Claude Bunny Massassa is a contemporary artist from Gabon. She created Bunny Studio in 2016, a start-up dedicated to photography production, which became DWABI Studio in 2021. As an artist, she has represented Gabon in many international exhibitions in Senegal, Uganda, France, the United States, and Italy. In her art, she denounces social stigmas around issues of identity and mental health, and explores themes of traditions and myths.
“Apart from the fact that creativity is innate to all, culture is an important element to work with these creative tools. Identifying where your creativity comes from, in society and history, to develop it even further.”
“We are here to change things, because artists will have a space and resources to realize what they want. Without thinking about production budget, setting, time restrictions, all of those things we take care of, they can focus on their craft.”
The brand-new creative studio in Libreville offers photography, videography and production services in their unique space in Gabon. The lack of opportunities for creative professionals and amateurs to have access to equipment and opportunities to hone their skills and polish their crafts is detrimental to the creative scene. DWABI Studio was created with the intent of fostering creativity locally, and allowing artists and industries to express themselves freely by removing technical barriers and providing all the tools necessary for them to flourish.
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Sagal Ali is the founder and executive director of SAF. After a few years in her career in heritage protection in the cultural sector, she decided to develop the initiative to directly support young creatives in Somalia by launching her own foundation. She hopes to bridge the social gaps and inequalities women face in Somalia, both in society and in the arts scene.
“Women and young girls are not part of the dominant discourse in Somalia since the war, and we are in a very male dominated society, especially regarding access to decision-making positions and visibility. Women’s narratives are seldom leading in the public domain, so we have a role to play to tip the scales.”
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The Somali Arts Foundation (SAF) is the first contemporary art institution in Somalia. SAF offers training in photography, cinematography and content production to young creative women in Mogadishu. SAF seeks to promote and create conducive environments for the creative industries to flourish in Somalia, while leveraging the arts to ignite critical discourses around ideas on identity, memory, loss, healing and what it means to be a “Soomaali” person in the 21st Century.
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Co-founders Catherine Dunga and Marleen Palmaers created Kitambo to bridge the gap between the African diaspora in Colombia and the narratives from the continent. From Kinshasa and Antwerp respectively, they work to connect African artists from the continent and their peers from the Colombian diaspora.
“It’s being able to transcend traditional ideas and come up with new rules, interpretations and ways of doing things. Art transforms, heals, transcends everything. It helps express a lot of emotions.”
“And from the beginning, it was important for the young people from Siloé to be able to tell their stories because they are really stigmatized, they are associated with the world of violence and danger, and they want to show something else from their region. This project helped them to tell their story as they wanted to tell it, and to show it to the people.”
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Kitambo is a non-profit organization based in Bogotá that promotes contemporary African art in Colombia and Latin America, support the visibility of the creation of Colombian artists interested in inquiring about African and diasporic identities and tell their own stories, thus addressing issues of memory and identity.
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Martha Kazungu is a curator, art Historian and Founder of Njabala Foundation, an organization that curates periodic exhibitions and organizes a public program of activities to create a safe space for female artists to thrive and blossom.
A trailblazer for feminist art in Uganda, her journey in building her own art space and the work she does to fight against gender inequality makes her a pioneer in the Ugandan art scene.
“I thought that there would be so many ways to approach the art scene in order to support it, but for me, because I was very passionate about the role of a woman and also the plight of a woman in this art scene, I thought it makes sense to focus on certain things and then give it my all and then let other people come and focus on what makes more sense to them.”
“I’m really concerned that there are no curators in this country, I’m concerned that the women artists have been misrepresented. I’m concerned that the art education is really critiqued. But depending on what resources we have, we can implement programs and projects that can really respond directly to the needs, the local needs of this context.”
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Njabala is a multi-faceted campaign sourcing inspiration from a popular Ugandan myth of Njabala to facilitate conversations on womanhood. They aim to curate periodic exhibitions as well as organize a public program of activities aimed at creating safe spaces for female artists to thrive and blossom.
To facilitate the possibility for the work of women artists to be seen, Njabala Foundation campaigns in various ways against gender inequality in the art world by organizing art exhibitions and events exclusively dedicated to highlighting the work of women artists.
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Mazi Mutafa is the founding executive director of Words, Beats & Life, and passionate about Arts Education and centering marginalized voices in his work. Mazi also hosts a weekly hip-hop show featuring performances and interviews with MCs, poets, DJs producers and vocalists and has been a guest lecturer at several universities.
