Tag: Kofi Allen Art & Photography

It’s the last day of the long awaited Basquiat solo retrospective seminal art show at the Barbican London.

Its 0850, and I can see that people already darting to the Barbican, so I take a quick snap, and head over to the main show.  One street away from the Barbican Centre, the first thing I see is a Banksy piece, with his typical striking flair for social commentary. The image illustrates two police officers, attempting to arrest the graphic image representing Basquiat.

Entering the Barbican Centre via the Silk street entrance I am confronted by a lengthy queue, already 200 people deep. (I never usually do queue). After a little time, we begin to move forward, doors open, and the line of awaiting audience are all marched up to the 3rd floor, where to my surprise, we had to line up again, to now purchase tickets. 40 minutes later…Finally I am in, and what a great day of true artistic inspiration. The creative forces that echoed with brilliance, colour, science, and so much emotion, and passion, was overwhelming!

Set over two floors, the show was a Biopic feast, including a feature film staring Basquiat, and several exclusive interviews. For the very first time I heard and saw Warhol appear to display vulnerability, and even a sense of insecurity, knowing that Basquait had outgrown his shadow, and came with a whole other energy. Basquiat remained very humble, and even protective of Warhol.

I could not help the feeling of thinking my work rate has to increase, as the man himself, never actually stopped creating in one form or the other; paining on everything, creating tags such as SOMO (His take on, “Same Old Shit”), followed by his rendition of poetry, statements, or reflections.

After floating through the 14 sections laid out of this well curated show, made possible by the support of both private collection, and work held in various trusts, I was immersed into the mans process, and dilemma’s.. This gave me a true sense of his work rate, his passion, his tenacity, focus, and research, all of which he was stirring up, fuelling, brandishing, and expressing, symbolically, poetically, in abstraction, and in your face. Like several streams of consciousness seamlessly forming as one river, together they became his stream of expression, colourful, vivid, alchemy. It was as if wanted to touch the sky, but instead ended up literally re-encoding a new language, while simultaneously asserting his cultural and artistic identity, overtly and directly. His boldness was so direct, it was brilliant. For example, The King Of The Zulu’s series, dominated the space on the lower floor, serving as its own totem, as if it represented some form of ancient deity, protecting his work even in the after life!

The deeper I gazed, the more it revealed to me that Basquiat was no ordinary guy, he was a shamanic artist, struggling to keep one foot in this world, while trying to check the present, to engage the narrative, or more importantly to disrupt it! To appreciate this experience, I decided to stop trying to think everything through, but to instead simply feel. I could then actually see the music in his frequency; his ability to paint via frequencies, while channelling the Gnostic alchemy selected from his very deep encyclopaedia of knowledge and books versed about ancient symbolism, including The Spirit, Monotheism, The Anatomy, Lost Language of symbolism, and African Rock Art. These were just a few of the pallets/ tomes Basquait absorbed from and utilised to charm his amazing work.

Although he came across as quite a soft touch, gentle and non aggressive, he was totally rebellious, and knew how to not only pick a fight, but how to make sure he won it too. Competitive he certainly was, and not afraid to put his two fingers up to the artistic community, who was always trying to undermine his talent, in one way or the other. This can also be seen in the self portrait series, where you can see how he choose to respond to a particular writer by the name of Rene Richards, who wrote: “One must become the iconic representation of oneself in this town (NY)”. The self portraits that he them used to address this topic, was brilliant, as he could have easily backed down and shied away, but instead he went totally with it, and went Black, and so much so that you could sense that he finally found a way to express his cultural self, without getting caught up in the stereotype. He embraced this relevance, which really did put the mirror up to the art establishment at that time. I am sure still to date, similar issues are very much the same!

To have been able to experience this show, was like having your brain rewired and re-engaged with art science, combined with an ancient gnostic alchemy, knowing his gift was always to make the connection, between life, art and death.

Many who attended this exhibition, may soon come to realize, that they sublimely smitten by the atomic Dog //- God 0 =Time + Joy…

Born out of rebellion, suppression and repression. Misunderstood cultural dynamics where one has to assert oneself to be recognised and celebrated. Born of the idea of a woman of vision, Claudia Jones. Also charted on the slave plantations where the sound of the drum came from a deep feeling of pain. For a long time the drum and dance and jubilation has facilitated an emotional and physical release.

