Tag Archives: Chinedesign

Mr. Eazi: A Man in his Moment

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Almost two weeks later, the city is still buzzing with talk of Mr. Eazi’s epic Toronto show. There are a few video clips floating online that might approximate the experience but it was certainly one of those “you had to be there” moments.   By the time his 16 song run of back to back hits had concluded, the rising Afrobeats star had made it clear that if his time had not already arrived before, it had certainly arrived NOW. Shedding off his usually laid-back stage demeanour, Mr. Eazi energetically attacked his performance like a man possessed with purpose. He utilized every inch of the massive stage at Rebel, at times walking on the thin side walls separating the VIP section and then finally wading through the almost 1500 strong crowd just to “feel what the vibe felt like in the middle”.

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Backed by a DJ, a 6 -piece band and a trio of dancers, Mr. Eazi commanded the crowd like a seasoned veteran. At times it was easy to forget that the “Skintight” single that catapulted him onto the radar of the burgeoning Afrobeats scene (in Nigeria/Ghana/UK) was only released in 2015. How many times have you seen a performance with a relatively new artist where every single song in his set gets the full “sing along” from the crowd? Despite his somewhat defensive insistence that he was not a “singer”, Mr. Eazi has nothing to worry about his vocal performance going forward if his shows remain at this high energy level where he sounds best. This was not his first live show of this magnitude but it was certainly one of his top ones. The Toronto performance seemed to mark a turning point from being reluctantly thrust into the spotlight to boldly and believably owning every second of the moment. The concert concluded with a long awaited performance of his summer smash “Leg Over” and then quickly pivoted into a big after-party in the nightclub upstairs. With Mr. Eazi staying on as the party’s host and hype man, the night ended on a euphoric high note long after the 2am last call had been announced. Toronto’s “Summer of Afrobeats” had found its crowning moment.

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Mr. Eazi’s morning the day of the show had started out on a low key note. When we met up with the artist at his suite in the King Edward Hotel to take him out for an exclusive photoshoot, we found him sitting on the carpeted floor, slouched against the wall, trying to stave off the jet lag and tour exhaustion with a tall cup of coffee. We had expected to find him in a celebratory mood. Just two days prior, he had been announced as Apple’s coveted “Up Next” artist of the month. His image was already gracing Apple billboards around the world and he had just performed on the Late Late Show with James Corden. After cornering the Afrobeats market as its second most streamed artist, Mr. Eazi was about to become known to an even wider demographic: potentially all 27 million subscribers of Apple Music. He had every good reason to pop champagne at 11am if he so desired but his mind was already elsewhere: two steps ahead plotting how to maximize the opportunity. We observed his pensive mood and decided to shoot him in that intimate moment rather than force our original vision.

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As he tried on different outfits for the shoot, phone calls kept pouring in from friends calling to congratulate him on his moves: “Chale, I just dey watch your instagram and it’s like wow!”. There were also business calls. There seemed to be a lot of things in motion and Mr. Eazi was certainly hands on with his career. When the shoot was over, I had a chance to talk to him about his career and the future of Afrobeats: a genre whose DNA is already being grafted into songs on the pop-charts without the involvement of African artists themselves.  He was appreciative of the attention his music was getting but was under no delusion nor apprehension about the hard work it would take to reach his full potential especially outside Africa. So why not just sign to a major label? Labels have been sniffing around almost since the beginning of his career but him and his team have a long term strategy. “The machine” still had it’s use but they have come so far without it, they had the liberty to pick and choose which cog of the machine they wanted working for them. It was refreshing to hear.

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We strolled up Yonge St and made a detour through the Apple store so he could pick up a charger for his MacBook. Some of the blue-shirted staff stared at him as we walked around the store. We were both puzzled as to what was going until one of them pointed at one of the display iMacs which was a running a video loop of Apple “Up Next” artists. He explained that Mr. Eazi was featured as the default screen on devices across Apple’s 498 stores in 22 countries. Big! Before he was ferried off to his rehearsal for the night’s show, I remarked that 2017 had been his best year so far. He was quiet for a moment, perhaps weighing his present status against his vision for the future then he smiled and replied “Ehn? You think so? Just wait for 2018!”

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Words/Styling/Direction: Chinedu Ukabam for SUPAFRIK
Photography: SoTeeOh
All clothing: Chinedesign (except artist’s own black pants)
Accessories: Papaya & Co (Ankara Tie and pocket square), Bohten (all glasses)

Note: SUPAFRIK was a co-presenter for Mr. Eazi’s Toronto show “Life is Eazi”. More photos from the shoot can be found on the Chinedesign facebook page here: Also check out the official mixtape of Mr. Eazi’s Toronto stop.  Compiled and mixed by DJ Revy B, The Eazi Motion Mixtape is a quick 25 minute intro the sounds of Mr. Eazi.

