Feature in Dodge & Burn

We’ve been big fans of Dodge & Burn for a while now so it was an honor and a pleasure to be featured on the blog! Many thanks to Qiana Mestrich for interviewing us and being so supportive of our mission!

Read the interview below:

In this interview, I speak to 3 photographers: The founders of the Mambu Badu Photography Collective – they are Allison McDaniel, Kameelah Rasheed and Danielle Scruggs. A unique photography collective, these 3 women have organized to support, acknowledge and promote the work of other Black female photographers who often go unnoticed within this industry.

Follow Mambu Badu on Twitter @mambubadu.

D&B: Please introduce yourselves and tell us a bit about your backgrounds. (where are you from, where do you live, are you all photographers?)

DS: I was born and raised in Chicago and currently live in Washington, DC. I’m a photographer and on occasion, a writer.

KR: I was born and raised in East Palo Alto, a small town of 30,000 in the Bay Area, CA. On July 4, 2010 I made the big move to Brooklyn, NY. I am a self-taught photographer – mostly documentary projects and portraiture in the US as well as abroad in South Africa. I am also a writer completing a series of interviews with NY-based artists like Dread Scott, Jamel Shabazz and Akintola Hanif. Last, but certainly not least, I am a high school world history teacher in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

AM: I’m originally from Roselle, NJ but call the DC metro area home (for now). I stumbled upon 35mm photography in 2001 and have been utterly obsessed since. I’m also a writer, Associate Editor of Recipes for Good Living Magazine and a Graphic Designer when I find the time.

D&B: How did you all meet?

DS: We met through Twitter, of all things. And it turns out Allison and I had a bunch of friends in common as we both attended Howard University and are both based in the DC area.

KR: Twitter! In out own little Twitter worlds we were discussing the absence of something really needed – a collective of Black women photographers. Somehow we all ended up in one another’s timeline and started talking. It was all rather organic. We put plans in motions: mission statements, names, etc.

Danielle and Alice were in D.C. at the time while I was still in CA. When I moved to NY, we finally met up and pulled everything together. We were really excited to take an idea (a wish) and see it blossom. It continues to be a blessing to see all of this manifest. We officially launched on September 20th, 2010.

AM: What they said, haha… Social networking and a good dose of kismet.

D&B: What inspired you to create the Mambu Badu collective?

DS: Well, just speaking for myself, I noticed a dearth of Black women in magazines, books, blogs and gallery and museum shows I was seeing that focused on photography. I think it’s something all three of us noticed and rather than simply point out the problem, we decided to fill that space and part of the solution.

KR: I had just finished my first two years of teaching and was trying to find my place in the photography community without a lot of guidance. There were limited shows, books, and online resources about Black female photographers. I remember spending hours online doing Google searches and sending emails. I figured that I could not be the only Black female photographer who sought support and desired a relationship with other emerging photographers.

Mambu Badu came from a need to find other Black female photographers, to nurture this growing community, and to expose them to a wider audience. “Mambu Badu” is an adaptation of the Swahili phrase “Mambo Bado” which is loosely translated as “the best has yet to come.” We feel like this collective is about possibility and pushing boundaries.

AM: I had spent a few years creating on my own until I transferred to SCAD-Atlanta in 2005 and found myself in a group of primarily Black women artists. It immediately became apparent how important creating community was, not just as an artist but particularly as a black woman photographer.

You just don’t see yourself in the art world in the same way others do. Providing feedback and support for one another is instrumental to artistic growth; art isn’t created in a bubble. Linking with Kameelah and Danielle and hearing these same concerns echoed back to each other ended up manifesting a solution of sorts.

Mambu Badu magazine, Inaugural Edition 2011

D&B: What kind of activities do you do as a collective? How many members do you have?

So far, we have created an interactive PDF Mambu Badu magazine and are planning another one. We also are in the middle of planning an exhibit and re-vamping our website so that it is more of a destination and resource for black women photographers. We really believe in our mission of finding, exposing and nurturing women photographers of African descent and we want to make sure we are providing resources and highlighting the work of those who submit work and get involved.

