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.