 

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Recap: SUPAFRIK at FNLROM

Thank you for joining us at Royal Ontario Museum earlier this February as we programmed and activated some spaces for their #FNLROM Black History Month Special. We converted the Rotunda into “The Afro Lounge” and Bronfman Hall became “SUPAFRIK Central”.

The Afro Lounge: Designer Chinedu Ukabam invited FNLROM guests to the coolest new spot in town, “The Afro Lounge” where they could order Suya, grab a drink, and play the African strategy game Oware(also called Ayo or Mancala). There was also a dressing room in the back to try on exclusive pieces from ILU, his unreleased Chinedesign summer collection inspired by Igbo proverbs from Nigeria and the ROM exhibition Art, Honour, and Ridicule: Asafo Flags from Southern Ghana. Photographer Jalani Morgan was on hand to capture images for an interactive lookbook edited by Maz Osman. You can find the look-book we created on our page.

SUPAFRIK Central: To bring the #SUPAFRIK effect to the ROM,we assembled an art-dance-food party. It featured some new talent like ADL dance crew as well as frequent collaborators like Golden Stool Restaurant (whose Jollof rice was sold out before 10pm!), DJ Revy B and DJ Deemaks, who debuted a live Afrobeats video mix. By the time the spontaneous electric slide broke out in the middle of an Afro house set, it was clear that this was one of the best FNLROMs yet!

Stay tuned for what we have coming up in spring!

Behind the Scenes at Style and Profile!

We can’t believe that Chinedu Ukabam’s Style and Profile is just about coming to a close. Tonight, the SUPAFRIK fam will be at the Come Up To My Room Love Design Party to celebrate our hard work and long nights. Chinedu partnered up with Gregorio Jimenez from Honour Carpentry to create some amazing pieces for Style and Profile. Here’s a look back on a few moments (out of the countless hours!) spent putting it all together. The show is still on until Sunday evening – if you’re in Toronto and haven’t checked it out already, make sure that you do!

 

 

Where We Spend Our Late Nights: BAND Gallery

It’s been a busy start to the year for SUPAFRIK. We’re just about to wrap Chinedu Ukabam’s installation at Come Up To My Room, Style and Profile, and jump right into getting ready for Water Carry Me Go. None of our planning, plotting, and scheming would have been possible without our outstanding sponsors at Black Artists’ Network Dialogue (BAND) Gallery who have generously opened up their studio space for us. They’re dedicated to highlighting and supporting the work of Black artists and cultural workers in Toronto, and are, in a nutshell, pretty dope. Here’s an introduction:

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What is the Band Gallery Mandate?

BAND Gallery and Cultural Centre is dedicated to developing emerging and mid-career professional artists and arts administrators by providing an accessible venue to showcase artists’ work and to present Black cultural community events and programs to the general public.

What is coming up in the space?

We have two main events coming up in the next few months.

The first is Black History Month Programming 2016 happening from February 11th to March 6th entitled “50 years of Creating Safe Spaces: From The Rent Party to Club Night.” This interactive exhibition will bring music, videos, photography and dance together to document safe spaces. This exhibition will include the photography of Ian Watson along with the archival promotional posters of Hot Steppers who bring us Bump and Hustle.

The second is the Scotiabank CONTACT Festival happening from April 28th to May 29th. In partnership with Autograph ABP,BAND presents the first solo exhibition in Canada by the celebrated African photographer James Barnor, showcasing a wide selection of street and studio portraiture from the 1950s to the early 1970s. Through the medium of portraiture, Barnor’s photographs represent societies in transition: Ghana moving towards its independence from colonial rule and London becoming a cosmopolitan, multicultural metropolis during the ‘swinging’ sixties.

How can artists in the community get involved with BAND Gallery?

We have opportunities for people in the community to get involved at the gallery as volunteers. Volunteers are responsible for gallery maintenance and guest relations, with an emphasis on educating and exhibiting. If interested please send cover letter and resume to Paula Kennedy at admin@band-rand.com.

 

To the BAND team from SUPAFRIK: Thanks for all of your support!

Inspiration: Futurustic-Nostalgic Hairstyles in Anticipation of #StylenProfile16

SUPAFRIK’s Creative Director, Chinedu Ukabam, is transforming the bathroom at the Gladstone hotel into anode to Afro-pop art and the distinct aesthetic of barbershops across Africa. He’s one of the featured designers at the hotel’s annual Come Up To My Room design event, where artists are given free reign to transform areas of the hotel into immersive installations. Imagine a (futuristic!) nostalgic alternate dimension dedicated to hair and its capacity to shape, mold, and coiffe identity; his exhibit, “Style and Profile”, is exactly that.

