The Storytellers is a research project executed by author, event manager, researcher and creative director of the website Africa On My Sleeve, Makanaka Tuwe. Now living in Morocco, Maka has been running projects for years. This one in particular began as a university requirement for her masters qualification, but grew to become an intrinsic bond between the nine young Afro/Kiwi women involved; exploring ways to shift the mainstream narrative of African people and perceptions of them, the answer was to become the storytellers themselves.
Maka says “Over a period of two months The Storytellers and I met on Sunday afternoons and what was a creative research project soon became a space of healing, seeing ourselves reflected in our worlds and a safe space were we could unravel. Through the creation of content we produced visual outputs that explore and share the experiences of third culture identity, African representation, being a woman of colour, black love, cultural heritage, colourism, tokenism and intersectionality within African identity.”
“On the food chain of life it goes white men, white women, black men, black women.” – Makanaka Tuwe.
“This research is aiming to provide an impetus for researchers, policy makers and those interested in African development to start exploring different participatory and alternative methodologies to countering the issues that come with migration, identity and representation for people of African descent in the New Zealand context. I begin the exegesis with a personal narrative I wrote as a reflexive diary entry during the research process. The decision to begin Chapter One with Home but never Home was to highlight the reality of navigating life as a woman of African descent in New Zealand and the conversations I engage in about identity and belongingness.” Download Maka’s research HERE.
Go behind the scenes with S E R U M and T H ES T O R Y T E L L E R S photo shoot/interview processes below:
“For a long time I felt ‘stuck’ between living in western societies norm and following the path of my cultures. Unfortunately, society made me feel discouraged to be who I intrinsically and biologically am. I was trying to mould myself into someone I wasn’t just to fit in and feel ‘white’ – for lack of a better word. Eventually, the more I grew, I started to learn more about my culture, heritage and customs and realised that in order of representing who my family and I am, I would have to stand out at times. I wouldn’t need to wear my hair straight to school or eat promptly with a fork and knife. Some people took my dad’s broken English and heavy accent to mean ‘welfare’ or ‘refuge’, when I saw it as intelligence and wisdom. My brother would even simplify or change his name so people wouldn’t overlook his CV or just to make it easier for people. My dark-skinned friends and I would be labelled at school as the troubled kids and be disciplined without having done anything wrong. Women in my family who wear cultural clothing in public would be labelled, ridiculed, mocked or stared at when they were innocently walking through the city. I am now at a place where I am 100% proud to be a Moroccan-Samoan Kiwi. The values I learn from each enable me to grow, I feel like I have roots when before I felt discouraged, ashamed and a little lost. I love celebrating everyones differences from the inside to the outside because with difference there is no learning, growing or understanding.This song is about finding my love and appreciation for my heritage and culture in my early adulthood.” – Laila. Listen to her song HERE.
“Orang Asli means original people” Libby tells me over a morning coffee in the only open cafe we can find over Christmas/New Years of 2018 in Mangawhai, New Zealand. She has just returned from a one year trip to Malaysia. Predominantly a resident of England, Libby has ties to New Zealand after attending high school in Cambridge for a few years. She is a photographer, visual artist, traveler and poet. While visiting Gua Musang in the Kelantan region she unexpectedly set out on a photo journalism trip deep into the Malaysian jungle, which is one of the oldest in the world. “At the time I was just hanging about [Kuala Lumpur] with my artist friends and then the news kind of grabbed me, the logging that was happening at the time. I wanted – just to know more.”
Libby kept a travel diary documenting her experience with the indigenous from her mother’s homeland, Malaysia. It would turn out to be a magical trip, a once in a lifetime experience she won’t forget. Logging photos of her experience, the post is a nostalgic throwback and a beautiful account of a spiritual experience that I fully recommend!
EXCERPT FROM LIBBY’S TRAVEL BLOG:
“The sacred site we were soon to visit is a large cave, further into the jungle, called Gua Janggut. The hallowed space is revered, not only by the Temiar but also the Negrito community, another Orang Asli group that live within the area. They speak a separate language known as Mendriq, and there are about 220 of them left, making this a very endangered language. Before heading to the cave, we visited the Mendriq village and we received another blessing from their local elder in order to enter. They too, used a Tualang candle. “
“There are various gateways named here; Pintu Raso, Pintu Sindat, Pintu Haluan, Pintu Kong connecting to the other worlds. It was a quiet and potent sensation simply being in this space. Although I was given permission to take photographs here, it almost felt wrong. Only the Shaman can enter the deepest parts of the cave.”