We also are reaching out to other artists and figuring out ways of collaborating with folks who may use a different medium but have a similar spirit to Mambu Badu. Definitely be on the lookout for publications, more exhibits, and artist interviews as well.

D&B: Are there any current female photographers of African descent whose work you admire?

DS: Lorna Simpson, Carla Williams, Carrie Mae Weems, Myra Greene—those are the grande dames to me. I also really enjoy the work of Carla Aaron Lopez, LaToya Ruby Frazier (grateful for Kameelah for writing about her for the Liberator, I didn’t know much about her until then), King Texas, and Nikita Gale, who was in our inaugural issue.

KR: There are so many: Renee Cox, Deborah Willis, Lorna Simpson, Carla Williams, Delphine Diallo (who also does collage), Lauri Lyons, Deana Lawson, Zanele Muholi, Samantha Box, Delphine Fawundu-Buford, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, LaToya Ruby Fraizer, Nzingah Muhammad, and Ayanna Velissa Jackson all do great work. And of course, I really admire the work of the other ladies of Mambu Badu – Danielle Scruggs and Allison McDaniel.

AM: Carrie Mae Weems and Deborah Willis are forever at the top of my list; I draw guidance in various ways from both. Jai Lovehall is up-and-coming and producing some really evocative portraiture work, Michelle Braxton, and Carla Aaron Lopez (keep your eye on her). Danielle and Kameelah are a constant; it’s wonderful to work with ladies whose work is a source of inspiration.

Photography by Sheree R. Swann featured in Mambu Badu magazine

D&B: Tell us about your online magazine. How do you choose the photographers you publish?

DS: We just put out a call for entry and after all the submissions were in, we just looked through and picked out which pieces best illustrated our theme of Memory and just what we thought was really strong work. It was hard because some submissions we had that we didn’t pick were still great, but there was something else that just worked better. I have more empathy for curators now!

KR: We want everyone to submit for our September call. The process was helpful for me as a photographer because for once I was on the other side of the table. I saw the importance of having both a great body of work as well as possessing the skills to edit out pieces that do not work well within a series. I also came to understand the difference between being a photographer and being a curator of sorts.

D&B: What’s next for Mambu Badu?

DS: As I mentioned before, we want to get into publishing, curate exhibits, collaborate with other artists, and really make our website a platform and go-to resource for Black women photographers. We’re really excited to see where this all leads.

KR: In early July, we met in D.C. to backward plan for Mambu Badu. We will continue to publish the Mambu Badu magazine as well as publish a book featuring emerging Black female photographers. We will also regularly curate exhibits and hope to collaborate with like-minded organizations. The mission of our collective is to not only find and expose photographers, but to also nurture them. To that end, we will develop the Mambu Badu site as a resource complete with interviews, listings of exhibition opportunities and helpful articles.

AM:  Continued growth, expanding our reach, and fulfilling our mission statement in every conceivable way possible.

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East of the River exhibit opens Aug. 5

Danielle here. Just want to let you know I will be showing prints at the East of the River exhibition at Honfleur Gallery in Washington, DC. The show opens on Friday, August 5, which is just one month away! I’m terribly excited to be a part of this exhibit and if you live in the area, I hope you’ll come by for the opening reception. And if you can’t make the opening, the show will be up through September 16.

Full list of artists:

Marlon Norman

Jonathan Edwards

Danielle Scruggs (That’s me!)

Jon Malis

Deborah Terry

Lark Catoe-Emerson

The show was juried by an esteemed panel (to say the least!): documentary photographer Susanna Raab, visual artist Renee Stout and Stephen Bennett Phillips, director of the fine arts program at the Federal Reserve Board.

What if there were no more art galleries?

