Round II - BCA Feature #MakingArtInTheTimeofCOVID19
Updated: May 1, 2020
Following on from the enormous success of our first feature exploring the magic of our creatives during this lockdown, we decided to do a second feature. This by no means includes all our creatives — and again, we emphasise that we don't believe you need to be busy or productive during this time — but for those who have wanted us to make it known then we are ready to celebrate our people.
Our wonderful journo-in-training Diane Wesh has picked up the pace and has put together this second feature under the mentorship of founder Dione Joseph. In case you are wondering, these are Diane's first media features, so show her and all our creatives some aroha. Get up close and personal with an amazing range of creatives - we're so proud of all of them.
“I’m a shameless workaholic,” says 23-year-old Rumbi Muzawazi with a laugh. “I thrive on a maxed-out calendar and I’m always on the move.”
Born in Harare, Zimbabwe, Muzawazi is now based in Auckland and is a full-time IT professional, model, and founder of her own business, Ruccie Reign Event Styling.
Like many other Black Creatives, she understands that art is not a commercial enterprise but an integral part of life itself. The momentary pause that COVID-19 brought has allowed Muzawazi to shift her habits from busy to balanced as she dips her hands into a new creative medium, baking. “Everyday I have time to create new desserts, yesterday it was apple and cinnamon muffins and blueberry cupcakes, today wh” she says.
As the country continues practicing social distancing, Muzawazi continues to experiment in the kitchen saying, “I look for various ways to use one ingredient. Recently, I’ve played with cream cheese for chicken stuffing, potato mash and wraps.”
When she is not combining ingredients Muzawazi uses her spare time to connect virtually with other creatives and research new business ideas. “I've discovered so many other inspirations people from whom I can learn and also found new sources of to style events. “I'm fascinated by the event stylists such as Tendai Kevin Zhou and Precious Thamag back home in Zimbabwe,” she says. “I believe the event space in Africa is far more advanced than New Zealand, so I’m doing my introduce the ingenuity of our people to Aotearoa.”
Muzawazi continues to transform her instagram platform with curated content of her cooking and baking - successes as well as trials and errors.
Muzawazi's dishes: homemade
mushroom sauce on a garlic butter steak with
Here you'll find images of her favourite dishes including potato gratin served with stuffed bacon wrapped chicken. “I love this because it reminds me of home, not just the food itself, but the whole process of preparing buffets with my mum.”
Muzawazi aims to uplift those who may be struggling. She also encourages them to use this COVID-19 period to tap into talents and passions they haven’t explored.
“This is not the end. We are blessed, the best is yet to come!”
Otis Donovan Herring
Otis Donovan Herring is a tireless, prolific dancer whose work focuses on African fitness, contemporary movement, choreography and acting. Herring hails from College Park, Georgia (USA) and received his dance training and Bachelor of Fine Arts from Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 2013, he moved to Auckland, New Zealand to join Black Grace Dance company under the direction of Neil Ieremia and has been honing his craft ever since.
“I want people to be joyous and suspend their frustration —confident enough to be ratchet and unfiltered and I want the total well-being of individuals to be taken care of through my art.”
Despite the personal hurdles of COVID-19, Herring continues to dance, revamping his lounge into a studio space to film his online classes. “Dance is still the leader and my space is now a playground,” he says. Herring holds his online classes on the internet using the popular platform Zoom to showcase his sessions live to his audience. He invites all to partake only requesting a $10 donation, but waives the fee for those who cannot afford it.
To keep his spirits up in these anxious times, Herring takes time away from dancing saying, “When I’m not physical, I edit dance videos stores on my computer.” He also finds peace in sewing and crocheting scarves and hats for the winter.
When it comes to the emotions his art conveys Herring says, “I want people to be joyous and suspend their frustration — confident enough to be ratchet and unfiltered and I want the total well-being of individuals to be taken care of through my art.”
Asya Mohamed Abeid
Founder of the rapidly growing African fashion house, Zanzibar limited, Asya Mohamed Abeid is unwavering in her commitment to weaving her rich multi-ethnic heritage with fashion and design.
Born in Zanzibar (an island adjacent to mainland Tanganyika, commonly known by its colonial name Tanzania) with ancestral roots from across the Arab world and Africa, Abeid moved to Auckland five years ago. In 2018, she began her Zanzibarian fashion house.
“My designs are made out of kintege African themed fabric),” she explains. “I design and make cushion covers, wall art, children, men and women’s clothing as well as accessories including bow ties and head wraps.
