Talking Moves Series 5 Episode 6: Making Positive Change

Talking Moves | 08 July 2022

In this episode, we talk to Valerie Ebuwa and Kwesi Johnson about making positive change.

Valerie Ebuwa sets about to ‘make shit happen’. She has written articles about ‘how to grow wings’ and ‘knowing your aesthetic’ and has urged readers of her blog to ‘lead with your strongest foot to ensure a solid journey to the skies’. Kwesi Johnson believes creativity and innovation are the highest uses of intelligence. “It begins as a thought and becomes reality, that is the power of imagination and desire,” he says.

So this was always going to be an enlightening conversation! We start off, as we often do, by finding out how their dancing journeys began and we probe Valerie more about why she thought her late start (18 years old) was “perfect timing”.

Both artists urge anyone engaging with them – either through their published writing and journalism (Valerie) or mentoring and consulting (Kwesi) – to ask deep questions of themselves. In doing so they both respectively believe you can ‘unleash your creative genius’ and so we dig deeper: discovering more about the ways they do this for themselves and others and the gifts learning about yourself in this way can bring. Both Kwesi and Valerie are entrepreneurial thinkers and doers and busily forging new ways of working creatively for themselves across multiple genres and art forms. We talk about their innovative projects and initiatives past and present, their perceptions of the funding model and its limitations and (best of all) their suggestions about how artists can break themselves free.

Both are unafraid of calling out behaviours. Valerie was recently published in The Stage, challenging the role of the critic and the generalisations often made when writing about dancers of colour. And Kwesi, way back in 2003, was pioneering hip hop dance theatre and putting people straight about their (often misguided) perceptions of it. In fact, Kwesi has long been a trailblazer and we find out a little more about his exploration of digital technology for dance classes which he investigated, not during the pandemic as the rest of us did, but back in 2012!

Finally, we talk about problem-solving and the essential but often under-valued role artists have in building a better functioning (economic as well as creative) world.

Who's Who

Valerie Ebuwa. A woman is laughing. She has long dreadlocks and is wearing a white tshirt. The photo is black and white.

Valerie Ebuwa

Valerie Ebuwa is a freelance dance artist, activist, writer and model from East London. She started her training at Lewisham College before obtaining a BA HONS degree from London Contemporary Dance School. Amongst others she’s recently worked with; Clod Ensemble, Vincent Dance Theatre, Bhebhe and Davies and Jamie xx. As a maker, she has choreographed and curated ValUE, a multi-layered project created in order to offer different perspectives on the black female image.

Her writing has been featured in The Stage Magazine and is a regular contributor to I am Hip Hop magazine; a printed and online publication championing hip hop culture. Her work has been featured in Crack Magazine, Glass Magazine and The Earth Issue.

Valerie’s project ValUE will feature as the first material archive for the Siobhan Davies Studio.

Headshot credit: Holly Whittaker.
Kwesi Johnson. A headshot of a smiling man with light brown skin and short dark hair.

Kwesi Johnson

Kwesi Johnson is a creative visionary and the Creative Director and co-founder of The Cultural Assembly (TCA). They create and produce their own work and commissions. The work lies at the intersection of Creative Technology, Culture and The Arts. With over 25 years as a creator in the commercial and creative industries, he has learned the ropes from the ground up as a performer and sole trader to being the Artistic Director of a six-figure performance company, Kompany Malakhi.

He is a progenitor of the now worldwide theatre form, Hip Hop Theatre. He has collaborated with Puma, Vauxhall and BBC and received commissions from The British Council, The National Theatre (UK) and the Olympic Conference. He is also a graduate of the Institute of Leadership & Management via DENT.

TCA is currently developing an alternative model for arts and cultural creation, distribution and validation using the power of decentralised finance, creative technology, empty commercial property and Web 3.0

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