It is the oasis in the desert. The juju in the chaos of time where all things collide culturally significantly and humanly. A time to take off the mask, and don the shorts, the colours and the paint. We go to the pan and the bass and we let it go. It is a shame that it is only for 2 days that we get to jump pan. To see the pageantry, watch our people let go of the stupid identity masked by career, money, peerage privilege. So it is about that point of reference that we recognise we are one lane. Defined by the sound of vibration we use it to heal ourselves, to expand, to explore and get ready for the next chapter.

As an equaliser, the question of the weekend is how much can you throw down to celebrate being human rather than being a fool?

It is no coincidence that Notting Hill Carnival is the biggest carnival festival in the world.  While there are many other local and traditional carnivals in terms of international numbers this is the largest and most international.  A space where culture is absolutely obscured, diminished, ridiculed to a point where it has no reference or value. All we have is a carnival to remind people of all the reverberations of all the contributions that this culture has made to sustain a community.

We get to see people without the mask and it is a beautiful, more humane rather than repressed energy.

If we could carnival every week, the world would be a better place.

I have been waiting for the Black Panther release for way too long after reading the Black Panther graphic novel and was so excited to see Chadwick Boseman turn up as the Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War in 2016.

I even recently photographed the cool dude himself, ‘Roots Manuva’, brandishing his copy of a ‘Black Panther’ graphic novel. Dressed all Dappa, wearing his Uptown Yardie’s shoes, we set up a location, which made Roots Manuva look as if he was still in the 1940’s / 1950’s. I have always been a Black Panther fan, and excited to just seeing the Afro-futurism on the big screen, or images that explore Africa being of a higher technological civilisation.  It is so over due, and cannot wait to see the amazing cast; Michael B. Jordon, Lupita Nyongo, Forest Whitaker to name a few.

As a warm up, I would also recommend ‘Message From The King’, for fans to watch. This another film which Chadwick Boseman has starred in and executively produced, which shows him delivering a powerful performance.

Bring it on Marvel, looking forward to seeing how this all unfolds in the cinemas..!

Zanele Muholi’s Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail The Dark Lioness recently opened at the Autograph ABP the South African artists first London show and I was delighted to see this impressive body of work which encompasses all the traits of a great up and coming photographic artist.

Bold doesn’t come close to describing a simple aesthetic which un-apologetically grabs you by the gut and demands that you pay attention to what is being conveyed.

There are no obvious subtleties, the entire body of work is stripped back to 6 basic elements: ultimate black, white, light, a woman, everyday items and a gaze you are challenged to hold. The 60+ compositions  are a stunning body of work which is both commanding and demanding. Commanding you to accept the simplicity that is the composition, its simple focused palate, its simple zen like compositions and its simple focused message:  Look, listen, I have something to say.  Demanding in that you register it as a new standard of self portraiture.

On closer inspection of the items Muholi chooses to crown, adorn, swaddle and bind her the dialogue expands into one of activism and commentary on gender, sexuality, environmental issues, freedom and power.

At Autograph, ABP, Rivington Street, Shoreditch, London, E2 until 28th October 2017.

“I’m reclaiming my blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other. My reality is that I do not mimic being black; it is my skin, and the experience of being black is deeply entrenched in me. Just like our ancestors, we live as black people 365 days a year, and we should speak without fear.”  

Zanele Muholi


Amazing as this show is, and having actually bumped into the great artist himself Wadsworth Jerrell, as we purchased our tickets for the

‘Soul Of A Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power’ exhibition at the Tate. My good friend, who is currently suffering from what is classified as terminal cancer, recognised Wadsworth who was so chilled out and actually waited for us to join him for a personal tour of the exhibition. We started with the Entrance rich with Iconic design and a powerful statement. A series of monitors, displaying several iconic film footages of America’s black revolutionaries making their most recognized speeches; Martin Luther King, James Baldwin, Angela Davies, Hughie P Newton Malcolm X, etc. I sat with my partner and observed the spectacle as people cue to listen to the truths being spoken from the past to the future. After some time, I started to feel a little pain in my chest, a throbbing in my temple, as my temperature seemed to get warm all of a sudden.  I was not ill, and was really looking forward to viewing this show and being inspired.

