Picker Gallery, he refused honorariums for evaluating paintings external to the gallery. We see much evidence that for this top scholar, his rigid work ethic went above and beyond, to break notions born of false expectations due to race.

in the “Mosby grew upys of south in the da where Jim Crow laws, re and he had to endu ality overcome the re nking of separate dri gated fountains, segre bathrooms and rampant race- mes.” based hate cri

Love affair with Paris We’re not exactly sure when Mosby’s love affair with France actually began. We do know that he was married to the French-Belgian Evelyne Van Nes in graduate school and that while he was at Harvard, he would frequently travel to France to further his research into French art history. Mosby celebrated 19th century painters, particularly African American painter Henry Ossawa Tanner and French painter Alexandre Decamps. He had a noted predilection for French foods, with the heavy sauces, reminiscent of his favourite southern foods, which were always smothered in gravy. Rebekah smiles sadly as she recounts Mosby’s love for great company and for being the centre of attention. He had many friends and received several invitations to parties and functions. He particularly enjoyed the company of persons who were accomplished in his field. Parties involving associates of the Louvre particularly delighted him. Rebekah remembers an evening when she was with Mosby outside a packed restaurant on Boulevard Saint-Germain and the hostess, having spotted them, came outside into the street and invited them inside, giving them the best window seats and making much ado about Mosby’s French decoration, which he donned in the form of a lapel pin.

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One of Mosby’s heartbreaks was possibly that he was not able to mount the much-anticipated ‘Decamps Retrospective,’ which was scheduled to be opened at the Louvre. Many in the art world were certainly disappointed that the artist Decamps was relegated once more to the sidelines. “Bag of Contradictions” A common theme in people’s descriptions of Mosby was that he always comported himself with such dignity and integrity. Rebekah shares that he was a “bag of contradictions.” He had a candid sense of humor juxtaposed against a sometimes volatile nature. He could be very tough and at other times, very sweet and tender. Rebekah recalls their meeting in 1995 when she interviewed Mosby for National Public Radio; there was instant chemistry. He fell in love quickly and deeply. Rebekah’s tears spill over as she tells the story. Shortly after her first visit to Mosby, he called her to say that his life felt empty without her. For his last meal, she made his favourites: pork chops, white rice smothered in gravy, black-eyed peas and okra. I was fortunate to share time with Mosby and Rebekah, who took me in as a daughter during my days at Colgate University in upstate NY. I always referred to him as ‘Mosby Man’ and our discussions, filled with artistic and historical references, helped focus my artistic eye, especially my eye for detail. This world is transitory and we all occupy pathways for a sliver of time. We acknowledge those who have gone before and whose lives have influenced our world. Mosby’s legacy of hard work, dignity and integrity can best be described as a journey of light. His memory will live on in the works of the artists whom he has brought to greater attention. His family and friends love him dearly and his wider community stands proud of all he accomplished.

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The Feather Headdress of Ancient Mexico:

Common heritage, shared responsibility By Ambassador Alfonso de Maria y Campos, Director of the National Institute of Anthropology and History

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Certain cultural goods possess value that transcends political and cultural borders. They are a testament of past generations’ accomplishments and of mankind’s ability to infuse an object with a group’s identity and the spirit of a particular time. Said objects carry with them the marks of their original culture and narrate the history of encounters between civilizations from which the world’s contemporary cultural wealth is derived. An example of this is the Feather Headdress of Ancient Mexico. Notwithstanding that it’s been almost half a millennium since it left our shores, this piece is deeply ingrained in the identity of Mexicans of the 21st century, insofar as it is one of the first witnesses of the encounter

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between two cultures. Housed at the Museum of Ethnology in Vienna, the Headdress of Ancient Mexico continues to have controversial and at times, speculative significance that, at times, overshadows its importance as a unique piece of evidence of the work of plume craftsmen in ancient America. In this sense, it is important to keep in mind that Aztecs, Tlaxcalans, Purepechas and Mayans made of feathers – alongside jade and precious metals – the indispensible materials with which they represented pre-Hispanic thought. The Headdress, for instance, which is widely recognized by the public today, was a symbol of royalty, as well as religious and military might.


The profound friendship and solidarity that bind both nations, particularly after Mexico opposed and protested against the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany – a gesture that played an important part in allowing the former to regain its full independence after World War II – has enabled the Mexican government to refocus cultural cooperation with Austrian authorities.

