13th Trinity International Hip Hop Festival: Graffiti Exhibition

Color: the property possessed by an object of producing different sensations on the eye as a result of the way the object reflects or emits light.

From my knowledge and experience, colors captivate not only the eye, but evoke specific emotional and psychological responses in human beings physically. For decades, the urban youth have utilized blends of hues to express sentiments, awareness and inner passions in the form of graffiti. On Saturday, April 7th at in front of Trinity College’s Mather Hall, I visited a beautiful graffiti exhibition which showcased gifted artists from all over the world as part of the 13th Trinity International Hip Hop Festival.

The installation included two large cubes which featured graffiti paintings on each of the four visible sides of each cube (eight paintings). Each piece showcased bright color combinations which told a story. For example, Marcelo Ment from Brazil did a piece which showed a woman with colorless parts of her face while her hair was made of a variety of bright and warm color combinations. Another side of the block showcased the turquoise, green and blue mixture of a girl’s French braids, with pink accents. The colors complimented each other and flowed like mystical water.  In addition, Artists Lindaluz Carrillo, Kamil Kucharek, and Poptart from Hartford, and Yuanjie K-Ching Qian from Montreal all composed their pieces within minutes, leaving their mark for all to marvel. Their work represented a culture of conscious art which I personally revere especially at a time in which Graffiti is going extinct due to gentrification. During the exhibition, another viewer mentioned that with less spaces left unoccupied by cameras, there are less opportunities for graffiti artists to tag areas with messages. The conversation led me to further appreciate the art, not only for its authenticity, and cultural impact, but also for its endangered state.

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13th Trinity International Hip Hop Festival: Panel Discussion: “Free Speech, Censorship and Protest”

Hip hop, music genre developed in the 1970s by inner-city African Americans from the Bronx, New York city, consists of conscious lyrics which often bluntly address social, political, or economic issues. The nature of hip hop is explicit, authentic, and genuine, and now after decades of diffusion and cultural spreading, the art form perseveres to survive even in areas where censorship and limitation of expression run deep. On April 6th 2018, during the Panel Discussion: “Free Speech, Censorship and Protest” at the 13th Trinity International Hip Hop Festival, Howard University’s Dr. Msia Kibona Clark moderated a group of hip hop artists from all over the world who discussed the condition of media censorship of hip hop in the realm of social change and political discourse.

Dana Burton, a hip hop pioneer and influencer in China asserts that the supposed ban on hip hop in China was simply “fake news.” Burton went on to explain the reaches of Chinese censorship, exemplifying the Chinese ban on the ‘Free Tibet movement.’ In summary, anything that violates national integrity remains off limits in China. For example, videos which include the Tibet flag are banned and individuals are forbidden from using the word ‘Tibet’ in public or media settings.

Another panelist, MC Puos is a hip hop journalist who cofounded china’s first hip hop magazine, Bang. He discussed his upbringing in Detroit and referenced his understanding of words, communication, and censorship, and the unspoken rule of limited self-expression as a youth. A person could lose their life by saying the wrong thing to the wrong person: a realization that showcased the strength of words.

Panelist Emile YX?, a journalist, author, playwright, b-boy, and member of Black Noise, (one of the first hip hop groups in South Africa) discussed the current censorship is South Africa. As a solution to the suppression of black voices in South African Media, YX? proposed that black people create their own markets and industries. His project, Heal the Hood focusses on dismantling the Eurocentric monopolization of the capitalist society by supporting our own businesses. Overall the event was an enlightening intellectual experience.

Exploring Lyrical & Artistic Feminism: Botswana’s Hip-Hop Star, Sasa Klaas

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The Hip-Hop industry, like many others within patriarchal societies, remains male-dominated. However, the growing presence of talented female artists who challenge and question the status quo and defy gender roles with their lyrics lends hope to a future of non-gender-biased music. Sarona Motlhagodi, more popularly known as her stage name, Sasa Klaas, is a hip-hop star from Botswana who embraces her femininity and sexuality, while dispelling negative or limiting conceptions about women. Continue reading “Exploring Lyrical & Artistic Feminism: Botswana’s Hip-Hop Star, Sasa Klaas”

Botswana’s Hip-hop Star, Enigma Pushes for Social Change

Although many understand hip-hop as simply a music genre consisting of rap and electronic beats, in actuality, hip-hop is an urban art form that depicts reality in the form of skillful lyricism designed to expose social issues and produce political change. The candid nature of hip-hop propels artists to shed light on pressing issues, and challenge, chastise, or address society’s shortcomings. Botswana’s Lebo Tsiako, more popularly known by her stage name, Enigma, is a talented hip-hop artist and emcee who both confronts and defies the stereotypes and prejudices which are embedded into a male-dominated society. Continue reading “Botswana’s Hip-hop Star, Enigma Pushes for Social Change”

Apollo Diablo’s ‘Rep Ur Hood,’: Representing Botswana and Hip-Hop Culture

In the 1970s, Bronx, New York, a city heavily saturated with people of color birthed a vibrant and meaningful underground movement of conscious rap, now known as ‘hip-hop.’ Decades later the movement has spread throughout the globe, mixing and meshing with different cultures and creating lively lyrical art all over the world. African hip-hop is a particularly unique fusion of cultures, harmonizing the African-American culture which retains heavy African influences with the African narrative. Botswana’s very own Apollo Diablo portrays hip-hop culture in his music, all the while representing his own Botswanan culture and celebrating his roots. Continue reading “Apollo Diablo’s ‘Rep Ur Hood,’: Representing Botswana and Hip-Hop Culture”

Botswana’s Dramaboi & His Artful Command of Language

Within the heart of African Hip-Hop lies a blend of cultures and traditions reflected through artful use of smooth mixtures of languages, both native and foreign, and tongues both intimate and mainstream. Thuto Ricardo Ramphaleng, more commonly known by his stage name, Dramaboi, is a young Botswanan Motswako hip-hop artist from the townships whose fluid mastery of the English language and command of his mother-tongue Zulu as well as various pigeon dialects allow him to skillfully relay deep and touching sentiments, even to those who do not fully understand all the languages spoken. In Dramaboi’s 2017 hit, Conversation with Mama, the young rapper recreates a hopeful heart-to-heart between he and his mother, switching from English to Zulu to slang with ease, always using the right phrasing, language, and dialect to make his music flavorful and his message heard. Continue reading “Botswana’s Dramaboi & His Artful Command of Language”

Wale’s “My Sweetie” and the blending and mixing of the African Diaspora

African identity and culture remain omnipresent and inescapable in all aspects of life, pervading even Eurocentric spaces of art, music and self-expression. As a result, African artist within the diaspora reflect their roots consciously, and often even subconsciously, as Africa presents itself within any channel. Born and raised in Northwest, Washington, D.C, the Nigerian-American hip-hop artist, Olubowale Victor Akintimehin, popularly known as Wale, proudly embodies his Nigerian heritage as well as his culture as a black man of the African diaspora in the music video of his 2010 hit, My Sweetie, through his lyrics, beats, mannerisms, and cast choice. Continue reading “Wale’s “My Sweetie” and the blending and mixing of the African Diaspora”