Hi readers! This is Danielle here, 1/3 of Mambu Badu! I recently had the opportunity to interview artist/arts advocate Kesha Bruce again (I interviewed her for the Liberator Magazine some time ago), this time regarding her new venture, the 6×6 Arts Festival. We also talked about how artists can create a more opportunities for themselves, rather than waiting to be discovered by a gallery or editorial client. I gained some insights on where I need to improve and push myself in my own work. Read more below:

How, in your view, can artists create a better work/life balance?

Kesha Bruce: I get this question all the time from my consulting clients, so I can tell you right now that my answer is going to be unpopular.  Here it is:  Realize that you cannot have it all, and understand that time cannot be managed. The only thing you can manage is how you choose to spend your time.  (Emphasis mine.)

Make a list of the things in your life that are truly the most important to you and bring you the most joy. Then beg, borrow, steal, and fight like hell to squeeze a little bit of those things into every day.  Even if you only get to spend 10 minutes a day making art, 10 minutes is better than no minutes!

What is one concrete action an artist can take right now to establish a more fulfilling/successful career?

KB: I wish I had an easier answer, but every successful art career is built on a combination of actions—and combined consistently.  There isn’t one magic thing you can do that will transform your career.  If there were—we’d all be doing it!  Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.   All of your marketing efforts must work together and they need to be consistent. Meaning they need to be planned and scheduled. And you need to commit to repeating them over a certain period of time.

There are no magic bullets or easy formulas.  A successful art career is built on a system of actions that you work and implement day by day —every day—in order to be constantly generating new work and interest in your work that will lead to sales.

Could you just talk a little about what inspired 6×6 and what you hope to accomplish with it?

KB: The idea for 6×6 came one night during a discussion I had with my friend and fellow artist Charlie Grosso.  We  were having one of those long involved discussions about art, and how it’s bought and sold and what we would do differently.  By the end of the evening we have decided that instead of just talking about the way thing should be, that we should actually go do something about it.

The whole point producing 6×6 is to lead by example. The entire event is  a blue-print for how artists can work together to help each other promote their art.  At the end of 6×6, we’ll take the video footage, workshop notes, and podcast recordings and package it all up into an affordable, easily downloadable, step-by-step “How-To” guide so that independent artists can learn exactly how they can plan and re-create their own version of 6×6 in their own art communities.

What are some key differences between the traditional gallery system and the 6×6/Baang + Burne approach?

KB: Well for starters, we have no set location, so we organize events wherever and whenever we want in any format we choose.  Secondly, our contract with each Baang and Burne artist is non-exclusive and each artist gets to tell us what percentage they want to pay us for each sale—which is pretty unheard of within the traditional gallery system.

But honestly the biggest difference is our simple no-nonsense attitude towards art sales.  We don’t go out and try to find art collectors.  We create them by building relationships between art lovers and artists.  It really is that simple.

To learn more about 6×6, read Kesha’s weekly articles on art, art marketing, and creativity and to download a free copy of her guide “The 5 Step Art Career Make-Over” visit her blog at http://www.keshabrucestudio.com/.

Lorna Simpson | Momentum

(Click on the image above to play the video.)

Photographer Lorna Simpson has a new film currently on view at Salon 94 gallery in New York. More about this surreal, intriguing new work from the arts and culture website Nowness:

Artist Lorna Simpson conjures a childhood memory for today’s pirouette-filled film, currently on view at Salon 94 gallery. Coated in gold body paint and accessorized with matching afros, the ballet corps starring in Momentum comprises a group of New York dancers handpicked by the Brooklyn native to reenact her own stage debut at the age of eleven. “I was very surprised by a powerful sense of reversal while performing,” she recalls. “I had this intense urge to occupy the role of observer, as opposed to being immersed in my well-rehearsed effort. I [wanted] to satisfy my need to be the spectator of this performance.” Alongside the video installation, two large-scale felt works silk-screened in gold ink and depicting 1970s postcards of New York’s Lincoln Center, the venue of the original performance, are also on show. The pioneering conceptual photographer, who has shown at the Whitney, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the Walker Art Center, revisits themes of gender, cultural identity and history in her work: a recent series for the Brooklyn Museum saw Simpson recreate vintage 1950s images of African Americans with herself as the subject.

