Monthly Archives: February 2011

So, what do you do, Ngozi Odita of Society HAE?

When you see the name Society HAE, one question that may come to mind is, What does HAE stand for? The acronym stands for Harriet’s Alter Ego.  Who’s Harriet, you might ask?  C’mon, you know who Harriet is…

Yes, that Harriet.  Harriet Tubman!

Initially Harriet’s Alter Ego was a Brooklyn-based fashion boutique and

art gallery that also served as a performance space. Think of everything you’ve learned about Harriet Tubman.  Then imagine a place where a wondrous woman with that kind of passion, talent, and commitment to freedom could go to just…chill.  Express and pamper herself. Get cute. Maybe read a little poetry.  Or just hang out and enjoy the atmosphere.

When the store closed in 2009, the question for its founder, Ngozi Odita, and team became, “Where do we go now?”

They moved online, converting the project to an arts and entertainment social media platform. The Harriet’s Alter Ego crowd found them online and supported them in this new medium.   Society HAE was born.  Ngozi describes the community they’ve created as a place that resonates with artists, musicians and designers because it gives them a bigger voice.

In December 2010, the Society HAE team of bloggers, or Team SHAE, traveled to Dakar, Senegal to blog from the World Festival of Black Arts and Culture. Since its inception in 1966, the festival has provided a forum for political as well as artistic and cultural dialogue, attracting the likes of Alvin Ailey, Duke Ellington, and Clementina de Jesus.   This time around, Yossou N’dour, Jay-Z, Wyclef Jean and Rhianna were on the guest list.

Team SHAE gave their readers live coverage of the three-week long event that showcases fashion, photography, theatre, architecture, music, design, literature, film, and even sport from people of African descent throughout the diaspora. (See SHAE video below)

Ngozi Odita

“I wish everyone could have seen it, “ says Ngozi.

Ngozi’s love for the arts began during childhood.   She is proud of her heritage and remembers growing up dancing to her father’s Nigerian music in a household where there was always music playing.

“Fashion and the arts were always a part of me,” she says.

A humble and modest woman who laughs easily, Ngozi has grown this appreciation into a business that allows her to travel the world.  She shares some words of wisdom for the budding entrepreneur.

“There are opportunities everywhere,” she says.  “If you’re passionate about something, there’s an opportunity [to pursue it].  Look for the opportunities within that passion.”

What does Living Unchained mean to Ngozi Odita? To Ngozi, living unchained means being free, doing the things that move you.  It means having the freedom to be who you are, free to engage people.

Article by Ciara Calbert of Everybody is a Journalist

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“Afri-Love is a feeling”: Lulu Kitololo Discusses Her Vision, Art and Life Unchained

Imagine all who are inspirited by Africa – all whose lives and hearts have been touched by the spirit of the continent – sharing their passion through collaboration, in the name of mutual empowerment. –Lulu Kitololo

Illustration by Lulu Kitololo

Lulu Kitololo is a self-defined “ideamonger,” using painting, graphic design, illustration, writing and workshops, to tell stories that honor the beauty in women, Africa, life and nature. Lulu is creator of the Afri-love blog, which explores the connections between creativity, self-love and growth for Africans and those inspired by the continent. The blog features commentary, interviews, resources and reviews on art and culture.

Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Lulu moved to New York to earn a BFA in Communications Design from Pratt Institute. After working there as an advertising Art Director, she moved to the UK to pursue a Master’s in African Studies at the University of London.

Can you tell us about Afri-love?

Afri-love is a feeling. I remember being this really opinionated, patriotic kid, before I even really knew anything … about anything! When I left Kenya to pursue higher education in the US, I gained an even greater interest in where I came from. I was constantly meeting Africans, from all over the continent, and I observed that, diverse as our homelands were, there was so much we had in common. Especially, a love for the lands that were so much a part of us, no matter where we happened to be.

Design by Lulu Kitololo


Last year, I finally gave a name to that strong feeling and created an online space to express it, to share it with others and to collect all the expressions of it that I could find. I like to think of the website as a community for creativity and passion for Africans and all those who identify with or have an affinity for the continent.

Essentially, it’s a blog where you can find African and African-inspired art, design, literature and more. One of my favorite aspects is the interviews. I’ve had the opportunity to profile some amazing people who are living their passions and who are inspired by and devoted to Africa.

The vision of love you describe on Afri-Love is beautiful.  You say:

Imagine Africans who love who they are, as they are, and so love each other and the environment that nurtures them. Confident and assertive, they are engaged in charting their growth and celebrating success as defined on their own terms.

Imagine all who are inspirited by Africa – all whose lives and hearts have been touched by the spirit of the continent – sharing their passion through collaboration, in the name of mutual empowerment.

What compelled you to write this as you did?

Continue reading

Dreaming Through Art: Our Conversation with Daisy Giles


I aim to explore the beautifully natural and the stunningly fantastical…to express things that are inexpressible in words, which only live on the tips of tongues, in the subconscious, and in dreams of suppressed purposes and identities. –Daisy Giles

Live Unchained had the pleasure to speak with painter Daisy Giles, who studies and creates art in Minnesota. An admitted Harry Potter fan, she recognizes the magical in everyday life and translates that into vibrant, fantastical and beautiful paintings. We discussed her art, creative process, and inspirations.

