In collaboration with Gucci, A Vibe Called Tech calls upon four artists to celebrate the Black image
Alayo Akinkugbe, Theophilus Imani, Renata Cherlise and Osei Bonsu take part in a series of conversations and self-portraits, reinterpreted by artist Jazz Grant.
- Ayla Angelos
- 18 January 2021
Coinciding with Martin Luther King Day – the annual holiday marking the birthday of his life and legacy on 18 January – is Pioneers of the Past, a series of conversations and self-portraits in collaboration between creative agency A Vibe Called Tech and Stance, an arts and culture podcast founded by Chrystal Genesis.
Commissioned by the luxury fashion house for the launch of its collaboration with The North Face, the series sees a curation of international artists and curators combine – those whose work celebrates the Black image and its representation in art and society. The artists include Alayo Akinkugbe, founder of A Black History of Art – a platform that highlights overlooked Black artists, curators and thinkers from art history and present day; Verona-born Italian Ghanaian visual researcher Theophilus Imani, who’s project Little Black Book reveals a personal investigation into his identity; Renata Cherlise from Black Archives, a multimedia platform spotlighting the Black experience; and British Ghanaian curator, critic and art historian Osei Bonsu.
Each artist or curator was commissioned by Charlene Prempeh, founder of A Vibe Called Tech, and creative director Lewis Gilbert. For the series, the contributors were tasked to present their own self-portrait for The North Face and Gucci collaboration, which were then to be reinterpreted by the hand of British artist Jazz Grant – a London-based artist known for her work that celebrates the Black community. “We were interested in how the collages would allow Jazz to effectively collaborative with the individuals we were spotlighting,” Prempeh tells It’s Nice That, “and what could be born out of style that is focused on texture By creating collages, Jazz was able to present an abstract response to what adventure meant in this context while still showcasing the product.”
Alongside the the launch, Stance has conducted conversations with the artists and curators, each discussing the changing nature of the Black image, as a new generation seek to challenge and redefine its place in art and in wider society.
“The collaboration between The North Face and Gucci – two brands with heritage, exploration and adventure in their DNA – is a great springboard for celebrating the individuals using their creative practice to spotlight Black figures from history who are often erased from storytelling,” says Prempeh in a statement. “As an agency, we’re always excited to share new, diverse narratives and work with brands who show commitment to amplifying Black voices and here we’ve been able to do both.”
Talking of her contribution in an announcement, Cherlise says that she was influenced heavily by visuals: “When I learned of the theme, Pioneers of the Past, I imagined these notions of travelling through time by way of the Black image. There’s still al to to uncover through mining the past. A lot to learn about the various ways the Black experience has been documented and consumed throughout the years. Perhaps, maybe, even too much for one to explore during their lifetime. I gravitated towards all of these new ideas of what working through the past could represent and my role within it.”
Akinkugbe states how the project was “wonderfully collaborative” which, “even with the restrictions of these times”, has shown great strength and support of each person involved. Imani, on the other hand, feels grateful to be included among the roster, as he’s “trying to propose new sentences in the way we read Black images. Meanwhile, Bonsu says that the project was a great opportunity to “amplify Black voices”. He adds: “This year has been extraordinary challenging for so many of us, but I’ve often found hope and inspiration in the boundless creativity of my community. It’s important that we take time to celebrate and recognise each other.”
Head over to Stance Podcast to listen to the series of conversations with each artist and curator.
A Vibe Called Tech x Gucci: Pioneers of the Past. Alayo Akinkugbe, Collage. (Copyright © A Vibe Called Tech, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.