From terror attacks to constitutional changes, there is no doubt that 2016 will go on record for being an insanely dismal year. To paraphrase Ginsberg’s Howl, ‘I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by bigotry, fear and greed’ (or something like that).
However, despite certain adversities and geopolitical setbacks, much was gained by the likes of small yet vocal communities campaigning for drastic change. With the help of social media and public platforms, we have seen a burgeoning of new safe spaces for women of colour, nonbinary folk and creatives alike. It goes without saying that their good and honest work should not go unnoticed, nor should it be underrepresented.
Their persistence in championing cultural otherness contributes to the running commentary against neo-liberal values and its effect on race/gender diversity, economic power and influence, not to mention visibility and credibility. In a time of rising house and rental prices, unstable job markets, and revoked citizenships, the five following groups and organisations have brought a small beacon of hope among the wreckage:
1 – Gal-dem
Disturbed by the lack of diversity and lack of support for young women of colour, Liv Little founded the online publication gal-dem while still at university. In 2016, the London-based magazine grew from strength to strength, tackling DIY apparel brands, appropriation in fine art, as well diversity concerns in publishing and entertainment. Little notes:
The feminism I was seeking was one that explored how young millennial women navigated multiple identities, one that addressed blatant discrimination and silent oppression, and one that refused to treat women as a homogeneous entity, I felt that only through celebrating and acknowledging difference would emancipation for all women be achieved.
(Guardian, March 2016)
With a recent win at the DigitialiSMedia awards and the launch of their first print, gal-dem hosted a takeover with the V&A, celebrating art and black women in history in a space that historically was not designed for them. With bigger future goals, no doubt we’ll hear more from their team in 2017.
2 – Arthoe
The success of Tumblr and Instagram has most definitely catapulted the careers of many young people. Although the blog and picture site gave a platform for self-made artists, popular acceptance favoured a homogenous outlook in art, music and fashion. In reponse, Co-founders Mars and Jam took to arthoe as a way of reclaiming ownership over creative ventures, as well breaking the cycle of white gallery art. Through the #arthoe hashtag and endorsements from Barf Troop rapper Babeo Baggins and director/actress Amandla Stenberg, 2016 allowed a celebration for young creatives who have a vision for their work, but not always an audience.
3 – BBZ London
If you’re of colour and queer, the club scene can often feel unwelcoming and unsafe. If the shooting in Orlando is anything to go by, queer folks are less and less protected in self-made environments..Back in England, South London’s music and nightlife scene has been reaching new heights after the successes of King Krule, Loyle Carner, Sub Luna City and Jamie Isaac, to name but a few. After combining skills in photography and fashion in conjunction with their love of all things queer, couple and creative duo Tia Simone Campbell and Nadine Davis set up BBZ, an all-inclusive club night heralding all expressions and variations of identities. The success of BBZ is not only determined by its growing audience, but by the family unit it creates within a small pocket of a busy city. With familiar faces milling about, you’d be hard pressed not to enjoy the night.
4 – NON Collective
Among some standout artists making waves, like Anderson .Paak, DEAN and Princess Nokia, musically, 2016 has been the year of the collective. TDE, Divine Council, and Awful Records all became big game changers. Now make way for NON. Cape town’s Angel-Ho and London based Nkisi are co-founders of the African diaspora collective. With artists reaching from all corners of the globe, NON actively describes itself as a self-contained sovereign nation. Their political, cultural and social interests make for interesting and dynamic dance music, comparable only to London’s Klein. In tandem with their quarterly publication, NON – like many artists in the video age – are making use of aesthetics in tandem with blurring the boundaries of societal norms. Each artist brings with them their own sonic history, illuminating them in carefully curated spaces. Definitely ones to watch!
5 – Berries
Berries is a Berlin-based night hosted at OHM. Dj duo Stitch and Tchuani, along with other queer identifying artists, successfully curated a hip-hop/trap/grime night in the heart of the clubbing capital. In a city of techno and house house lovers, Berries presence is a challenge to standardised ‘lad’ culture and vehemently fights for acceptance in lieu of oppressive attitudes such as homophobia and sexism. Debuting performances from the likes of MicahTron and Jay Boogie as well as showing immense support for New York queer rappers Le1f, Cakes Da Killa and Mykki Blanco, Berlin’s black-run answer to London’s Heatwave: Hot Wuk is sure to be a winner in 2017.