All her material is sourced material from Zanzibar and she takes great delight in creating customized and one-off items for her clients. These fulfill both their dream gowns and also share her culture with a broader audience.
The strict measures of level 4 lockdown continue to prohibit Abeid from distributing her purchases; however, she remains hopeful and continues to engage and grow her audience using her social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram while we wait for Level 3. “At this time everyone is at home,” she says. “So, it’s good opportunity for me to keep posting so that I can communicate with my clients and build more trust.”
As a Black Creative designer, Abeid is also using this time to craft customized facemasks for the community of Aotearoa. She is also harnessing the power of social media to reach out to her friends and collect donations on behalf on Zanzibarian doctors who will use the proceeds to purchase required COVID-19 gear.
Through social messages from her medical colleagues in Zanzibar, Abeid was made aware of the seriousness of COVID-19 in Zanzibar which led to her immediate call to action.
“Zanzibar is not as developed as other countries and doctors don’t have enough equipment to take care of patients with COVID-19,” she shares. “Sometimes doctors lose patients because they don’t have test kits or enough masks.”
However, it is not just doctors or medical staff who are suffering. "Ramadan has started," says Abeid, "Right now should be a time of prayer and reflection but there are masses of poor people because not only have they lost homes due to flooding they simply can't even afford the main meal at this time of fasting."
Even half-way across the world, Abeid continues to reach out to her homeland saying: “I want my clients to know that they can purchase my product at a discounted rate and a portion of my earnings will go towards support for Zanzibar towards fighting this deadly disease.” The effects of COVID-19 are having a devastating effect on Zanzibar which is also experiencing flooding. Click here to gain an insight into what is happening and support Abeid's efforts by shopping at her store - knowing your purchases are helping local Zanzibarians.
Mutsa Anesu Murare
Black hair connoisseur, Mutsa Anesu Murare grew up in Harare, Zimbabwe but her turangawaewae stretches back to Manicaland from where her grandparents and ancestors rise. She and her family arrived in Aotearoa when she was 12 and always aware of the issues regarding women's body and hair back in Zimbabwe, she has been an advocate for radical hair and self-care.
In Aotearoa it can be easy to assume that embracing one's fro back in the homeland is easy — but this is the exception rather than the rule. The story, often is far more nuanced. Murare explains,
“[Back in Zimbabwe] there was a lack of knowledge regarding African hair care practices and there were also a lot of body image issues (if you can call it that) regarding hair. When I was growing up, women preferred to chemically straighten (relax) their hair or wear wigs, weaves and other protective styles."
She goes on to add,
“I would say, most women (myself included) have had an inferiority complex about their hair. Thankfully, in recent years there has been a shift in awareness and many of us are now choosing to return to natural, or still wearing wigs and weaves but doing so consciously. I can only speak for myself, however, moving to New Zealand triggered within me a deep introspection that forced me to reckon with my identity.”
Murare's commitment to “educate my fellow African women about how to take care of their hair and to learn to love it” inspired the creation of Mama Taku’s Butters hair products for black women with kinky and curly hair. The business which only began in March last year has already grown tremendously and is responding to an immediate urgent need by black New Zealand women who have been craving local products made with love.
Mutsa Murare and her products, Mama Taku's butters
As someone who works non-stop as well as raising a family, COVID-19 has been an opportunity for Murare to recuperate. Prior to the lockdown, she had felt the full weight of challenges that comes with being a business owner including the lack of time to create anything new.
“I was manufacturing products but there was nothing new, it felt almost robotic and stagnant,” she says. “However, this break has allowed me the time to rest, come back to my art with fresh eyes and present new offerings.”
With Level 4 of lockdown coming to an end Murare is currently packaging her products for shipment to ensure her clients can receive their orders once Level 3 commences. She hopes her hair butters will facilitate introspection and presence for black women saying,
“We (black women) have a long and complicated history with our hair and my products are centered around wash day.”
“It's not fast food,”she adds, it is a long, multi-step process that involves learning the language of your kinks and coils section by section. My hope is to turn wash day into a sacred communion and help women to love their hair in its natural state and see its beauty.”
“I had been here for almost fifteen years and even though I noticed the increased number of members in the African and Afro-caribbean community — I still felt I wasn’t part of the gay community.”
Michelle Mascoll hails from London and moved to Aotearoa in 2005. She is of Black British and Afro-Caribbean heritage and the organiser for the Same Same But Black collective in Tāmaki Makaurau.
