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Ibeyi’s 'Ash' Is An Empowering Soundtrack to the Elements and the Fight for Equality

Ibeyi’s music encapsulates Afro-Latino culture and tradition into a united harmony in their latest album, 'Ash.'

“I carried this for years," the twins chant, carefully, then more forcefully, in the opening of their sophomore album, Ash.


The chant is part battle cry, part anecdotal lesson passed down from generations, part famous last words uttered before one's dying breath. Or, eerily, it can be the revelations of a person who speaks to souls long gone, who senses that humanity is in need of assistance.

Ibeyi's music transcends the twin bodies they share: it breathes life into generational trauma and oppression that people of color face, it remedies the aching stretches of old spirits begging not to be forgotten or removed, it encapsulates Afro-Latino culture and tradition into a united harmony. It personifies the world's warnings of danger and destruction—both man-made and natural—but assures us there is pulchritude in demise.

With echoing, repetitive choruses blending in and out, Ash sounds like a family of melodies, not merely two women. Earlier, I thought to myself that Ibeyi wouldn't be as stunning were it a solo artist and not a duo. Together they conjure the power of many histories and past lives, all by channeling the forces from their indescribable connection. It's beyond sisterly bond, beyond familiarity; it's the magic of sharing a womb with another woman, of being created in the same space and time as another—of splitting souls within a cocoon.

This spellbinding relationship the twins share lends them ethereal, future and past telling vibrations. Their lyrics feel relevant yet timeless, as if ancestors are speaking and singing through them, revealing secrets of human mistakes and earthly sorrows. Listening to them gives joy, awakening and celebration, along with a sense of foreboding. Perhaps because our world is not perfect, and Ibeyi can sense the stirring in the ground.

Right now is equally the most exciting and exhausting time to be alive. Exciting because communities of color, of different genders, sexualities, abilities and ethnic backgrounds are coming together to dismantle white male heteronormative supremacy. Exhausting because the push back against these alliances is relentless. Trump has been the most daunting and dangerously idiotic president I have witnessed, and the fact he's still in office is puzzling and problematic. Despite political and social exhaustion, we are experiencing environmental exhaustion: the ferocious hurricane that ravished the Caribbean is a warning from the earth that we shouldn't take in stride. But I fear we will.

With “Deathless," a song about Lisa-Kainde's wrongful arrest as a teen, and “No Man is Big Enough For My Arms," Ibeyi places activism and social awareness at the forefront of their lyrics. “Whatever happens, we are deathless," they belt, reaffirming that we, people of color, have an wavering ability to resurrect from the cultural, metaphorical and literal deaths our people endure. In “No Man is Big Enough for My Arms," Michelle Obama's words of feminism, social change, gender equality and education are the backbone for Ibeyi's urgent outcries. Their muscular vocals weave around Michelle's statements, sending support and blood to an ever evolving movement of intersectional feminism.

Yet, it is the symbolism within their stories of water, earth and ash that purge into the core of power and healing in a visceral way. “Waves," a minimal, almost bare track positions Ibeyi as twin bodies of water communicating with an unpredictable, stubborn earth. “I am water under the ground," they confess, but not to our dismay. As women, being water beneath something sounds passive and oppressive. But here, this is a transformative and empowering state: water must move from one place to another, must change form. It's true evolution is something massive and groundbreaking: waves.

Ibeyi has found consolation in water in many of their melodies, from earlier hits such as “River", to Ash's “Transmission/Michaelion." I could write a whole dissertation on the artistic utilization of water as a metaphor for healing, persistence, peace, spirituality and more, for our histories are connected to water—from being unwillingly transported to foreign lands by boat, to respecting the creative and sustainable necessity of this life giving substance. For Ibeyi, it's all of these and more: it's their form, their element, their restorative and destructive wholes.

Ash, however, is the solid remnants of fire; the drifting particles that don't go away, the evidence that a flame has been ignited. Our world is dangerously close to experiencing some sort of grand epiphany: whether it is an apocalyptical divide of our own making, or an environmental transformation that leads to our undoing. If we are set aflame by the heat of our voices, the flicker of social inequality and the embers of protest and persistence—then our ashes will be the prevailing particles that symbolize our progress. But if our world is crumbling because of neglect, ignorance and denial about environmental changes, our demise may be inevitable.

