Fashion. Art. Music. These are three creative spheres that are often intertwined with one another. The Art’Press Yourself festival, organized by the agency DARAJA CONCEPT, took place in Paris on 3-4 November, and aptly represented this intersection. Described as an afro-urban festival, designers, filmmakers and artists with roots spreading across Europe and Africa were brought together to share their work which tied into the slogan for this year’s festival, ‘Back to the Afrofuture’. Playing on the cyclical notion of time, this slogan references Afrofuturist thinking.
The backdrop with the words ‘Art’Press Yourself’ surrounded by adinkra symbols greeted guests as they walked through the entrance of the festival’s location, Pan Piper. This was created in collaboration with POSCO. Festival-goers were invited to sit on a hand-woven chair and use various props representative of the festival and different African religious and mythological stories for photographs. However, the use of the backdrop transformed throughout the festival, with people being given pens to write messages and draw on the white spaces between the letters. This is symbolic of the collective production of language, making a connection to the way in which images have played a significant role in the foundation of African lettering and preservation of knowledge. Considering how young the festival is, it moves towards its importance in bringing together artists and designers and making a collective mark on framing fashion, design and music inspired by African and African Diaspora experiences.
The three levels of the venue allowed for a seamless definition of spaces, making it easy for attendees to navigate the festival. The first level included an exhibition space for artists and designers of all kinds to share their work. Gold jewelry, items sourced made from various African countries, accessories customized by artists, and original art pieces.
Ensuring that the festival catered for different interjections and reflections on creative practices, the third level of the venue was used for a fashion show, performances, a film screening as well as a talk on Afrofuturism. A display of the dance style vogue by Matyouz Ladurée and Félicia entertained festival-goers during the day on Saturday. Jean Fall, the founder of Cinewax, shared with audiences a video describing different elements of Afrofuturism and its significance as a school of thought and lens through which to view the experiences of black people. This was followed by the short film by female filmmaker Wanuri Kahiuthat uses Afrofuturist motifs as a way to interrogate environmental issues in Kenya, and the globe more generally. There was also a projection of Alexis Peskine‘s movie ‘Raft of Medusa’.
With the film setting the mood for a conversation which underlines what these motifs are and what they mean, UK-based digital artist Ashley Straker shared the stage with Bubblegum Club’s Editor Christa Dee to have a question and answer session facilitated by Laurie Pezeron (founder of READ! CLUB) about Afrofuturism. The enthusiasm and curiosity expressed through the audience members’ questions highlighted the significance of the conversation and the interpretation of it as a therapy, a methodology, an imaginary, tool for critique as well as a connection to a past, present and future which is expressed through writing, fashion, art and music.
The festival had an open-ended closure, allowing for conversations and networking to continue post the event.
Below is a list of artists, designers and other participants to get a feel for the kind of collective creative energy that was present at this year’s festival:
ASO GLOBAL. HARRIS M. MADEMOISELLE BLE. SOUL and ROOTS. KEIKO. SECRET SAMPLE. L’ATELIER DE BOJEL. ICOM ASSO. EKEEYA. KOROSOL AFRICAN ARMURE. KORY WADE. ALICIA DELYSSIME. ITFA
MA COULEUR A SES MERVEILLES. AYIZANA. NOOR ART. OH LA CRANEUSE. NOIR FLUO EVA SAM. BAZAR WAX. OHEA. AFRICAN STYLIA DECO. NUBYA. DE BENGUE. LA FABRIKAWAX. EBENE CHIC. NATTY KONGO MLKREATIONS. NACHO JEWELS.
LAURIE-ANNE BRACCIANO. ASHLEY STRAKER. HANEEKS. PRINTED SOLES. LEA PALOMA. MARY CREA ART. KIRIIKOO PINEAPPLES.
Beauty and other categories
REAL B COSMETICS. KISSORO TRIBAL GAMES. NYEUSI CREA LOCKS. MELLE LEE ZA. SERGE KPONTON.
My incredible journey at the Art’Press Yourself festival was made possible thanks to the French Institute of South Africa.