Hair. Wouldn’t it be interesting to look inside the heads of Black men and women and see how our brains respond to a simple mention of the world, or is it just us? Hair is a powerful component in our experience.  Chinedu Ukabam was inspired by the fact that, for many, walking into barbershops provides the opportunity for them to pick an identity—haircuts that promise to turn wearers into Lumumba‘s or Private Eye‘s, or more recently, The Weeknd—and of course, to debate and disseminate today’s hottest topics.

In “Style and Profile”, Ukabam has created a barbershop that takes the shaping of identities very seriously, and very literally. It’s a futuristic comment on the ways in which people have chosen to portray themselves, especially via social media. If hairstyles were all we had before, lighting and angles filter the images we depict today; notwithstanding a stream of selfies reflecting bathroom mirrors and the caricature we most identify with.

Oh, how we see ourselves…

So, while The Lumumba might still be your look of choice, such cuts are an accessory to the multi-dimensional narratives in our virtual timelines.

Chinedu Ukabam’s Style ‘n Profile exhilarates our senses in a captivating installation at the Gladstone Hotel from January 21-24. Below, you have some African pop-cultural references inspiring the themes running across the thread of his art…

Which one is most you? From The Prince to The Flattop, The Executive to Suave, insta-choose the look that is most you! Most true. Most new. most astute.

As we reminisce, isn’t it profound to see the return of old styles and the periods in which they’ve come back? From Lumumba’s iconic part, to the Weeknd’s rather wicked renaissance of the Mini Dread.

Now talk about futuristic nostalgia! Here we have a Rwandan man with an Amasunzu hairstyle circa 1923. What name would you give for this style if it was one of the options in the first image?

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Oh ladies, how varying the styles can be! So much to choose from.

 

Artist Chinedu Ukabam used various pop-culture references as inspiration for his installation.

Come and join us for a once in a lifetime barbershop experience at the Gladstone Hotel from January 21st – 24th. Pre-purchase your tickets at Eventbrite here. Join the conversation online with the hashtag #StylenProfile16.

By: Daniella Kalinda

 

Help Wanted! Apply Within.

We are looking for interns and volunteers to work on some exciting projects we have lined up for 2016 in the Toronto area. If you have an affinity for contemporary African culture and a passion for fashion or the arts, we have some awesome opportunities that you will definitely be interested in. You can find more information on the paid internships and volunteer positions below.
 
1) Communications Intern (1 position)
2) Studio Manager /Artist Assistant Intern (2 positions)
3) General Volunteers (3 positions)
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To Apply:
1. Research past events such as Afrotropolis Wonderland, MasqueradeTO, Palattes of Africa and The (Re)Generator Project to get a feel for the tone and scope of the projects that we produce.
2. Send an email to Lucy@supafrik.com with your resume and cover letter outlining what you bring to the table and what you hope to gain from the experience. Be sure to indicate with position or positions you are applying for.
3. Feel free to put some thought/creativity into your application but hurry! Deadline is December 23! Good luck!
 
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Position: Communications Intern
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Key Responsibilities:
Act as social media liaison. This will involve but is not limited to:
* Documenting the work in progress of the artists working on the projects
* Generating original content around the various projects

* Sending out personalized email PR blasts to blogs

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SUPAFRIK NOLA! A recap of Pop-Up #8 in New Orleans.

Two weeks ago we went down to New Orleans, Louisiana to set up shop for the eight edition of SUPAFRIK. It was an amazing experience worthy of a few thousand words. Instead here’s a hundred or so pictures instead of New Orleanians experiencing SUPAFRIK and us experiencing New Orleans. SUPAFRIK Weekend was a blast and we are already planning to do it again (join the FB page and stay tuned). To the beautiful people of New Orleans and the village that it took to make this happen: Thank you!

Words by Chinedu Ukabam | Photos by Aden Abebe

The beautiful Joan Mitchell Center where we lived, worked and played for the duration of our trip

The beautiful Joan Mitchell Center where we lived, worked and played for the duration of our trip

Thanks to the students from State University New Orlean's Museum Studies program. They were the best install we could have asked for. Erika Evans, Maya Mathews and Kazim Oyewuwo

Thanks to the students from State University New Orlean’s Museum Studies program. They were the best install we could have asked for. Erika Evans, Maya Mathews and Kazim Oyewuwo

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We passed through a cool event put on by DOPEciety called "Couches". It's like bringing the coolest cutting edge bands into your living room to jam just for you. They transformed the space at PORT beautifully to fit with the theme. A few days later we used this same space to throw our GUMBO dance party.

We passed through a cool event put on by DOPEciety called “Couches”. It’s like bringing the coolest cutting edge bands into your living room to jam just for you. They transformed the space at PORT beautifully to fit with the theme. A few days later we used this same space to throw our GUMBO dance party.

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