Knitting and Graffiti… Good for our mental health.

In 2015 I was asked by RSPB’s Phil Burkard to paint a mural as part of a partnership bid with Cardiff Council to transform the Millenium Walkway into a shared space with public artwork and spaces filled with wild flowers. The bid to Kew Gardens was unsuccessful, but I have continued to work hard to transform the area anyway, into a space which is filled with public artwork, and used for community events.

Community has always been important to me and I am active in my local area, leading and supporting projects and activities to encourage inclusion and interaction. I love bringing people together – for an international Bboy event, a Graffiti jam, for a small community meeting or a knitting group. Knitting and Graffiti may not appear to have anything in common but our ‘Pins & Needles’ group in Tongwynlais has the same collaborative way of working as a paint jam where graffiti artists come together. The creative things we do together are important to our mental health and wellbeing, and the wellbeing of society. Some people are more fragile than others, and we support one another to learn and grow through creating.

Past & Unity, 2017. Photo: Benjamin Jenkins

Graffiti is an art-form that isn’t widely understood, and although Banksy has been instrumental in bringing street-art into the public consciousness, he is not a graffiti artist. Graffiti is about lettering – putting your name on the wall so that people can no longer ignore you, your culture and your way of life. A way of life that doesn’t necessarily fit into the clean, consumer lifestyle that we are encouraged to buy into yet can rarely afford.

I set up a petition out of frustration at the lack of inclusion from Cardiff Council in discussions that are happening about selling off the Walkway for advertising. We had spoken about possibilities for utilising graffiti artist’s skills, like we did for the Rugby World Cup where each artist did a piece in the flag colours of one of the teams, but these discussions have come to nothing. Thank you so much to everyone who has signed the petition, and for all the wonderful, diverse and heartfelt comments that you’ve made.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve been invited to a meeting with the Council on Friday afternoon – I’m taking Keiron from Oner Signs, Dan from Grassroots and Councillor Sarah Merry to back me up. I’ll let you know how it goes…

SIGN THE PETITION

Cardiffian article about the petition here
Tongwynlais.com article here

Video of 2016 International Women’s Day paint jam here

we not in new York

In 2016 I heard that Brecon was holding a women’s festival. Having been involved in a number of events for International Women’s Day I contacted them to see if I could paint for it. I was too late but the organisers kindly included me in the programme for 2017.

I spent a day in Brecon speaking to people about it, trying to find a suitable wall, and permission to paint it. I came away with a couple of options and followed it up with National Parks, whom I didn’t realise have so much control over what the town looks like.

Speaking to business owners, the Town Clerk and members of the Chamber of Trade, it was clear that there is a lot of concern about derelict buildings and empty shops. My final choice was to paint a boarded up building on the High Street.

As soon as I started putting on the base coat emulsion people started thanking me for improving the appearance of the shop. PLAN Brecon posted some images of my work in progress on Facebook, sparking a discussion which I followed with fascination. One of the first comments ‘Don’t need this type of art it sends out the wrong signals we not in new York’ initially made me chuckle, but on reflection I think this insight was actually quite astute.

I learned my art-form by painting on legal walls with friends. In Hip-Hop culture, we have an ‘each one teach one’ ethos. Graffiti is a community-led form of alternative education which grew from the political situation in 1960’s New York. Extremely poor areas of the city had been left isolated and deprived, and young people in those areas instigated what has been referred to as one of the most important art movements in recent years. The authorities, rather than addressing the social problems at the time, blamed graffiti – a visible, easily identified target. The media portrayal from this time is what has shaped our understanding of the art-form right up to this day.

When I was growing up, Brecon was a thriving town, and like many it has suffered from online shopping, large retail outlets and chain shops sucking money away from independent ‘High Street’ businesses. I’m pleased to say that my mural has sparked some positive exchanges online, which I hope will lead to real projects and more people working together.

Change must come from grassroots level, and can only happen if people are able to work together, putting aside their differences. Street art is not permanent – that’s the point – it’s part of an evolving landscape. A landscape which now needs to adapt quickly to thrive. The internet has brought shopping into all of our homes, and we may need to re-think what a Town Centre could become, before it becomes isolated and deprived – like parts of 1960’s New York.

Further reading: Taking The Train – How Graffiti Art became an urban crisis in New York City, by Joe Austin.

Read the discussion on PLAN Brecon’s facebook page here.

Not an Isolated Incident

February 14th – Valentines day – the day of love. But what if the one you love doesn’t treat you well? Emotionally and/or physically abuses you… What then?

Dinah Vagina’s ‘Not an isolated incident’ is a moving display of 118 ceramic figures, each with the name and age of a woman killed in the UK in 2016. These women were killed by men – mostly men that they loved.

The World Health Organisation state that of women murdered around the world, 50% are killed by their partner (in comparison 2% of men are killed by a partner).