” The earth here is a deep and vibrant red. When it floods, it’s like blood. The Temiar referred to the floods that abolished their housing and brought disaster to the whole of the Kelantan region as the infamous Bah Merah (red floods). As trees are cut, they no longer soak up the rainfall. Silt and other debris is carried downstream by the flow of rainwater into the rivers. Eventually the rivers fill with silt and burst their banks. The ‘killer’ Bah Merah of 2014 rose thirty meters above the level of the river. “
“Much like the beliefs of the Temiar, the Mendriq also explained that if the construction of the hydroelectric dam was to continue, flooding over Gua Janggut, terrible consequences would take place as the balance of nature is disturbed further and the forest spirits are angered,” Libby writes.
At the beginning of 2019 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke in the session Safeguarding Our Planet alongside broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough, Ardern was asked by former US Vice-President Al Gore what she would say to world leaders who don’t believe the climate crisis is real.
“I wonder whether or not I would say anything or if I would just show them something,” she said. “It only takes a trip to the Pacific to see that climate change isn’t a hypothetical, and you don’t have to know anything about the science … to have someone from the Pacific island nations take you to a place they used to play as a child on the coast and show you where they used to stand and where the water now rises.”
East Asia is another area of the world feeling the affects of climate change. In the past year alone there were typhoons in Japan and East Asia, flooding in Japan and China and drought in Central Europe. Commercial logging and deforestation on the continent contributes heavily to this damage.
“Malaysia has one of the world’s highest deforestation rates. These are valuable ecosystems and are the most ancient and beautiful, tropical forests I’ve ever seen. We must fight this before it is too late. As Orang Asli are displaced from their land because of logging, they are abject to poverty. The once clear river water is now polluted and floods will only worsen. We must learn from the native people and also become guardians of the forest and it’s creatures. Soon, all we will have are these fake paintings, towering over like imprints of a forgotten past.
“As the shape of the Malaysian jungle shifts, so do these cultures.
I am fascinated to see how their values take form in the moving landscape of their lives.”
In an ancient area of the world, now functioning amidst a quietly raging money machine intertwined with corruption, there is hope that although indigenous people and their values have been compromised within these societal ‘upgrades’, the now-visibly damaging effects on the earth by these processes, can be restored or at least healed using the values of the very people in which industrial destruction has disregarded. Even in the face of a) extinction for animals and b) genocide for people. Although it is widely accepted among indigenous and other minority cultures, when sacred sites and ancient graves are destroyed for example, there’s nothing that can rectify some spiritual damage, simultaneously it is clear the only way to survive harmoniously is to have a conversation and gain an understanding in order to work together going forward. It is obvious that the earth as a vessel is angry with humanity in its current state, changes must be made. Share some of Libby’s journey into the Malaysian jungle and her experience with the Orang Asli or ‘original people’ below:
Photographer and creative director Ashley Church caught up with S E R U M over email for chats about her latest Exhibition ‘You Give Me Fever’ which is on at Hunters & Collectors in Wellington this February. We talk about her working relationship with dear friend and true artist Xoe Hall – when these two creative forces combine they become Fever Hotel, specialising in clothing design, photography and stylingwhich you can check out HERE. We also talk about the legacy Hunters & Collectors has made for Wellington fashion.
SERUM:How did Fever Hotel come about?
A: We had been collaborating for years, Xoe and I would often photograph Xoe’s rad clothing she would make or decorate. When we got over submitting our work to other publications… we decided fuck it, we’ll make a blog and publish ourselves.
SERUM:Who are Fever Hotel?
A: Ashley Church & Xoe Hall.
SERUM:What does Fever Hotel do?
A: We do whatever inspires us at the time. But mostly it’s Xoe decorating second skins with me photographing them how we want to and we get our friends to model for us. We also feature artists work & have vacancies for artistic submissions!
SERUM:Is Fever Hotel you’re main hustle or side hustle?
A: Side hustle, not really a hustle though, it’s chill. We do what we want when we want to, and do our best to disregard social media pressures or norms.
SERUM:How would you describe your photographic style?
A: A bit sassy, a bit sexy and I am obsessed with eye popping colours and shooting against the grain. And I love juxtaposition.
SERUM:What other jobs/creative passions do you work on?
A: My own thang Dinosaurtoast, which is photography & creative direction and me and my partner recently bought a house, so a lot of house renos too!
SERUM:What have been some of your favourite or more memorable projects to date?
A: Such a hard question, because I love all our collabs for FH, every one of them is different!! Both Part 1 & 2 of the Heartbreak Double Feature – we went all out with lighting, set design and everything. They were rad to shoot and had us punching the air in excitement.
SERUM: What is it about working with Xoe that you would say makes Fever Hotel special to you?
A: Fever Hotel can only happen when Xoe and I work on shit together, because of the way we collaborate, ideas just come magically and sporadically. That’s the beauty of Fever Hotel. We do what we want, when we’re in the mood. I think we don’t try to force anything, if it feels right it feels right and we know. So if your working on something and it feels right, keep going!
