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The DJ, the Artist & The Academic - Afifa Aza
“I'm an artist. I'm a DJ,” says Afifa Aza, creative director of Sounds of Life - So((u))l, which she operates with Georgia Love. Afifa’s affair with music has lasted a lifetime but approximately four years ago, to took it to another level. She began viewing music as art and felt driven to expose herself to other artistic expressions.
Her journey to the So((u))l project started about three years ago, emerging from her interest in dominating the wheels of steel, and inspired by her sojourn in the United Kingdom, as a part of her pursuit of a Phd in Sustainable Development. In the UK she found a creatively stimulating environment and witnessed the ways people connected academic pursuits and art.
“I wanted to recreate that. I wanted to share that and I wanted to become the academic artist,” she said. “The core idea of So((u))l is to expose people to global music and culture and stimulate social consciousness.”
Afifa admits to being driven to blend her artistic and academic interests as well as her day job as ICT Coordinator for the Jamaican Foundation for Life Long Learning (formerly JAMAL).
“I'm attempting to explore technology as creative expression,” she says. “I don't start with iPads or computers. I go back to basics, to thinking creatively and differently,” she says. “Life shouldn't just be what we see it. People are creating things all the time. At the heart of it is thinking creatively, thinking independently.”
The So((u))l project had been born by staging events at locations across Kingston. However, Love and Aza soon learnt that staging theses events meant marrying their expectations with those of the venue managers and the two did not always coincide. So So((u))l needed a home.
Just over a year ago they rented a flat in Stony Hill and converted it to the So((u))l Hq, where they hold film screenings, exhibitions, discussions, artist talks, free-style painting and music events. So((u))l Hq opens from Friday to Sunday and also operates a book club and library.
“It’s like life, it’s like a work of art,” she says. “It’s always changing.” Afifa explains that the audience response has varied and that the main challenge, along with getting people up the hill, is learning how to build a community, not just a business.
“I believe a community should support a space they believe in,” she says. “We don’t charge for anything. We ask people to contribute. That money motivator reduces value, and we live in a world that puts money first. Better value costs more money and not everybody can afford that.”
While this is a worthwhile goal, it makes sustainability challenging and they haven’t quite worked out the formula. “We haven’t quite got it yet, but we’re slowly, slowly working it out,” she says revealing that they are experimenting and creating spin-off businesses. But a critical part of the equation is the audience.
“If the goal is to create a revolutionary space then we have to look at how the community funds it,” she says.
The project has received some positive response and Afifa candidly admits it may be a combination of the interesting offerings and the fact that its free. There has also been less than positive response.
“Sometimes people can be confused by the thrust, by this woman who is not an artist and who is not hobnobbing with uptown,” Afifa explains that this drives people to question her motivations for pushing the So((u))L project and suggest it is simple an attempt to get a little piece of that ever elusive lime light, and this can be daunting.
“You have to navigate all of these feelings,” she says, “and sometimes it bothers me. But most times, I don’t think about it.”