On Valentines day 2017, while Dinah’s ceramic figures were on display outside the castle, myself, Zamzam, Tao and Zilch painted around the corner. I put up 118 names and ages of the women killed by men in 2016. It was an emotionally draining piece, but that’s why I invited other artists to support me. Thank you Zilch and Zamzam for your female energy and paint skills. Thank you also to the guys that came and showed their love – Joe, who documented our day; Tao, one of my rock-solid paint partners and Haydn, who rollered the wall like a pro!

If you’re violent towards your partner, and would like help to stop – call ‘Respect’ 08088024040 or email info@respectphoneline.org.uk

Nature… I Love it!

Yes I do. And it keeps me sane – a walk in the woods or a cycle along the river to start or end the day, makes sure I don’t get ‘growly’.

Hope Tree (Green)

I spent a day last week in the woods, in the company of other creative folk, doing what we do (photographing, filming, painting, posing, creating) and just being in each others company, in nature. I came away inspired, and thrilled – feeling the magic with other creative people somehow made it even more special. It came up in conversation at the end of the day though, that nature words have been removed from the dictionary – including ACORN. What. The. Fuck? Acorn? really? I asked my good friend google, and it’s not the full dictionary, but the Oxford Junior Dictionary – the one for little kids, who will be picking up an acorn and saying to the grown ups ‘what’s this?’. If these words are taken out of the junior dictionary now, who’s to say they won’t be taken out of the hefty grown up’s dictionary in the future?

Apparently the decision is taken by how often words are used – but I believe that the ‘use’ is from some kinda google algorithm, which I assume will be online or print use. It’s these kind of words which are used in conversation, not necessarily in written language, which will be lost over time. This makes me sad, and angry, and confused, and disappointed and tired.

I’m working on some artwork about it, but in the meantime here’s a piece I wrote with my lovely husband Owen Thomas, about nature. It’s in print form in my colouring book – I have couple left here if you fancy one to pass on to the little folk…

 

Nature defines us. What we are. Who we are

 

We live it.

We eat it.

We breathe it.

 

Without nature, we are nothing.

 

Being creative is nature’s way of working itself through us, helping to put our thoughts and dreams into the world. It is the same silent energy that moves along the stem and into the colour of petals.

Music, art, poetry and dance are all essential elements of a hip-hop culture in a modern world.

Because, yes; we live in a modern world, but we are not so far removed from our ancestors. Why is it that we enjoy getting ‘back to nature’? Our love of simple things; hanging out in the park, camping, walking through the woods with friends? It reminds us of what we are, where we came from, and, more importantly, it re-energises us, reinvigorates the soul. We drink in our surroundings and connect with living things. We close our eyes and remember that we are but part of a bigger picture.

Listen to the birds of the air, putting their own creativity into the world, in the same way that we do when we paint, we rap, we dance or make music. They are expressing their own true and instinctive selves. Nature is how we do this. Our connection with nature is our key link to our innermost self.

Embrace it, live it, enjoy what it offers, but remember that one day, at the end of it all, when the last grain of sand drops away from what made us, us, we, every one of us, will go back, back to nature.

And our essence, what made us who we were, what made us unique as individuals, will run like the colours on a palette board, back into the nature that created us, that sustained us, that united us.

We owe nature all, and must use our talents in whatever form they manifest to show our respect.

Leonard Cohen – 1934-2016

Rest in Peace Leonard Cohen. His voice resonates through time to my childhood years, in a warm, magically lit stone walled upside-down house. How apt that on a day when I’ll be visiting my piece ‘mama’ in the WAA group exhibition, Mister Cohen’s passing disturbed the grief for my mother which is starting to settle gently around my heart. Paint therapy on a beautiful autumn morning:

leonard-cohen

Agrrrlz & Afiach Fundraiser: Refugee Women’s Centre in Dunkirk

I will be donating four prints to this fundraiser for the important work being done by The Refugee Women’s Centre in Grande-Synthe camp de la Linière, France. 50% from all purchases of prints and cards via my online shop today (17th October) will also go towards the project:

prints sleeping-beauty1 cards

“The Refugee Women’s Centre is a safe space for the women of the camp to come with their children for support, relaxation and to create relationships with the other women in the camp as well as the volunteers. Many of them have been there for several months after traumatic departures from their countries and long and dangerous journeys across Europe.

Whether pregnant women, single mothers, young or old families, the 180 women of the camp suffer similar threats and pressures from the grey, desperate and male-dominated environment around them. In the Womens Centre we try to sooth the difficulties of daily life and provide an alternative to the seclusion of remaining in the shelters. We have a kitchen for the women to cook in, a free shop for the distribution of women’s and children’s hygiene products and a clothes and shoes distribution.”

afiachFacebook event page here.

 

 

In love with the sea

When my daughter asked me ‘what’s your favourite thing that you own?’ I didn’t expect my response to be ‘my wetsuit’, but it is.