SERUM:How would you describe what Hunters & Collectors means to Wellington city and also the connection between H&C and Fever Hotel?
A: Hunters has been around since before I was born, it’s an integral part of Cuba Street & Wellington cities fashion history. Hunters as been helping people express themselves for years via fashion! Chrissy and Charlotte, at Hunters, have always supported Fever Hotel – letting us do window displays, Xoe has hand painted their stairwell with a rad dragon and has many hand decorated items for sale through the shop! Love the collaboration and inclusivity for artists and especially now there is an exhibition space upstairs!
SERUM:What are your top 3 creative inspirations that give you fever right now?
A: Insanely bright colours, neons mostly. And I love when shit matches.
Glitter, forever glitter.
And anything a little bit weird, over the top, and 80s.
SERUM:What are some projects Fever Hotel are looking forward to in 2019?
A: Right at this moment – our You Give Me Fever Exhibition… Xoe’s got heaps on the go at the moment, and I’ve got some rad ideas for photoshoots! Will keep you posted!
SERUM:Describe a work day in the life of Ash.
A: I get up have my breaky, hang out with my 2 pups and husband. Drive 10 mins down the road to work, TeacherTalk, where I am a marketing gal! Xoe and I work at TeacherTalk together! I get as much done as I can. Head home, walk up a hill in Porirua, if I’m feeling creative I’ll work on a project, or plan my next idea / shoot by making a moodboard on Pinterest! And usually end up reading a good book and going to sleep waaay too late.
SERUM:What are some things you do to keep inspired as a creative professional?
A: Hang out with other artist friends. I give myself space to come up with new ideas – I don’t force it. Listen to music, go to gigs and watch music videos! I also watch films and read a lot. I also do things for my well being, like hangin’ out in nature!
These holidays 22-year-old designer and personal stylist Jett Nichol is dropping some golden knowledge and then taking a one way trip to the United States. It’s his dream to intern for Kanye West. “Me and Kanye are going to be friends one day” he tells me, and somehow, the intelligent part of me can picture it. Jett has a confidence about him, he’s passionate, articulate and has a work ethic to aspire to. Since he moved to Auckland two years ago from Taradale, Hawke’s Bay he’s been flipping burgers for 80 hours a week, at a joint called Better Burger. This year he’s managed to save enough money to buy a Rolex and a new pair of Rick Owens for ‘his bag’. He explains:
“There’s a thing called ‘the bag’ which they mention in hip hop – they’re not talking about money they’re talking about God. Straight up, they’re talking about that feeling in your chest when everything is going correctly and you understand that the stars align sometimes – it’s when you get that feeling in your stomach.”
Plans to fill his bag include spending downtime with girlfriend Poppy and swimming and sitting in a Japanese sauna. Having researched everything down to his suitcase when preparing for his trip, to me, it’s a reflection of the designer in him. After Japan the plan is to head to the States solo. “Either New York or LA, I might flip a coin or some shit. Some rooms, you can only get into alone,” he explains. In this interview we talk about the right way to ‘get clout’, styling rappers and having the confidence to recognise your own greatness. “Kanye’s the one guy I wanna work for. Designer’s have always got apprentices. Masters like Yves St Laurent was the apprentice of Dior… My friend Taylor Burn from Auckland though is now Virgil [Abloh’s] personal assistant.”
SERUM: Isn’t it incredible what Kiwis can do these days?
J: Crazy. Kids here are different. There’s actually a demand now, it’s building really fast.
SERUM: Yeah we’ve got so much talent here, like a little concentrated island/country.
J: Cause we’re so friendly. Obviously there’s exceptions but I think we admire the culture of whatever we wanna way too hard. We’re fans but since we’re so far away we get a misconstrued idea of all of it and we end up putting a spin on it into our own shit, the kids here are so different, we’re fire as.
SERUM: Describe what you’re style’s like?
J: Bold, bright, but it’s equally as dark. I don’t know it’s just bold without being dramatic or offensive, like cartoonish I guess. I like big letters, big colours, a lot of textured fabrics, shit you ain’t gonna find in AS Colour.
Shirt designed and made by Jett.
SERUM: Where do you shop?
J: I actually don’t. Last place I shopped was at Zambesi and that was probably like mid to end of last year. I bought some Margiela and some Rick Owen shoes. I don’t like shopping man, there’s so much shit product. When I buy something I have to do a lot of research. I started looking into best suitcases to buy and they were all shit and so dumb. I was like ‘How could I have this? This doesn’t represent me in no way’, so I bought a $300 suitcase, rimowa, aluminum, it’s fucking hard. I like minimal utilitarian products and the best of it. I feel like Rick Owens makes the best shoes in the world. I like to buy really little of high quality things. If I was a girl I would not be touching Glassons or anything.