Lorna Simpson | Momentum

(Click on the image above to play the video.)

Photographer Lorna Simpson has a new film currently on view at Salon 94 gallery in New York. More about this surreal, intriguing new work from the arts and culture website Nowness:

Artist Lorna Simpson conjures a childhood memory for today’s pirouette-filled film, currently on view at Salon 94 gallery. Coated in gold body paint and accessorized with matching afros, the ballet corps starring in Momentum comprises a group of New York dancers handpicked by the Brooklyn native to reenact her own stage debut at the age of eleven. “I was very surprised by a powerful sense of reversal while performing,” she recalls. “I had this intense urge to occupy the role of observer, as opposed to being immersed in my well-rehearsed effort. I [wanted] to satisfy my need to be the spectator of this performance.” Alongside the video installation, two large-scale felt works silk-screened in gold ink and depicting 1970s postcards of New York’s Lincoln Center, the venue of the original performance, are also on show. The pioneering conceptual photographer, who has shown at the Whitney, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the Walker Art Center, revisits themes of gender, cultural identity and history in her work: a recent series for the Brooklyn Museum saw Simpson recreate vintage 1950s images of African Americans with herself as the subject.

The Reviews Are In…

Check out some of the feedback we’ve received since launching Memory on May Day:


New Model Minority: “The Freshest Thing Since Honey Magazine.”

Afrolicious: “Because it’s created by Black women and for Black women, I get a distinct feeling of intimacy within a genre where we are constantly struggling to prove our worth. I feel honored to be a part of this visual conversation and elated that people showed up. It’s all rather powerful, especially as the photos are placed against each photographer’s words and phrases from authors including Kasi Lemmons, Zora Neale Hurston, Zadie Smith, Angela Shannon and Toni Morrison. “

Crunk Feminists: This digital photography mag grew out of a twitter conversation between three 20-something sisters; the first issue on “Memory” is visually stunning and showcases the diversity of Black art.



National Black Programming Consortium: “We are enjoying the inaugural issue of the online photo mag from Mambu Badu | Photography Collective. Such meaningful images, and such well chosen sparse prose, we adore it: http://bit.ly/lFacTx. And that cover speaks so succinctly to the first chosen theme of memory. Do share this!”

We couldn’t do this without your support. Thank you to everyone who has been reading the magazine and spreading the word.

We are definitely planning future calls for entry so be sure to subscribe to our posts, follow us on Twitter (@mambubadu), ‘like’ us on Facebook, and email us (themambubadu@gmail.com) to stay up-to-date on the latest news from Mambu Badu.

Mambu Badu: The Inaugural Edition is Here


(Click photo to launch magazine.)

Due to some technical difficulties, we’re a day late but the inaugural edition of the Mambu Badu PDF magazine is now live! Thank you to everyone who submitted work, to the photographers who appear in these pages, to people who retweeted us, liked us on Facebook and sent us words of encouragement through letters. It’s much appreciated and we’re grateful for the support.

We love feedback so if you have any comments, questions, or concerns, don’t hesitate to let us know: themambubadu [at] gmail [dot] com.

Happy May Day!

We are definitely planning future calls for entry so be sure to subscribe to our posts, follow us on Twitter (@mambubadu), ‘like’ us on Facebook, and email us (themambubadu [at] gmail [dot] com) to stay up-to-date on the latest news from Mambu Badu.

On performing Blackness + why Mambu Badu exists

On the ride back to D.C. from Saturday’s amazing Black Portrait Symposium at NYU, I checked Twitter to help the time go by. After scrolling through a few tweets about Charlie Sheen, basketball, and standard news updates, @afrolicious popped up talking about a Vietnamese classmate of hers performing Blackness—or rather, the warped view of Blackness that is currently exported through pop culture.