This summer I’ve begun learning to surf. A whim purchase of a body-board led to me investing in a decent wetsuit and OH my word it changed my life – I LOVE being in the sea! Being in the water, with the vast sky above, is truly humbling – I can feel how immense the world is, and how tiny and insignificant I am. Being slapped in the face by the cold waves, thrown about and whipped by the wind I feel alive. This summer I feel like I’ve found myself again.

The HUGE, beautiful sunsets I’ve seen above the water have taken my breath away – the colours are magical – hard to believe that the bright pinks and reds are natural, not from a spray-can.

The ocean is such a powerful force and being in the waves we’re just tickling the edge of its majesty. Awareness of the tides and their link to the moon bring us closer to the natural cycle of the world and the other animals who feel and respect this power. This weekend a seal came within metres of us in the water – just to say hello.

I’ll be showing my piece ‘Unity – the ebb and flow of the tide’ at the Made In Roath Open Exhibition, Sunday 9th October (preview 2-4pm) then Tues 11th – Sunday 16th 11am-4pm at 28 The Parade, CF24 3AB.

Sunset through the campervan mesh - by Sofie Thomas, age 10

Sunset through the campervan mesh – by Sofie Thomas, age 10

 

 

Time Heals

 

hopeLatifah Nankivell passed away at the end of 2012. My beautiful mother died peacefully, in control of her care, with dignity and love. The grief that hit me, although expected, hit me hard. I’ve since learned that this may be linked with my mother being unable to grieve fully for her own mother. It may simply be that losing your mother is monumental – we are born from our mother’s flesh. When she passed, I could feel an endless line of women – her mother, her mother’s mother, her mother and all the mothers who are my female ancestors. I moved up a notch in the line, which has started reaching into the future with my own twin daughters Brooke and Sofie.

‘Time Heals’ is a series of four pieces about wading through the grieving process. I feel like I’ve come through the worst of the fog that is grief. I feel lighter, like Spring after a hard Winter. The times of the clock hands represent the time of my mother’s death, the time of my own birth and the births of my two daughters. Time shifts and changes, slows down, speeds up and stands still. It is momentous and miniscule, and it makes sense.

Latifah, may you rest in Peace, I thank you for the Love you gave and continue to give me. Sofie and Brooke give us Hope for the future and Faith that the cycle and circle of life and death continue as they should.

And if you wish to put a battery in the clock mechanism – it will begin to tick, tock, marking the passing of time once again. love

‘Time Heals’ will be shown as part of the ‘Vinyl Resting Place’ exhibition in Monty’s Bar & Lounge, 149 Brick Lane, E1 6SB, London for three weeks from Friday September 16th. Organised by The Family Collective, event page here.

Because I am a GIRL

When you’re in the minority, you get judged harder because you stand out, you also get easy props from a crowd, and it skews things. The first time I ever DJ’d in a club, I was terrible, but I had all these girls shaking my hand and going wild – it freaked me out! I threw down at De La Soul in Newport – I did such a basic set and got a massive cheer – it feels false and takes away some of the drive and ambition to be better, to train harder. It also doesn’t help as it can cause resentment from the bboys.

Painting is different to breaking and MCing, because you’re not putting your physical self out there (unless you’re in hotpants, but that’s a-WHOLE-nother topic…). Painting is a social thing for me – I vibe off other people – we don’t need a crowd, we just create. Friendships are formed with people who you trust and who you can let loose and be yourself with. I’ve found these friendships with both guys and girls in hip-hop, but I’ve kept the links over time with more girls – because I am one.

A lot of people say we shouldn’t separate male and female for events, making female only events, as it’s excluding people. In a way I do agree, but I have seen the benefit of events such as Femme Fierce, and the B-Girl competitions I’ve been to, in giving confidence to females to represent, and making links with other women who are into hip-hop. I’ve never run a ‘women only’ hip-hop event. I have however run events that try and address the huge imbalance that I see in our culture, where pretty much all the role models are guys.

We need to support one another and encourage girls to get involved in hip-hop, because we need more strong female role models. Male and female are nothing without the other, and a party’s much more fun when there’s a good mix of boys and girls… particularly if they’re all repping HARD!

 

3on3 comp - Unity, Sofly & Bonnie

3on3 Bgirl battle – Unity, Sofly & Bonnie

 

Make Devon Road Beautiful

I love it when communities come together to make change. It’s not difficult once you get a few people together with a common cause –  living alongside one another I think it’s really important that we can work together too, looking after our own local area and instilling a sense of pride and belonging.

I came across the ‘Make Devon Road Beautiful‘ facebook page via a friend, and painted a piece on a garage there last week. It wasn’t a great place to paint because of all the traffic ROARING up and down the road where I was working, but this illustrates why the community has come together in the first place. The aim of this project is to calm traffic by creating a colourful environment, signalling to drivers that they are entering a residential space. Although I’m not from the area it feels good to have contributed in my own small way, to the change which residents of this area are seeking. Keep up the good work folks!

Unity devon road