The show is of great significance, especially as I was standing with one of the original legendary artist himself. Yet I felt this strange energy come over me, which as usual, I have to always listen to!  So what was it that had me so bent over, and feeling twisted? Why was I not just content to just be impressed, which I certainly was?  Then it came to me, and I took my sweet quiet time to process these thoughts.

For most of my life, all I can ever remember is that anything regarding Black revolution was always associated to the USA.. Let me correct that statement. Everything via the Mainstream was.  I then had to reflect on the amazing fete these artists had managed to overcome, and wondered who was behind them, how did this actually happen, and how can we here in the UK equally illustrate our revolution, as a collective. Where was our Black Power Arts revolution? How is it that we are somewhat being overshadowed by the pains from the USA, without acknowledging the pains in my own back yard.

Instantly I realised that there is some serious alignment, as we have underestimated the scope to which the black artists here in the UK have to perform. On further conversation with Mr Wodsworth Jerrell, he asked me why are we here in the UK, and I responded without thinking, that we are here all working our asses to get the hell back out!! It was then I realised that these words have not come from my mouth for quite some time… He smiled with a little surprise, and was like for real?

The Black image has been hijacked, just like the way Hip-Hop have been in the USA.. The void of what was happening in 1963, till now is a crying shame. I want to reach out to those incredible Curators, those galleries, those events teams, to really consider their role within the arts fraternity. I think it is time for a call and response, to either be embraced or just do it alone, as we have been all these years! The key still remains the same. Integrity, commitment, passion, spirit, vision, community connected, empathy, value, worth, and the power of conviction. Saying this the show really sparked the fire inside of me, as I realised that it was our time, and the negotiation with the white supremacy here in the UK had to now cease. The time was now to turn it up, to pump up the jam. It was my moment to acknowledge that we are The Present –  the gift for the future.

I highly recommend this amazing show, as it stirred up so many mixed emotions, whilst illustrating that the artist still has a very important role to serve its community, the Human community. As they reflect their experiences, when other may have chosen to remain quiet. To put truth of these expressions up to the so called power that is. White supremacy has a guilty past, which I call White fear! After all these years, this fear has grown even more distinctive, due to a culture living in denial, as they cognitively and somewhat instinctively seem to be trying to repeat the behaviour of the past.

The issue is the system, that grants you access to the industries, to achieve greater success, the game has been rigged, and it favours those who are not challenging the ideas of the society, even if these ideas are not constructive, or conducive to one’s health or spiritual well being. The notion of self-motivation and community self-interest breaks down due to lack of economics, or social engineering. As an artist I have no choice but to express my vision and channel what others may be able to repress. Soul Of A Nation, serves as a remarkable reminder of the importance to remain resolute on the road least travelled.

It represented what it means to not conform, to remain tue to our unique perspective, and not be colonised or accept being treated as sub-humans. It also illustrated the cultural currency of the collective movement, and as a testimony time itself, as this show is still seem as one of the most important exhibitions the Tate have hosted. The numbers never lie, as the saying goes. Well my departing conversation with Wadsworth Jerrell was that we hare in the UK shall answer to their Call, as our unique response, as a cultural currency of respect and homage to declare the hidden dynamics of institutional racism, passive aggression, the cause of so much mental illness, as once more the Arts community being the final faculty, which has much to say to the world.

I would like to say a big thank you to the amazing Curator, who helped to bring this show to the Tate, and further more, would love to meet and discuss How we can compare our journey in these times. An uncensored response to a very powerful assessment, where the creative express without apologising for their truest creative expressions..

To all those great artist that totally represented and delivered such an amazing impactful show, which conveyed such a collection of individual and social dialogue, transcending time itself. The no limitation of conformity, including metaphysical elements abstract art, installations, AVI, along with some amazing paintings and photography. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your sacrifice, and hard effort to deliver, from your first trip to FESTAC Nigeria 1963 to The Tate of today!! Real warriors work in silence, as most artist have done throughout the decades.. I thank you for sharing this beautiful artistic narrative seen from the Black perspective.

“So what would it now look like in 2017, if we were to represent; Art In The Age of The UK Black Empowered?”

To be continued..

Not Singed, not smoked out,
but Burnt to a Crisp

While families slept, an inferno did blaze like a thief in the dark.. Were it not for spirit of Ramadan the few that escaped would also be dead. In Sha-Allah, we give praises

Burnt to a Crisp

Charcoal, Carbon, Dust; 24 hours later and still smoke bellowing from a building still ablaze. The caucus remains of what was once considered as homes, that were there to serve and protect over 900 inhabitants, including families, children, elders.. Up till now the list of the victims are still unknown.