The Headdress of Ancient Mexico is the only survivor of the elements that constituted the ceremonial and warrior attire of ancient Mexican cultures. Its presence in Vienna has tightened the historical links between Mexico and Austria. The profound friendship and solidarity that bind both nations, particularly after Mexico opposed and protested against the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany – a gesture that played an important part in allowing the former to regain its full independence after World War II – has enabled the Mexican government to refocus cultural cooperation with Austrian authorities. The main objectives in this change of direction are to guarantee the conservation of this piece and to make it accessible to a greater audience, particularly those that have an emotional link to it. In light of this, Mexico suggested in 2007 a new scheme of cooperation that not only recognizes Austria’s ownership over the piece, but sets out the foundations for joint work on its restoration and preservation, in addition to the carrying out of specific enquiries to determine the viability of transporting the piece, in order for it to be exhibited temporarily in Mexico. Said scheme also considers the exhibition in Austria of pieces that belong to Mexican museums. This initiative has required intense technical work by specialists, as well as an arduous diplomatic process that touches on the legal and political implications of this issue. That is why Mexico’s Foreign Ministry must pursue a constant dialogue with Austrian authorities and members of its civil society. Important public figures from business and cultural sectors have also joined this cause. Thanks to the Austrian government’s open disposition and goodwill, we have made important breakthroughs on the matter. The possibility of the Headdress of Ancient Mexico visiting Mexico has never been so close.

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The conditions are there for both Austria and Mexico to make a relevant contribution to the conservation of both countries’ cultural heritage and to develop a new concept of cultural cooperation that incorporates genuine notions of humanism and universality.

Additionally, the research project that has been developed during the past three years by the National Institute of History and Anthropology of Mexico’s National Autonomous University has resulted in a detailed description and precise historical and technical analysis of this historic object. These findings will be compiled in a publication that will be released in Vienna on the 14th of November, at the same time that the Headdress of Ancient Mexico will be shown to the public for the first time in eight years, after it underwent a splendid process of restoration. Even though a great amount of new information has come up from this enquiry, many unknowns remain and the mysticism surrounding the Headdress endures. And it will surely further endure as it continues to be one of the pieces with the greatest symbolic value for Mexicans. The first steps have already been taken and complicated machinery has already started to move forward thanks to the Mexican government’s determination. The book’s publication and the presentation of the restored piece deserve to be celebrated. However, there is still a long road to travel. The main objective for Mexico continues to be that public exhibition of the Headdress in national territory. I’m confident that the conditions are there for both Austria and Mexico to make a relevant contribution to the conservation of both countries’ cultural heritage and to develop a new concept of cultural cooperation that incorporates genuine notions of humanism and universality, thus renewing our recognition of a shared past and a common future. Let us hope that it shall be so.

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Crazy World By Derefe Chevannes

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Abenah Gonzalez is an aspiring singer, songwriter, designer, dancer and model. Gonzalez, the daughter of a former dancer and the late expressionist sculptor and painter Christopher Gonzalez, is trained in the performing arts, having graduated from the Edna Manley College with an Associate Degree in Fashion, which she completed in 2010. As with most artists, the proverbial apple does not fall too far from the tree—art is in her blood. She admits that from her perspective, art is the only viable option for her. Exotic Art Being a spontaneous person and working entirely off impulse, Gonzalez is able to saturate her art with her passion. For her clothing designs, the young artist notes, “I like old English, and European stuff from the 17th century. I am also inspired by traditional African and Egyptian accents, for example, in the era of Cleopatra. I also like the Indian culture; those are the things that inspire me for my designs.” Her taste is a mishmash of the culturally eclectic and it is clear this young artist is enamoured by the exotic. To make sense of her life and to keep it in orbit, Gonzalez finds anchor both in her work and in her spirituality. A fundamental guiding principle in her life is her “strong belief in God.” She describes herself as “spiritual not religious” and compares her beliefs to Buddhists, expressing admiration for their worshiping rituals. Thoughtfully Creative Gonzales takes painstaking care in fashioning her designs. “I like intricate details,” she reveals. Her colour palette spans the gamut: “most of the time I will use multi-colours for my design.” These days, however, her favourite colours are redorange and black. In speaking of the creative design process, Gonzalez confesses with eyes closed and hands gesticulating, “I will see a fabric and draw some patterns and then cut something out and work from it.”

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“I will see a fabric and draw some patterns and then cut something out and work from it.”


Her love for clothes and designs is also made apparent in her leisure time activity of on-the-side modelling. She graced the runway as a model, sporting the fabulous designs of competitors on “Mission Catwalk”, the popular reality design competition shot in the Caribbean, which was featured in CV’s May issue. Though she has the modelling chops, with her fairly tall, petite figure and elongated face, Gonzalez contends, “Modelling was never a full-time dream for me.” Still, don’t be particularly surprised should you spot this ebony beauty gracing the catwalk nearest you.

Some of her other talents include: writing fantasy stories and musical lyrics. This aspiring singer writes her own songs, some of which can be found on Youtube. One such song is dubbed “Crazy World.” One of her favourite topics in her lyrics is love. “I write love songs and songs about rebellion.” As if her list of talents couldn’t get any longer, Gonzalez also discloses to CV that she is a dancer and her dance, like much of the other areas in her life, is unorthodox. “I’m a bikini body dancer,” she says. When pressed to describe what a bikini body dancer does, she notes “it is a type of fitness dance of sorts.”