“Ultimately, we exist to awaken the artists within, the creative within, the writer within and help young people to understand the connection between the things that they’re learning in schools and their ability to use those things to transform themselves and then to transform the communities that they are part of.”
“I think that really matters, that our students see the real-world impact of the things that they are learning to do and getting better at and that there’s a community of people out there who support their continued development from an esteemed point of view, but also from motivation like this, this isn’t just important to me or just important to my family, but it’s actually important to this larger community.”
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Words Beats and Life is an arts education non-profit located in Washington DC that advocates for the transformative power of hip-hop culture in all its forms.
Their goal is to invest in Washington DC’s creative eco system to employ their extensive list of artists and creators to be living examples of what the city’s creative youth can accomplish with the right tools and the best role models. They empower artists, aspiring artists and lovers of expression to create, refine and define systems that demonstrate positive change through our individual and collective brilliance.
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Alicia Hansen is a photographer and teacher from New York. She founded NYC SALT in 2008 and, beyond teaching valuable creative skills to her students, has developed a long-term support system to uplift them through school and into their early artistic careers.
“It’s really about developing mindsets that are all about lifelong learning and curiosity and exploration and thinking of problem-solving, you know, thinking about how they can, you know, be a part of their communities and the world and bring their artistic visions and what they want to say to life through a very visual mean.”
“It’s so refreshing to see students exploring their creativity without having all these constraints that they know about already, that they shouldn’t do this or shouldn’t. And I think it leads to so much more creativity.”
NYC SALT is a non-profit organization based in Washington Heights, Manhattan that aims to engage, inspire, and empower underserved youth in New York City to reach their full potential through photography, video and an understanding of the visual industry.
SALT creates opportunities in visual arts and pathways to college and career for underserved New York City youth from diverse backgrounds who are dedicated to careers in the arts, by engaging them in a rigorous blend of professional photography instruction, college-preparatory workshops, and career exposure.
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Kikelomo Oludemi is a Berlin-based DJ, Boiler Room host, and co-founder of Oroko Radio. Growing up with international music influences, she is making her own space in the music industry and building a platform for those that need to be heard.
“I would like to showcase not only everything amazing coming from the continent, but also from collaborations between these communities around the world. I wouldn’t even say it’s about music first, it’s about the desire to have a stronger community.”
“Whether it’s being Black, being a woman, or West African, my identity inherently plays a role in the development of the sound I play, but I don’t want that to be at the forefront of the way I move in the industry. First and foremost, I want people to respect me for the music I play and my skills.”
With over 70 residents from 15 countries across 4 continents, Oroko Radio & Artist Residency aims to connect, inspire and empower Africans and the Diaspora across the globe through conversation and collaboration. Oroko Radio provides a stage for local musicians, DJs, thinkers, moderators, and content creators: an independent hub for expression of self and thought through sound. It also serves as a platform for the content generated through the Oroko Artist Residency.
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Executive Director Kimberly Aceves- Iñiguez has been passionately committed for over 20 years to social justice organizing and advocacy efforts that bring voice and power to youth, LGBTQ people, people of color, and working-class communities in the Bay Area. Before coming on as the Executive Director for RYSE, Kimberly served as the Executive Director for Youth Together, the founding organization of the RYSE Center.
Kanwarpal Dhaliwal is one of the co-founders of RYSE and currently acts as the Associate Director. She supports and guides the implementation and integration of healing-centered practices, grounded in racial justice and liberation, and also develops, promotes, and advocates for policies, investments, practices, and research that enliven healing, justice, and liberation. Kanwarpal believes that the purpose of her work and life is to contribute to movements, communities, and legacies of liberation that honor the ancestors who fought for her existence and survival, and to forge a world that is just and gentle for future generations.
“It is about moving in partnership, nurturing practices of culture and identity for healing ourselves, healing communities, and healing systems.”
“When young people first began dreaming and envisioning a transformative space in Richmond back in 2002, they were clear that music, arts, culture, justice, and healing had to be core to the work. These young luminaries envisioned a world where both their creativity and their heart had a safe place to reimagine and dream all that we are manifesting today.”
RYSE Center is based in Richmond, California. The cultural center was launched in 2008, in the rise of violence in Richmond. The city bears the burden of multiple systemic inequities and faces persistent dehumanization, stigma, and criminalization by schools, police, media, community and public systems. These inequities result in disproportionately high rates of homicide, gun violence, high school drop-out and punitive discipline, poverty and unemployment, and mental health crises. RYSE is working to tend, treat, and heal the institutional injuries that put young people in these communities at risk of direct and acute injury.