With a career spanning over 30 years in audio (including film, television, radio or sports) as well as substantial time in London running clubs and large scale events, Mascoll is using any spare time from her job at the University of Auckland to develop her latest podcast: I’m just older, darling.
“This is a podcast that focuses on elders specifically those 50+ and older. I’m interested in exploring how our community are feeling during this isolation.”
Michelle Mascoll. Credit: Vanessa Samuel
The podcast welcomes voices from all members of the community but focuses intentionally on the Black, Māori and Pasifika community who are over 50. “The opinions of these communities are important to me,” she explains. “We need to actively seek them so as to fully allow the voices of our intersectional communities to be heard.”
Mascoll’s target audience for this initiative include black womxn, artists, people living in the rainbow community, people over 50, and people under 50 who are interested in their elders.
Ultimately, her purpose is that in a time when many are “addicted to a body count, it’s necessary to create a historical point of reference that also validated those senior members of our community and their lives”.
Mascoll also acknowledges that she’s been fortunate to continue working through the lockdown as well. Currently, she’s working through the archives for Māori and Pacific content at the University of Auckland. “I’ve just finished looking at the polynesian festival from 1981,” she says. “It’s a beautiful opportunity to hear original waiata and haka - some of them probably haven’t been performed since.”
Mascoll is an active member of Black Creatives Aotearoa and is proud that the inclusive principles of the organisation are shared with her collective Same Same But Black.
“This initiative came to fruition in June 2019,” she says. “I had been here for almost fifteen years and even though I noticed the increased number of members in the African and Afro-caribbean community I still felt I wasn’t part of the gay community.”
“I remember thinking, surely, I couldn’t be the only one… and I kept waiting for someone to make the space but in the end, I decided that it was my responsibility.
Safe spaces for intersectional communities don’t happen by chance nor are they always given the right infrastructure, Mascoll is committed that SSBB will continue to be a genuinely safe place that is inclusive of all but “upholding the principles of telling our stories from our point-of view.” I’m just older, darling podcast will be available from June 2020 onwards.
“Tomorrow will be a better day and if you put your mind and soul to it, you will get somewhere.”
Self-made lyricalist, Induna, is a music producer, artist and black creative based in Wellington, New Zealand. He self-produced his first EP, Dreams of An Underdog which features six great hits: Picture Perfect Day, Save Me, She Needs A Break amongst others. Dreams of An Underdog is currently streaming on all platforms such as apple music and spotify.
While stuck indoors, Induna is using this COVID-19 isolation to write and produce music for himself and various artists. “On Level 4 lockdown, I’ve been able to create new tunes blending Pop, Hip-Hop and Afrobeat vibes.”
On 10/4/20, he recently released a new single, Smooth Criminal which features artists such as Andy Fisher and Takudzwa which received well over 21K views on Youtube.
Aside from creating beats for creatives, Induna uses his Facebook and Instagram to market his new and upcoming music . “As the lockdown continues I am working on finishing my last two songs for my EP,” he says.
As COVID-19 continues to linger, Induna continues to hold on to hope while encouraging his listeners to do the same saying:
“We are going to be alright. When we come back we’re going to come back swinging.”
Politically charged creative, Chinwe Akomah, is using her voice to advocate on behalf of the issues black communities face during this COVID-19 crisis.
Born and raised in England, Akomah's people hail from the Igbo tribe, Nigeria, and she moved to Auckland in 2013. She is a tireless advocate for the people and is using digital social media and writing to express her concerns pertaining to the black community in New Zealand.
The former president of ACOFI (African Communities Forum Incorporated) is now based in Wellington and continues to be a strong propellor for the needs of the community. “I continue to be involved in advocacy and recently spoke to the race relations commissioner Meng Foon about the challenges black creatives face during this time.”
In between her advocacy, Akomah eases her mind by writing and making jewelry saying, “I write to channel my emotions and jewelry making is when I want to use my hands and zone out.”
Akomah is currently working on a new set of activist statement earrings that say “power,” “king,” “queen,” and her latest one “Igbo.” Her earrings are gender fluid, loud and unapologetic.
She uses jewelry making as her creative platform because she love earrings saying, “the bigger, the bolder, the better.”
Akomah uses polymer clay to create her statement earrings and says that process is “relaxing and therapeutic” and that she feels a great sense of pride when it comes to creating art with her hands. “It’s how I show my advocacy, myself and power as a black creative through my art.”