I was absolutely floored by the insights she offered on the commodification of Black culture, how Blackness is performed, and what we as artists, writers, scholars, coders, scientists, etc. need to do to counter those narratives. It was quite serendipitous to see someone on the west coast putting the exact same topics that were being debated and discussed in New York in a larger, global context.

Her tweets also helped me realize why it’s so important Mambu Badu exists. This space exists because we know there are so many stories out there that are being either ignored or distorted. We want to expose those stories. We want to show nuance where there are only broad strokes. And we hope that you, dear reader, wherever you are, will continue on this journey with us. Go here to read the rest of @afrolicious’ posts on the subject. And check out her great blog on arts and culture as well: www.afrolicious.com.

Updates from the Artists: From NYC to Paris

As the ladies of Mambu Badu are working away on the inaugural magazine and logistics for the summer exhibit, the first cohort of selected artist have steadily been working on some great projects.  See what these photographers have been up to and do not hesitate to shoot us an email with questions.

We are definitely planning future calls for entry so be sure to subscribe to our posts, follow us on Twitter (@mambubadu), ‘like’ us on Facebook, and email us (themambubadu@gmail.com) to stay up-to-date on the latest news from Mambu Badu.

(c) Yodith Dammalash, 2011 from the Gama Series

  • SHOW ME YOUR TAX BRACKET // A mixed media, invitational group exhibit featuring over 40 artists from St. Louis, across the United States and Canada. (Curated by Bryan Walsh and Danielle Spradley @ Aisle 1 Gallery)  The exhibit will open March 18, 2011 and continue through April 16, 2011. Gallery Hours: Saturdays Noon-4pm or by appointment
  • Gama Series, an on-going series about my Ethiopian-born grandmother living in America.

NIKITA GALE

  • Currently showing work at the Auburn Avenue Research Library in Atlanta until April 30th.
  • Participating in Irrational Exuberance, a group show at the Invisible Dog Gallery in NYC from April 30th – May 8th.
  • Collaborating with Streetela, Atlanta streetwear brand.  Show will be held April 9th at Studio 900, Atlanta.  Interview.
  • Showing work in a silent auction and fundraiser for AALAC at Kai Lin Gallery in Atlanta on April 14th.
  • Currently, Sheree is working on her book and as documentarian for Brotherman Comics.

TONIKA “TONI” JOHNSON

  • The youth journalism program co-founded by Tonika “Toni” Johnson, was recently featured in The Chicago Tribune Newspaper.
  • Tonika recently returned from Paris, France photodocumenting the concert of Chicago’s local rapper, Rita J, at La Bellevilloise.

NKECHI EBUBEDIKE

  • Currently working as a producer on a documentary focused on the creation of “Rational House,” a low-cost, sustainable urban housing development in London. The project will be launched at the prototypes unveiling this summer.

The LADIES OF MAMBU BADU are up to a few projects as well:

  • Ms. Alice Wonder AKA Allison McDaniel just posted a series of photographs entitled, “It’s Warm Somewhere.” While the east coast has been battling through its share of frigid weather, Allison’s warm and inviting photographs are a reminder sun, shorts, and picnics are not too far away.
  • Danielle Scruggs‘ self-portraits were just published in F-Stop Magazine Issue #46, “All About Me.” Scroll to the 12th row to see two of her images.
  • Kameelah Rasheed‘s photographs of South Africa were published in Harvard’s Transition Magazine.  Kameelah’s conceptual piece, “Counterfeit: Like a Virgin” was published in South African-based magazine, ITCH.  Her essay, “Lines of Bad Grammar” is published in the book I Speak for Myself:  American Women on Being Muslim, which will be released on May 2nd.  She is interning for Liberator Magazine and is interviewing New York-based artists including Laylah Amatullah Barrayan, Jamel Shabazz and Dread Scott.

*An earlier version of this post had Jennifer’s middle name wrong. It has since been corrected and we regret the error.