Friday, 12 August 2011

Feature Friday: Zigwa

Zigwa: Kerhann Jones, Kenwyn Murray, James Hackett, Richard Thomas. Michael Norgriff
Zigwa is a design and production entity made up of 6 talented friends, Kerhann Jones, Kenwyn Murray, James Hackett, Michael Norgriff, Richard Thomas and Warren Le Platte. They all have strong art backgrounds and a history in mas and mas making, and most of all a history of collaboration. So far their projects include the décor for one of UWI's all-inclusive fetes, Champagne and Pearls in 2008, the Kaiso Dialogues 2010 décor, and an all-inclusive Carnival lime this year "Lime on de Side". They also do custom handmade creations for events like weddings along with the usual design projects like logos, layouts and ads. This year Zigwa also designed and produced a costume for competition in the modern history category of the NCBA Individuals competition at the Savannah and won with Anacoana - The Taino.

Anacoana - winner of the NCBA Individuals Competition 2011
I am excited to share this exclusive interview that includes all of the members of Zigwa coming together as usual to offer some great insight into their work and history. Since we have 6 people rather than one, it's a little longer than usual. For the folks unfamiliar with Trinidadian dialect, you can sound it out, but you’ll be able to catch the drift. I think.

These Zigwa fellas serve as a perfect example of the magic that collaborations create, and moreover, as positive male role models in our society. I am proud that the art community has this group of young men living creatively, making great art, and showing a way forward. I've had the pleasure of working with them on their Champagne and Pearls project (as one of the call-out-to-help-last-minuters). Their kindred spirits and synergy is quite admirable and it is with honour that I present Zigwa.

Michael and Warren at Lime on the Side, Carnival 2011
TC: So tell us the story of ZIGWA.
Michael: Richard and I met since we were in second year in primary school and Kerhann when he came to Rosary Boys R.C. 2 years later, if my memory serves me right. All of us went to school together in Trinity College, so we know one another for more than 14 years at least. 
In secondary school where we were mandated to go to Minshall Mas camp and work for the Carnival season, and also in art exhibition productions. Being part of the Trinity Carnival Foundation also brought us closer as a unit. Trinity Carnival Foundation is a non-profit organization which produces a children's band for Carnival. In 2009 carnival, the idea of Zigwa emerged as an entity, after working on the décor for UWI’s endowment fete "Champagne and Pearls".
Kerhann: One of the major events that I think started the evolution of ZIGWA was our first collaborative effort in having an exhibition of our work while we were in school. We had an art exhibition that we hosted in our Art room at Trinity College: "Worth 1000 Words". We curated our own work as well as works of art from forms 1-5 at Trinity College. We did everything from décor to invitations to wine and cheese at the opening. From that point we spent a lot of time with each other's art and process of producing it, being aware of the things that drove the processes.
I think that is where the foundation of ZIGWA might be: from a collaborative effort, where we viewed and understood each other’s art and perspective on expression. From this point we developed a more critical eye for exhibition type work, knowing what kind of individual and collective work needed to be done to achieve a set goal. A lot of time was spent looking at fine artists’ exhibitions, not just a painting or style of media use, but the body of work. It was a period when (local) artists like Bryden, Sylvester, Mosca and the like were exhibiting, before they started to make prints of their work. At the same point we were transitioning into Carnival. For me at least, graphic art was the conduit from art in its conventional sense to Carnival. As Michael said, Trinity Carnival Foundation changed the collaboration from working on individual art to make up a body of work, to working together at the same time on various things.
Kenwyn: Zigwa as a company and as an entity is young and came about in response to and through the work-based friendship we developed through the years. It’s after working together on various creative projects that we banded together as a close collective, to the point where we've made indispensible contributions to each other’s lives personally.
We were fortunate to reap strong meaningful friendships amongst ourselves - Zigwa came in response to that friendship as a way of maintaining it in such a way that it would greater impact on our lives individually as well as the lives of those around us. Apart from being indebted to each other in such a manner , we have strong history of working together creatively and towards the execution of definite professional tasks. It is special for us in that we get feed off that energy on various levels. 

Photo by Michael Norgriff for Zigwa
TC: What are your individual talents? 
Warren: I bring outta controlness - one of them will explain, because I doh understand, but they always telling meh ah outta control. 
James: I usually am Warren with some slightly tweaked talents. I bring knowledge of web developments and somewhat technological advances, advertising and marketing expertise. 

Warren Le Platte's handmade wedding gift and cake boxes, 2009

TC: So who is the voice of reason? 
James: That usually depends on what is going on at the time. I think each of us have played that role at various intervals; whether it was Richard who in the early stages told us that we needed to move on from our previous engagements or Kerhann, who had an interesting word that described us slacking off a bit too much, or me when I felt we were dallying too long with our logo designs. It depends, and I think that is great!
Richard: That's a toss-up between Kerhann and Kenwyn - they are the level headed ones. I think I'm the prostitute in the bunch - the business head. I keep them focused on the profitability of each project. I'm not at all saying that I'm just in it for the money because we all give 100% to every project. We are all in love with what we do whether the bottom line is to turn a profit or not - James is testimony to that fact. 

Kerhann Jones, Wild Indian, 2010
TC: Explain the meaning of VMT (I cannot post any shots here but you can get the link.)
James: This is a bit tricky to answer. It was something of an inside joke that took on a life of its own.
Warren: The traditional answer "if yuh doh know, yuh not supposed tuh know", but I’d say that you don't need to understand what it means to know what it looks like.
: V.ery M.any T.hink they know what it means.....HAHAHAHAHA
Tracey: Very Magnificent Tail. That's the best I can come up with.
: Doh strain yuhself - many have tried none have figured it out.
Tracey: Sigh. Give up!

