Birds of a feather…A sit down with more of the creative minds behind Afrotropolis Wanderland

#AfrotropolisWanderland will be an experience where the worlds of fashion, film and visual arts are merged together for  “the one-night only, multi-sensory art exhibit” as described by Paul Aguirre in this weeks Fashion and Style section of blogTO.

Register for Afrotropolis-Wanderland in Toronto, Ontario  on Eventbrite

Tickets on sale now at

Afrotropolis Wanderland Feb. 4 2011

Last week we sat down with the creative mind behind the show’s concept and fashion designs, Chinedu Ukabam of Chinedesign. He provided insight into the work that went into the show and what we could expect. This week we had a roundtable discussion with some other key contributors involved in the show; visual artists Kalkidan Assefa and Jimmy Chiale , as well as video and film producer Marcos Fantu. They shared with us why they jumped on board this project, creative process behind the collaboration and the source of their inspiration. 

Q. Why did you want to get invovled with Afrotropolis Wanderland? 
Kalkidan– When I heard about Afrotropolis Wanderland I thought it was a great idea and an interesting approach to subject matter and themes that I find both familiar and stimulating to my own work.  I liked the holistic approach used to incorporate different aspects of African culture , Black history, art and fashion to create a unique new space and reality…I also really believed in Chinedu’s creative vision, having seen his work on Supafrik and Afrotropolis I.

Jimmy– When Chinedu came to me, I thought the  Afrotropolis  Wanderland was a very interesting and challenging idea, so I got involved.

Marcos-Chinedu is an imaginative, hard working and talented individual. Given the opportunity to create visuals with him was a great chance for me to collaborate with someone I consider a fine artist and designer.

Q.Have you ever worked on a collaborative project like this before? Can you describe the creative process?
J- Yes, I have worked on collaborations before. Like Longboard Living where I was hand painting on the skateboards. But Afrotropolis is new and different for me.
K- I’ve done some collaborating before but never on textile designs and never in a blind collaboration where neither side knows exactly what the other is going to bring to the table. It was cool because it required me to think differently, instead of envisioning the completed work I had to anticipate what I should leave room for and how somebody else may put things together. I had to give up control of the outcome and basically create the bare bones for Chinedu to put life into.

Fela Kuti "commemorative cloth" textile from the Chinedu/Kalkidan collaboration.

M- I have never collaborated with someone on a directorial work like I did with Chi on this project.

Q.Did you learn anything from working on this project?
J- Well I have  learned about a  new language  and culture (Nsibidi writing system from Southeastern Nigeria) and I also learned how to mix this with my style of work.

K- I was already into African traditional and contemporary textiles, but I did extensive research for this project and found a wealth of inspiration and history.

M- Making a connection with another artist and establishing common goals and ideas can be really fruitful and interesting. Especially if you share similar work ethic and ambition. I learned that if you find a person you connect with, moreoften than not, you can create good work and learn new insights and perspectives.

Q.How would you describe your style as an artist?
K- I believe my work is influenced by a wide variety of styles from street art to very traditional painting, but I would describe it as  art for the contemporary African diaspora. Its rooted primarily in very traditional African aesthetics but its meant to engage the modern viewer.

"She Rise" by Kalkidan Assafe

J- My style is very abstract , “graffiti -ish”, bright and beautiful. A  true reflection of my environment.

Q. Marcos, how would you describe your style as a film maker?                                                                                         
M- I’m not certain. (smile). It is hard to put a description on something that I’m so close to, especially because I probably don’t see it the same way the viewers do. But my intent at least is to create a connection between the viewer and the film. It is important to me to base my work on a foundation of realty, and then build a dream-scape of endless possibilities on top of it. In clearer terms, I enjoy creating moods that feel real and natural and raw, but at the same time I add subtle elements of fantasy to it.

Q.Have you ever worked with a fashion designer before or incorporated your art into fashion?
J- I have printed my artwork on t-shirts, I  aslo do custom shoes and hats, but I have not worked with a designer before. I have shaved artwork on models head for fashion shows before! (smile)

Jimmy at Work

Jimmy at Work

K- I’ve never worked in fashion or with a fashion designer before….the closest I’ve come was making some t-shirts but thats not even comparable to the level of creativity and sophistication I feel this project has.

M-No, Chi is the first fashion designer that I have worked with.

Q.Where does your inspiration come from?
M- Everything really. I think that for the most part imagination is sum of your experiences. Whether it is the people you meet, the music you listen to, books your read, or even other artists that you admire. I take bits and pieces from all of those moments that capture my attention and interest.
K- My inspiration comes from what I’ve been exposed to in life. I feel like my art is a strong manifestation of who I am. As a person my spiritual center and my rooting is in Africa, but my sensibilities are uniquely North American. Having been born in Ethiopia but raised in Canada, speaking three languages and interacting with as wide a variety of people as you will find anywhere, I’ve never felt at a loss for inspiration. People, music, and new ideas always stimulate me.

J- My inspiration comes a lot from my environment right now. I was born and raised in Paris which also inspired me a lot. Besides that, strong energies and stories and music inspire my work.

Q.Besides, Afrotropolis Wanderland, what else can we expect from you in the future?
K- Well, I’m always creating work for upcoming shows that interest me locally and nationally. I’ll have some work showing in the D.C. area in March and I’m also completing a collection of paintings for a solo exhibition in Ottawa and Toronto. I’m also working on a collaborative project with two other awesome Ottawa artists which I can’t divulge too much information on, and I do commissioned artwork and murals regularly. Info on my recent projects can be found on my blog. ( <> )

J- I am working with a few people on different projects  like bamboo bikes and jewels. I am also planning to be part of more charity events. There is a lot more information on my work and pieces on my blog 

M- I have a few music videos on the way and I’m working on developing more shorts. Check my site at once in a while. I’ll post all my latest work there.


Afrotropolis Wanderland takes place on Saturday February 4, 2012. Doors open at 7:30pm and show starts at 8:00pm.
Register for Afrotropolis-Wanderland in Toronto, Ontario  on Eventbrite
Tickets on sale now at

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