“We can feel something's wrong. Can we keep going on? We are ashes, moving around," the twins sing in the final, title track. Is Ibeyi preparing us for imminent political warfare, or environmental and spiritual renewal?

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Artwork: Barthélémy Toguo Lockdown Selfportrait 10, 2020. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Goes to Paris in 2021

The longstanding celebration of African art will be hosted by Parisian hot spot Christie's for the first time ever.

In admittedly unideal circumstances, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will be touching French soil in 2021. The internationally celebrated art fair devoted to contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora will be hosted in Paris, France from January 20 - 23. With COVID-19 still having its way around the globe, finding new ways to connect is what it's all about and 1-54 is certainly taking the innovative steps to keep African art alive and well.
In partnership with Christie's, the in-person exhibits will take place at the auction house's city HQ at Avenue Matignon, while 20 international exhibitors will be featured online at Christies.com. And the fun doesn't stop there as the collaboration has brought in new ways to admire the talent from participating galleries from across Africa and Europe. The fair's multi-disciplinary program of talks, screenings, performances, workshops, and readings are set to excite and entice revelers.

Artwork: Delphine Desane Deep Sorrow, 2020. Courtesy Luce Gallery


The tech dependant program, curated by Le 18, a multi-disciplinary art space in Marrakech medina, will see events take place during the Parisian run fair, followed by more throughout February.
This year's 1-54 online will be accessible to global visitors virtually, following the success of the 2019's fair in New York City and London in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19 related regulations and public guidelines, 1-54 in collaboration with Christie's Paris is in compliance with all national regulations, strict sanitary measures, and security.

Artwork: Cristiano Mongovo Murmurantes Acrilico Sobre Tela 190x200cm 2019


1-54 founding director Touria El Glaoui commented, "Whilst we're sad not to be able to go ahead with the fourth edition of 1-54 Marrakech in February as hoped, we are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be in Paris this January with our first-ever fair on French soil thanks to our dedicated partners Christie's. 1-54's vision has always been to promote vibrant and dynamic contemporary art from a diverse set of African perspectives and bring it to new audiences, and what better way of doing so than to launch an edition somewhere completely new. Thanks to the special Season of African Culture in France, 2021 is already set to be a great year for African art in the country so we are excited to be playing our part and look forward, all being well, to welcoming our French friends to Christie's and many more from around the world to our online fair in January."

Julien Pradels, General Director of Christie's France, said, "Christie's is delighted to announce our second collaboration with 1-54, the Contemporary African Art Fair, following a successful edition in London this October. Paris, with its strong links to the continent, is a perfect place for such a project and the additional context of the delayed Saison Africa 2020 makes this partnership all the more special. We hope this collaboration will prove a meaningful platform for the vibrant African art scene and we are confident that collectors will be as enthusiastic to see the works presented, as we are."


Artwork: Kwesi Botchway Metamorphose in July, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957


Here's a list of participating galleries to be on the lookout for:

Galleries

31 PROJECT (Paris, France)
50 Golborne (London, United Kingdom)
Dominique Fiat (Paris, France)
Galerie 127 (Marrakech, Morocco)
Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris, France)
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire/ Dakar, Senegal)
Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris, France)
Galerie Lelong & Co. (Paris, France / New York, USA)
Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, France / Brussels, Belgium)
Galleria Continua (Beijing, China / Havana, Cuba / Les Moulins, France / San Gimignano, Italy / Rome, Italy)
Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana / London, United Kingdom)
Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca, Morocco)

Luce Gallery (Turin, Italy)
MAGNIN-A (Paris, France)
Nil Gallery (Paris, France)
POLARTICS (Lagos, Nigeria)
SEPTIEME Gallery (Paris, France)
This is Not a White Cube (Luanda, Angola) THK Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa) Wilde (Geneva, Switzerland)

For more info visit 1-54

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Listen to Sibusile Xaba‘s New Jazz Single 'Umdali'

Sibusile Xaba's single 'Umdali' featuring Naftali and Fakazile Nkosi comes ahead of Brownswood Recording's highly-anticipated contemporary jazz compilation album 'Indaba Is'.