SERUM: Fast fashion is a big fucking problem.
J: It is. But the best way to get clothes is just like the type of shit you run into in your life – there’s something natural and sexy about it, the way you got it. Some of my favorite pieces ever are pants, jackets that were hand-me-downs from my uncle. They’re ripped and old but it’s just dope. Shit that you find in your parents’ wardrobe as well – it’s that shit that creates the most vivid homegrown styles
SERUM: For you. How much is too much to spend on a garment?
J: None – there’s not too much. Those t-shirts, green ones, $600. Like who the fuck is going to own a t-shirt for $600?! I believe everyone should own their dream pair of shoes, whether they cost $300 or $5k.
I feel like everyone needs their dream pair of shoes as soon as you can afford that shit – get them shits. I mean, what the fuck are people spending money on like what is there?
SERUM: How in your words would you say fashion is an extension of personality and why is it important?
J: It’s all about mood. The word fashion is …fashion is almost like an accessory to style. Style is just essence of character you know. It’s the purest form of someone’s soul, I don’t wanna say soul but it’s really deep rooted. Style is – they know what they’re doing they know where they’re going and why, even if they don’t realise they know. It gets quite spiritual I think style at least and then fashion is there to aid and protect style in a way and sometimes replace it. You get some losers out there that replace style with fashion though.
SERUM: When you wake up how do you know what you’re going to put on?
J: It’s always about what type of character I wanna be that day like what type of movie am I in today. Sometimes I feel minimal like right now I’m wearing black and two white stripes, Ricks. For sure sometimes I feel busy as and I wanna wear mad accessories like patterns, I feel like fucking people off.
SERUM: Name your top four designers.
J: Without saying me times four, lets go Margiela number one because I feel like that was the first guy to inject irony into the industry, like the element of almost dark humour in a way; he really criticised the industry and the ins and outs of it through the clothes which is kind of buzzy. Obviously everyone’s doing it now, the idea of just rarity. That guy, there’s like two known photos of him ever. He was very anonymous, very strange. Doesn’t really have a solid logo either; he’s got a tag that’s blank – all of that shit. So yeah Margiela, coolest.
Prada – it’s uniform, really minimal, classy – you now devil wears Prada, obviously.
Kanye – he’s not my favorite designer in the world but I still think he crushes it. He’s making a lot of statements I mean Season One, that fucked fashion up for sure in menswear.
SERUM: Yeah I fell for that real quick, completely in love.
J: Yeah and I don’t think the effects of that have been seen yet either, people are going to click maybe 10 years later but nah, Season One meant fucking heaps.
SERUM: Also the choreographer he chose for those shows was the same woman – Vanessa Beecroft and I just loved that human installation approach.
J: Yeah it was rare aye.. I think Helmut Lang did that as well. They had a kinda stand-still-army-type vibe.
SERUM: What do you think of celebrity designers?
J: I don’t know if I think anything of celebrity designers. It’s all good, after hearing so many Kanye interviews I try to stay away from the whole class-ism thing. Like try to not box people in you know if there’s a celebrity and they wanna do something different it’s like fuck yeah do it.
SERUM: Rihanna, FENTY
J: Rihanna’s so fire. .
J: Who is a shitty one?
SERUM: I just think for someone who lives it, breathes it, and then a random comes along and dabbles in it, must get frustrating, no?
J: Well I’m tryna live it. I’ve been doing 80 hours a week there. I’m not even playing, I’ve been just saving money this year to try and bag myself. Aw wait, first designer is Nigo!
Nigo – he designed BAPE and then Human Made – I think BAPE is the best streetwear label ever to do it. It brought streetwear to a really childish place but like, luxury. It was just buzzy like straight out of SpongeBob and then Pharrell… great celebrity designer, shout out to celebrity designers.
SERUM: I mean these days no one is one thing.
J: Yeah it’s kind of a renaissance huh.
SERUM: How do you feel about clout chasing ?
J: I’m a clout chaser. LOLS. There’s just a way to do it and a way to not do it – everyone wants to be popping so it’s like – you got to do it but you’ve got to know that you’ve got the bag. You’ve got to chase the clout within yourself rather than following other people’s clout. Sure people can give you followers but no one’s really giving you clout like passion and it always comes down to how you’re feeling inside. That’s where style sits, style is the essence of clout which comes back to God. It’s all very spiritual. You’ve just gotta focus on yourself – watch your own back and don’t bother about anyone else’s. If you can help someone else’s bag do that and if you can see that someone can help your bag – do that. But it’s about your bag, don’t steal anyone else’s cause you’ve got your own right there. Everyone’s got it. The people that are hating or clout chasing the wrong way – they’ve got a bag of their own but they dropped it on the floor, forgot about it and are going after someone else’s. It’s dumb. Focus on your own name, spend a lot of time alone ..