Photo of Daisy Giles by Gyasi Jones

Can you tell us a little about your artistic background?
How did you become interested in art and why?

I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. My mother’s and my paintings cover the walls in our home (and my father’s office). My mom always loved to paint, as did both of her brothers and her own mother, so I suppose you could say its in my blood. Art was always a hobby for me however, and it wasn’t until taking some elective art courses at the University of Minnesota that I was opened up to the idea that I could pursue art as a career. I am incredibly thankful to my parents for always being supportive in this interest – my father bringing home stacks of recycled paper from his job for me to draw, my parents’ paying for private and community art classes when I was younger, building special storage in their basement for my artwork, and most recently – providing me with financial support that enabled me to quit my job so as to spend more time on the my art as I complete my BFA program. I am incredibly and eternally grateful to them for supporting my passion.

Mette by Daisy Giles. Oil on Panel.

Of your art, you’ve said:
In my work, I aim to explore the beautifully natural and the stunningly fantastical…My work is meant to express things that are inexpressible in words, which only live on the tips of tongues, in the subconscious, and in dreams of suppressed purposes and identities.

Can you say a little about what you mean by this? How did you come to be committed to this purpose?
Guilty pleasure and embarrassing admission: I am a Harry Potter fanatic. I love the Twilight series, I love fairy tales and folktales, I love campfires and spooky stories, and I love the idea that there is hidden magic all around me. I also am very interested in showcasing the beauty in things and people as they are: round bellies, soft bodies, wild hair, and humped backs. I feel like I am constantly painting portraits of myself, be it how I feel or how I want to feel.

The relationship between these two interests is what I am most concerned with exploring. I like the tension it creates when these two ideas collide. I think that there is something magical in every one of my paintings, something hidden and secret, something private, but something powerful nonetheless. I like playing with the simple situation of a beautiful and natural woman, pot bellied and relaxed, with the implausible situation of her hair growing three feet past her head and branching out to become a resting place for nearby birds. I like creating images of things that aren’t actual possible but that I wish were possible and that somehow feel like they could be. I think that these feelings are ones that many women can relate too, but that they perhaps can’t quite put their finger on and can’t quite define. When I am creating images, its always to express a feeling or an idea that I feel cannot ever be fully expressed in words.

Pomi's Roses by Daisy Giles. Oil on Canvas.

We’re sure it differs from piece to piece, but in general, can you share what the creative process and inspiration has been like for your portraits and your new series, Roses? How would you describe the aesthetic of these pieces?
The works in Roses, like all of my final works, begin with sketches, sketches, sketches. I let myself daydream and sometimes I let myself sleep. I like to create environments unto themselves, where my subjects are able to ponder whatever they so desire in solitude. Roses was no different from my Trees & Birds collection, in that I wanted to create these fictional locations, however in Roses, I really wanted the focus to be much more on the environment and on that seclusion than on the subject. So, rather than use the sparse open spaces that I created in my previous series, I came up with this concept of flowers crowding and encasing someone. I always begin my sketches with an overwhelming feeling (or some times multiple feelings) that I want to come across and then I go from there.

Who are some of your artistic inspirations?
Kara Walker is a huge inspiration. Her work literally gives me chills. I think I am so enamored with her work because she is able to walk that line of fantasy and the barely plausible so well. Her large-scale installations allow her to place the person viewing her work into her created environment and further heighten the tension created by the dark and violent images she creates. I admire her ability to create extremely beautiful and delicate images that are at the same time so heavy, so disgusting, and so off-putting. Mark Ryden greatly inspires me for similar reasons, although these tensions are expressed very differently in his work. I sometimes spend hours browsing his website and I absolutely never become bored with his highly detailed and romantic surrealism.

Ms. Paris by Daisy Giles. Oil on Panel.

Anything else you’d like to share?
I am constantly working on new and different projects. I like to keep it moving so that I am never bored with what I am working on and so that I always have five different things I can work on at once. However, I am currently most excited about my first portrait project. I have always drawn and painted commissioned portraits for those that would like them, but the portraits in this current project are created completely on my own terms. I am using real people and their real personalities for inspiration. (-Big thanks to my good friends who didn’t put up a fight when I begged them to model for me!) I have so far completed three of these life-size portraits and I have four others in progress. It is a new direction that I am very excited about.

Finally, what does living unchained mean to you?
Living unchained can mean many things, but to me, it means following your gifts and your passions without fear. The fear of failure can be overwhelming at times and I fall victim to it as easily as does anyone else, but it is important to me to not let that fear paralyze myself from action. I plan to give my art everything that I have and I’ll know then that I tried. The worst case scenario is that I never make it big, but I do know I will have created some beautiful things along the way and that’s okay with me.

Join Daisy’s e-mail list here http://daisygiles.com/contact.html to get the latest on her shows, exhibitions, new work, and publications.