Literary creative, Kii Small, is looking on the bright side during this pandemic as he spends his time indoors script writing for podcasts. With ancestral ties to St. Phillip and Bridgetwon, Barbados, Smalls now calls Wellington home.
When it comes to his artistic talents, Small enjoys infusing his knack for creative works with his passion for podcast script writing. “They’re a fantastic mix of investigative and anecdotal,” he says. “I can focus on someone else for a long time and continue to surprised by their levels of innovation.”
Although COVID-19's isolation measures have prevented Small from socialising in person he has gone virtual, directing the SaySo Project, a podcast that focuses on normalising conversations around mental health through video and audio. “It’s been hard for me to find inspiration to continue with creative works. However, it’s been a fantastic experience working with like-minded people remotely.”
Small recommends that creatives should use their talents during this COVID-19 period to influence the betterment of humanity. With this newfound perspective inside an introvert’s life, writing is his comfort during this difficult time. Smalls Strives “to make pieces that stand the test of time” while encouraging and uplifting all who view his work.
Zimbabwean born musical creative, Thabiso Sibanda has spent the past 10 years in Wellington, New Zealand. He is currently using his platform to have conversations around different aspects of mental health during this COVID-19 crisis.
Through podcasting and instagram storytelling, Sibanda shifts the perspective on mental health by changing the narrative. “The power of storytelling cannot be overstated, especially stories from marginalized communities,” he says. “As Africans we continue to see an absence of our stories in mainstream media. Or if they are told — we are not the ones telling them.” Sibanda believes that, "historical accounts are always seen through the lens of the person telling the story," and feels that history is "white washed and isn't told by our people."
Sibanda uses his podcasting skills to amplify the black experience because, "Now more than ever with the explosion of the internet and social media, story telling has been democratised so it’s important that our history is told by the right people."
During this time in isolation, Sibanda virtually passes the mic and amplifies the voices of those who he feels are often ignored. “For my platform, I hope to tell stories that are yet to be shared in a public space; ask questions that haven’t been asked and evoke emotions that haven’t been felt.”
When he is not interviewing young adults for his digital series he spends this lockdown period submerging himself in music, widening the “rolodex of artists” he listens to.
“Music is a way that I escape the depths of reality,” he explains. “For me, it’s more nuanced than the vibration of an 808 or the velvet of a jazz synth, it is the accompanying message.”
Sibanda continues to create podcasts saying: Storytelling is at the heart of what I do and I view this as a time to be introspective.” At the moment, he continues to work as a host of the Cozy Corner podcast which is affiliated with fellow Black Creative Kii Small’s podcast, the Sayso Project. “I’m assisting in the business aspect of the Sayso Project and behind the scenes administration,” he explains.
Through audio and visual storytelling, Sibanda hopes his podcasts will give people a reprieve from the fear and pain that COVID-19 brings.
“I want someone to read my work and not feel alone anymore. For a moment, I want my writing to connect them to something, something meaningful.”
Poet, writer and playwright, Shalene Williams, arrived in Tamaki Makaurau on 1 January 2013 in pursuit of adventure. Hailing from Cape Town, South Africa, this mother-of-one and project manager is using her time indoors to continue working full-time while flexing her creative muscles.
An active member of Black Creatives Aotearoa, Williams is developing her skills as a digital copywriter for BCA’s social pages under the mentorship of founder, Dione Joseph. When she is not working her regular job or engaging online she finds solace in writing poetry, saying:
“It’s proven to be a challenging, yet rewarding experience and has helped me develop a disciplined practice around my writing; which in turn, has been a useful coping mechanism during this time.”
While staying home has kept many of us physically separated, Williams is using this COVID-19 isolation to stay digitally connected. Just recently, she virtually checked into Rupi Kaur’s free, IG live, poetry writing workshop and used that opportunity to grow and learn as an artist. “I’m learning more about writing as a technique,” she explains. “I enjoy seeing the progression in my writing and experiencing emotions in a deeper, tangible way.” She's also completed BCA poets workshop with the indefatigable Sonya Renee Taylor (author of the renowned Body is Not an Apology) and is a developing a collection of poetry.
Williams continues to use this COVID-19 period to write relatable content for everyone who is currently struggling during this quarantine. “There is comfort in knowing that everyone is going through the same thing,’ she says. “I want someone to read my work and not feel alone anymore. For a moment, I want my writing to connect them to something, something meaningful.”