I guess you viewers can try to figure it out too, but don’t expect to get a straight answer.

Kaiso Dialogues decor, 2010
TC: What do you love the most about working together?
Michael: No matter the task or the ridiculous deadline that is facing us there is always room for laughter. I remember for Champagne and Pearls, we slept on campus suffering from a serious lack of sleep because it was also in the middle of the carnival season and we were working on two separate carnival projects, plus doing the décor for the fete. That was pure stress but the shit talk, the offside comments and general relaxed mood in the face of the large looming deadline made the work easier. 

ZIGWA, Champagne and Pearls Decor
Another instance was a rush job for a wedding in the middle of Christmas time. TSTT worked a piece of magic and none of the text messages sent by Kerhann (team leader on that project) ever reached any of us. Not getting any word from him, we thought the job had been cancelled and it was not. 2 days before delivery in a mad rush, we called out girlfriends, cousins, sisters, mothers – everybody, to work on these elements for the wedding. Jokes were still made, offside comments were still flying left, right and centre and in that stressful situation, we still got some level of calm, making the work a bit easier. 

ZIGWA, Wedding Invitation

TC: Usually more people = more confusion. I'm interested to know if that happens? What happens when you disagree? 
Michael: more people= more fun. Zigwa is different. Actually people meeting us for the first time think we are going to fight at any given point, because we have known each other for so long that even if we disagree it does not matter. We cuss and we cuss and we cuss and at the end we go with the most logical choice. We are all level headed people and after all the cussing, we let better judgment prevail. It serves no good purpose in any one of us being a drama queen. 
It comes back to feeding off the energy of the others. Some of us love the adrenaline rush of a last minute deadline. I will not call names but Kenwyn loves that shit. He doh feel good unless it right down to the wire. But seriously even if we have people around us working on a project, they seem to feed off the energy, the ole talk and the jokes flying about; it’s not a situation of more people more stress.
James: I like that I trust and respect the abilities and knowledge of everyone in Zigwa.
Kenwyn: For me it is the fact that these are all artists and individuals that I respect tremendously helps to keep things in perspective. I may be good but I am not THAT GOOD because I cannot do what Kerhann does or what Warren does. This helps in creating a continuum of progress and searching that I deeply appreciate. I like that we each have similar backgrounds that demanded that an emphasis on innovation and resourcefulness - the creative capital of the group is ridiculously strong and it flows from that context of having to use one's imagination and mastery of one's skill both as a vehicle and as a release. We all know the importance of struggle and work and being in that environment grounds an individual creatively.
Most of all I like the energy that is generated when the things we are doing catch a momentunm (thatat is not something that we have struggled with). Whether it is liming, talking shit or working on a project the energy that can bounce between us when the momentum catches is something that I cannot readily qualify but it is magical to me and I am very grateful to know that in my life.
Warren: Kenwyn does make everything sound nice eh - bright and shiny. Deez assholes are my brothers, and ah love them. It does usually have beer when everybody together so, daz ah plus.

Zigwa, Champagne and Pearls production, 2008

TC: How do you overcome creative blocks?
Michael: They are never a problem cause I feed off the energy of the others. I see the work that the others create and get ideas.
James: ‎When I am blocked it’s all about taking that as a sign to rest and reset. 
Richard: It's simple - pass the ball to the nigga standing next to you. It works every time. Our creativity is a team sport.
Kenwyn: When I'm producing within and through ZIGWA, creativity is not a problem because there is so much to draw from when I look to my left or to my right. The energy and inspiration is always present and exhibited even in the most inconsequential things. It is always humbling for me to be privy to James's doodles or Warren's sketches; to see Kerhann's investment in a line or Michael's photos. In that environment there is an excess of inspiration. 
In a personal capacity, I turn to nature, in which I find the resources to be limitless. Our physical organic environment stimulates me greatly and I draw, literally and metaphorically, from its presence in my life. I'm saying this with the appreciation that my work does not make the same demands on my imagination as it does on James or Warren who have to generate new images at a much faster rate and for a more "demanding" audience/clientele.
Working on Anacoana  - The Taino, Carnival 2011
TC: What has been the most memorable, enjoyable project so far?
Kenwyn: Doing the decor for the UWI endowment fete Champagne and Pearls in 2008, not because it was the most stimulating project, but because it was the first project we took on as ZIGWA. 
James: Two things. The costume for Kenwyn at Carnival, even though it was on a small scale. It started to show the different strengths we can bring individually to larger projects. Also the children’s band together when we were starting out. 
Michael: True that. Last Carnival was nice and the children's band was non-stop fun.
Kenwyn: The most enjoyable would have been the Anacoana costume design for this year's carnival. We had a lot of fun doing that and it felt good working on a project that mirrored the context (mas making) under which we really bonded as a group yet because after a long pause from that environment it allowed us to see how far we've grown since those foundation days. I think that James said it best above-the different strengths showed in ways that were dynamic and resonating. 
Warren: The most enjoyable and rewarding project so far has been developing ZIGWA's business plan. As artists and individuals we have different paths, different goals that we have set for ourselves, approaches and techniques, but when it comes to ZIGWA, we ALL have the same vision. This has never more apparent to me than now. It is a great feeling to know that with all the disagreements we have had and will probably continue to have that we can and will always agree on what is best for ZIGWA. We are of the same mind.
Kenwyn: I agree with Warren on that too. That process so far has been a remarkable one.

What I've shared is just a little taste of the crazy ball of talent and fun that Zigwa has to offer. I am looking forward to even more top quality work - I expect no less. Check them out at their website and on Facebook and keep looking out for the new things to come.


Hackett said...

I hope you had fun interacting with us Tracey

Tracey Chan said...

lots of insight, thanks so much! :)

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