A Rebel with A Cause She acknowledges her cultural icons, the legendary Bob Marley and the king of pop, Michael Jackson. Gonzalez identifies similar attributes between herself and Marley, confidently proclaiming, “He [Marley] was a rebel with a cause.” If one word could be used to sum up her personality, she admits it would be “crazy,” meaning that her life rituals are unorthodox. Being a lover of spicy foods and extreme sports (sky-diving, etc), she is uniquely different.

A Star Among Many “In 10 years, I see myself as an internationally successful fashion designer and singer, as well as being one of the most influential people of the world, in terms of setting trends,” Gonzalez predicts. There is a saying, “if you can believe it, you can achieve it.” With this level of individuality marked by a queer, idiosyncratic nature, Gonzalez’s competitive advantage is found in her fierce ability to march to the beat of her own drum.

“In 10 years, I see myself as an internationally successful fashion designer and singer, as well as being one of the most influential people of the world, in terms of setting trends.” Abenah Gonzalez rocking her ‘crazy’ designs

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Mexican Designers Merge

Cultural Heritage and Haute Couture

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By Lauren Burn

Singular, fluid, and enchanting - three words that exemplify the Pineda Covalin collection. Pineda Covalin was born in 1996 through the efforts of two young designers, Christina Pineda and Ricardo Covalin. In the sixteen years since its inception, Pineda Covalin is known for the high quality of their fabrics, designs and workmanship, as well as intricate attention to detail and the broad range of Mexican influences that typify their work. While today they are acknowledged for their role in making the textural fullness of Mexican art and symbolism more accessible, Pineda Covalin, when it was originally launched, began as a silk-based line of scarves and ties.

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Simple yet elegant designs of Pineda Covalin

A decision was made early on to parent a line that would visually depict Mexico’s vast and varied cultural influences through time. Pineda and Covalin’s vision led them to collaborate with Mexico’s National Anthropology Institute and from this union they began to identify and rope in many of Mexico’s symbolic icons, reinterpreting them for a modern audience while still preserving the integrity of the art. Once their skills were merged, partnerships were established and the idea of how to move forward was cemented, Pineda Covalin would grow from a local brand of scarves and ties to international acclaim with a wider range of garments, accessories and furniture. Pineda Covalin now has outlets worldwide, in countries such as: United Kingdom, Spain, Argentina, France, Australia and throughout the Central American region. Mexican culture is nothing if not intense and visceral. With more than 90 percent of the population identifying as Roman Catholic, everything about the culture – the people, the food, the language, the dance – demonstrates the delicate interplay between revelry and worship. In Pineda Covalin’s latest collection, there is a reflection of the unique qualities of Mexican style and flavour, capturing the enthusiasm, the ardour and the allure of its culture and people. Each item marries art and functionality whilst capturing aspects of Mexico’s mythology, nature, architecture and pre-Hispanic figures. The overall feel of the collection is very fluid; flowers, foliage and elaborate scrollwork typify much of what the collection showcases. Each piece is a visual clue to the assortment of influences that characterize Mexican culture.

Ricardo Covalin, Co-founder

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With more than 90 percent of the population identifying as Roman Catholic, everything about the culture - the people, the food, the language, the dance – demonstrates the delicate interplay between revelry and worship.

In addition to lending their talents to building a country brand, the founders of Pineda Covalin are also keen to assist in the building of an industry that recognises the importance of preserving and promoting local and indigenous culture. Through their alliance with organisations such as: Casa de la Amistad for Children with Cancer, World Vision for Children in Need, and Discovering Latin America, they work to create similar opportunities for others to forge the gap between culture, art and industry. In many parts of Latin America, local and indigenous art forms are still largely restricted. They exist generally as a form of national pride amongst locals and, in most cases, as items of curious charm and fascination to foreigners. But for many local and indigenous craftsmen, the external economic gains and influence of their efforts and artistry are yet to be fully realised. The efforts and the success of Pineda Covalin serve as an example of how “local” can be translated to “global,” transcending boundaries and showcasing the power of the preservation of cultural histories as a tool for development. Where the challenge of packing years of history and a plethora of cultural baggage into as concise a statement about Mexican art and symbolism is concerned, Pineda Covalin has ultimately succeeded in forging the successful union between local culture and haute couture.

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Snapshots Christina Pineda, Co-founder • Studied Textile Design and has a Masters in History of Art • Personal style is conservative, with splashes of colour • Sensitive to the art and beauty of the world • Loves to travel, read and quiet time to herself • Well recognized in the world of Arts and Culture Ricardo Covalin, Co-founder • Studied Industrial Design • Optimistic, creative, fun, hedonistic, loyal and honest • Loves to travel, visit museums, experience new things, share good moments with friends • Favourite book is “The Pantone Colour Guide”

The efforts and the success of Pineda Covalin serve as an example of how “local” can be translated to “global,” transcending boundaries and showcasing the power of the preservation of cultural histories as a tool for development.

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Cultural Voice eZine  

Jan/Feb issue

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