I think I can earnestly say that I have somewhat been at odds with my (professional) self so far this year. Yes, the statement is blunt. True yet probably a tad exaggerated but hopefully not definitive. At least… I think. There is something healthy about wanting to do something that will attract and if possible mesmerise humanity (I believe in being extra these days, a lesson wholesomely taught by my daughter and nephew, true masters of (unwarranted) drama) and yet feeling at odds with what people may actually want to see, do, or even experience. As much as I believe in and rejoice in Process for the sake of it, realising that what you may be passionate about is not necessarily what people are passionate about can be an awful wake up call. It’s like being totally convinced that your outfit is mad tight (recall my wanting to be extra in this post) and hearing your bestie question your taste (and not just on that day… but in general). I say this casually but the creative process and the acknowledgement of such is synonymous of teething pains.
When being asked what my creative consulting agency does, I always respond that our number one aim is to showcase and promote… not to entertain… but to inform, to expand, to reinforce. I refuse to support trending art/cultural movements because they are trending so no I don’t “do” (meaning I don’t showcase or promote) Afro (meaning wax galore) fashion meet-ups and yes I am aware that this statement alone could discredit my pseudo-noble intent to “communify”. I don’t do projects, events, fairs around Afro-Caribbean-vegan food with reggaeton blasting in the background and people taking one-hour classes with the hippest dance instructors in Paris, NY or London. I don’t do not because I think it shouldn’t be done or because I would do it better. I don’t do not because I feel that those trends are overrated and culturally normalised. I don’t do because I question impact and sustainability. I confront the notions of providing culturally nourishing sustenance for the mind and body and the necessary and humbling idea that creativity by definition seeks to change, evolve, sometimes radicalise or alter perceptions, viewpoints, perspectives. Of course Art and Culture are enticingly emotional and sense-driven but in there lies the conundrum…They are also weighty of truth, gorged with political meaning, ripe with possibilities of new and unchartered. Allowing creativity to roam unbridled is a dangerously and absolutely necessary urge that cannot and should not be tamed nor reduced to simple, ephemeral trends. So what can we offer that people will instantly be drawn to? What set of skills, what fresh ideas, what performances, off-the-beaten path, politically poignant and/or gender sensitive exhibits, shows, or workshops can we create, host, support, and multiply?
AYA Consulting vows to promote the rich talents of the Continent, the Caribbean & the Diaspora through innovative, fun and sensible initiatives but it is also about ensuring that creatives from these cultural spaces can come together to work, share, inspire and forge an or many international networks. It is very lofty in theory but also very tangible in reality. Our creative collective is ever-growing and we are building long-lasting and powerful synergies. Some of the projects we initiated range from creating and hosting a multidisciplinary art workshop with an international visual artist in Kingston, Jamaica to screening an Afro-British web series in Paris, France to hosting a series of creative masterclasses in London, UK while working with women-led startups based in Europe on public relations, branding & marketing. Our scope, our work, our dreams are global.
Our marketing philosophy is one of natural, organic growth through targeted ads and boosted posts (thank you Facebook for enabling budding entrepreneurs to access affordable marketing and promotional tools although your new confidentiality policies really don’t right the many wrongs, let us be honest, we will at least praise you for what you do do right) on select social media platforms but it also significantly relies on word-of-mouth, private and public recommandations, article features and renewed partnerships with like-minded individuals, businesses and established institutions. But having said that, what we do is not considered popular. It’s “niche” (Can I admit that the term alone triggers levels of completely unfounded animosity but I digress); it’s not entertaining; it’s not…drums… trendy.
So what are we left with? A burgeoning community of gifted, humble and prolific creative professionals… YES A supportive nest of well-implanted locations across the globe… YES An unalterable thirst to tell culturally relevant stories in our own terms… YES
What do we need? Greater investment, endorsement, involvement from the people we are bound to serve and wish to wow. Greater understanding of the human psyche and the resulting yet glorious confusion that can and will nurture our creative processes in a myriad of positive ways.
And we need Time, Hope and Resilience (yes that’s quite a lot and frankly this is why this work is exceptionally daunting on the more somber days). The many creators I look up to constantly remind us that the one factor that is hardly replaceable is the time factor. There is nothing purposely meaningful and long-lasting that does not require time. All that you shape, mould, create rests on time and this sort of time is completely immeasurable, totally unreliable and absolutely unpredictable. Yes, Time is extra too! So when Time gets a little too extra for your taste, then call on hope and resilience. These two can and shall be called upon as often as is necessary. Resilience often pairs up with resourcefulness and regeneration. The open door metaphor is one that probably works for many. I prefer to see that doors can be placed or suppressed just as easily. The only real barrier is the one erected in your mind. The sole obstacle to your obtaining what your entire being searches, roots for and desires is you. And although you will question what your audience needs, wants or simply cares for on a daily basis, you ultimately have to decide if what you have set out to do is worth your time, efforts, small and large wins, disappointments, money, rightful or wrongful sacrifices, laughters, tears, sweat, and if the mission that has becomes yours is the one you -more than anything- can continue to lead…
After all, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it“.