Burnt to a crisp

Only the ghost on the many limbo’s souls remain. Hauntingly the diverse communities somehow galvanised their efforts, their voices, and their actions, in disbelief they did all they could if only they knew how to numb their collective pains.. Burnt to a crisp We Hear cries for Justice, and yes, what about this cladding, they knew about it and did nothing.. Sprinklers, was just not considered, as a means tested philosophy for the arrogance of those so called Land-Lords, who seem to have forgotten they really are not our gods, as they themselves will now need to seek redemption for their part in this fraudulent disastrous act of terror-ism.

Burnt to a crisp

15 minutes, that’s all it took to engulf an entire 24 storey building, turning it from a brutal construction of a tower block for the under privileged, into a ravenous angry, deadly inferno. Burnt to a crisp Exploding fridge, no sprinklers, Exploding gas pipes positioned throughout the escape stairway, fire hydrant could only reach past the 11th floor, while neighbours stood by powerless, as they witnessed babies being thrown from windows, surprisingly some actually made it, but for the sad and unfortunate other that did not, who will now protect and server them, where is the justice..

Burnt to a crisp

Residents complaints after complaints, simply ignored, instructions to remain inside, was the final seal for many, who followed these instructions, and paid the price with their life!

Burnt to a crisp

Gone is the myth, that social cleansing was never real, that the conservatives never had a hand into this deal, or is it just the standard politics, where he lesser do not deserve to inhabit where the wealthy wants to be. I mean a cladding of extreme toxicity, was conveniently added for cosmetics vanity, not to protect those poor souls who have died, but to appease those whose desire were to worship superficiality, at the price of what they already knew about from as early at 1984..

Burnt to a crisp

On the eve of the Conservative having to hand over power to the Labour party, Having never lost the Power hold of The Royal Borough Of Kensington and Chelsea before.. It’s all a little too strange that an inferno such as this just so happen to have ignited, with such rigour, and dire consequences. As the mixed race survivor clearly stated, even he cannot rule out foul play, after he way the residence have been treated previously. With a £10m refurbishment, yet a simple elevator was never fixed, which would have cost less than a brand new Mercedes..

Burnt to a crisp

What would I do to find the One who is to blame, be it the councillors, the landlords, the politicians, and now appointed judges.. What’s that I hear you say. ISIS did it?? Now you lot are trying to take the Piss!

Written by Kofi Allen

As I look back across the course of my career I give thanks for the geniuses who trod the path of the artist before me. Below is a list of the great photographers who inspired my own practice and left a great artistic legacy.

I would encourage all aspiring artists to be thankful for the greats; what they have gone through and how their resilience and committment to birthing their artistic visions inspired us through the legacy of their art.

Sedou Keita

  The Man Who Photographed His Village

Gordon Parks

The Common Search for A Better Life and a Better World

Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan, Gordon Parks (American, 1912–2006), 1950, Photograph, gelatin silver print *Photograph by Gordon Parks. Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation, *Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

As Life Magazine staff photographer, Gordon Parks captured between 1948 – 1972 almost every story imaginable about what it was to be a human being in the USA. Know for his photo-realism, his body of work set the tone for all photo-journalists who aspired to follow in his footsteps. However, as if that single accomplishment were not enough, the great Gordon Parks also left his indelible style in the world of high fashion (where his signature style was to capture the models in motion), classical music composition, publishing, film making and fine art. He is an inspiration to me for his pursuit of excellence, prolific body of work and his dedication to what he described as ‘the common search for a better life and a better world.’

Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan, Gordon Parks (American, 1912–2006), 1950, Photograph, gelatin silver print *Photograph by Gordon Parks. Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation, *Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Atul Dodiya

Man Ray

Freda Kahlo

  “My painting carries with it the message of pain”.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Detail from “Untitled”, a 1982 painting by deceased artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, bought by Japanese collector, Yusaku Maezawa. Photograph: Sotheby’s/EPA

Diane Arbus

Patron Saint of the Marginalised

Irvin Penn

The King of Black & White

Hand – Miles Davis copyrite Irving Penn




















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