We were very excited to have artist, educator, curator Mohammed Ali talk to our cohorts as part of the 'How I Did It' series. Here Emerge Cohorts Cordeillia Cooper and Tara Buckley share their thoughts about the discussion.
It would have been so easy to slip into the familiar ‘there’s so little of us… please don’t pick me!’ mind frame upon entering the small and intimate setting of the most recent session on the Astonish Leadership Programme “How I did it with Mohammed Ali”. Instead, this tiny room proved to be the little spark needed to light a beautiful fire of imagination, creativity and debate.
For many of the artists in the room, this was the first time we had encountered the work of international artist also known as Aerosol Ali. He began by allowing us the opportunity to introduce ourselves, demonstrating his interest in our practice as well as his own, which immediately gained the respect of the room.
The images that displayed Mohammed’s portfolio of work oozed passion, technical skill and collaboration but funnily enough we weren’t shown Mohammed’s work until about half way through his talk… Instead he told us gripping stories from along the way, all of which contributed towards his current values when it comes to making art. Because of this, we felt as though we had formed a relationship with his work before even setting eyes on it.
“Take off your headphones while you are painting, engage with people that you are supposed to be serving” Mohammed Ali
Mohammed was painting a new piece of work in Sparkbrook when a local resident pulled up to him, child in car, and asked “what are you doing? I don’t like that”. Mohammed was left bemused, wondering why someone would ask this, why the residents wouldn’t want a new piece of visual art in the neighbourhood, why the residents wouldn’t want their stories told through art… when it dawned on him. He had never once consulted the community about what they wanted. He realised that he had been imposing his art upon the people that lived there, on people who already had so many of their decisions predetermined for them. And as a result, a key part of Mohammed’s practice became centred on engaging the people he is representing in the work he is making for them.
“As a community artist this is one of the stories which will stick with me” Cordeillia Cooper
Mohammed’s work is no longer solely based upon the wall; he is now involved in creating outstandingly unique and immersive experiences which bring stories to life. “I aim to make work which not only tells a story, but enables others to relive the story, a story which is accessible to all’
“Finding other artists who want to create experiences, rather than traditional face on performances, gives me faith in my own vision and practice” – Tara Buckley
Based on his dad’s curry house in Cotteridge, “Knights of the Raj Exhibition” aims to retell the story of Mohammed’s humble beginnings. Find it at on Friday 22nd September 2017
How I did it - Mohammed Ali: A truly inspiring, and indeed, thought provoking talk.