• photography by JOSEPH CULTICE stylist MIMI LEE 
    make up HEE SOO, hair JOHN FRANCIS
    glam CHARMAINE BREITENGROSS / The Rex Agency
    assistants CARELL AUGUSTUS, CRISTINA DUNLAP location THE CHEN HOUSE

    An interview with Beldina

    Written by Tonje Kristiansen by Michaela Widergren

    “If I were a bell I would be ringing” is a quote from one of young beautiful Kenyan/Swedish soul singer Beldina’s favorite jazz standards, performed by Miles Davis. And she is most certainly ringing these days. Odalisque’s Tonje Kristansen met Beldina at Soho House in West Hollywood. Here is Beldina’s story in her own words.

    I don’t look particularly Swedish! They get a bit confused here in LA when they realize that I am actually from Sweden. Then I tell them about my Kenyan background and the confusion is even bigger.

    I guess my mindset is pretty Swedish, but obviously my appearance is as far from it as you can see. I look at myself as Swedish. But I still don’t feel that’s where I’m from, but then again I don’t feel at home in Kenya either. I do understand Swahili but I can’t speak it.

    Except for my grandmother and my mother, everyone in my family is still in Kenya. My grandmother came to Sweden in the 60s to work in health care. She was a very skilled midwife. Pretty extraordinary at that time for a black woman! She was probably one of the first in Sweden as well.

    Then my mother came over from Kenya at 16. She had me when she was very young. My dad is also Kenyan, but I’ve never met him. These two women have done everything for me and proved to me the strength that is a part of every woman.

    Maybe this is why I love being a girl. I really enjoy women and becoming one myself. They are the most fascinating creatures in every sense. The power we have, the ability to show our vulnerability and to express it. It’s such an inspiration and the drive behind everything I do artistically.

    By studying my grandmother and my mother while growing up, even though they never did anything artistic or creative, I felt that if I wanted to, as a woman, I could do anything. Not that I didn’t have my doubts, insecurities or battles. I had a lot of them being very different from everyone else while growing up. But I never ever wanted to be anything else than a girl, being part of my family of women and to use whatever I had inside of me that came from that.

    I believe in the importance of details - which is a big part of being a girl I think. I am very emotionally aware, which is manifested in my song lyrics. Everything is a bit *all or nothing *with me. I am very immediate and personal when I sing. But I hold back a lot on a private level.

    From background singer to “the new Swedish soul hope”
    I always wanted to be part of a group and not be different from anybody when I was younger. I was very quiet and timid, but being a tall, skinny, black teenager in Sweden - that was fairly impossible. I got misinterpreted as someone who wanted attention.

    Since I didn’t have anyone with any sort of an artistic career in my family, it took me by surprise when someone wanted me to sing for them. Or not exactly sing for them, but help them out as a background singer. Mostly throughout high school I worked as a background singer and became a support to other artists. I didn’t really think I had any particular talent myself.

    I was more familiar with doing stuff for other people’s projects. I always happened to be someone that was around and helped people out. It taught me a lot. But I didn’t really know how to find my own mission as a singer and whether I had what it would take within me. How was I supposed to make a living and figure out the music world on my own?

    Also I had mostly worked with men and that was my experience. Men have this companionship and they help each other out a lot. That’s why I was surprised to experience that when I met my two favorite female artists they didn’t really have any guidelines to teach me.

    Surprisingly the fellowship I wanted to create with other women in the industry didn’t seem to exist. I desperately wanted some advice to see if I could pull things off on my own. I really wanted and still would love to collaborate and bond with other female music artists. I’ve worked with most male musicians in Sweden, like Timbuktu, Lazee, and Mando Diao. Internationally I have worked with people like Billy Paul and Childish Gambino.

    After a while though, I stopped expecting other people to help me on my way - or that I would connect with some other singer and have some sort of epiphany. Also having been rejected by all the big record labels in Sweden I decided to do things my way and just put my music online.

    I started to put music out and played gigs here and there. Luckily people seemed to like my voice and my music. It kind of spoke for itself the way I had hoped for. Apparently I didn’t need the big machinery around me to get started. I made a video which ended up going viral and was liked and blogged about by Perez Hilton and a lot of unexpected people internationally.

    Then Sweden started showing interest as well. All of a sudden I was “The new soul hope” in Sweden. It was a really nice feeling, doing everything myself and then getting recognition for it - very liberating. Then Universal in LA contacted me and I had a showcase with them.

    I love the level of creativity here in Los Angeles. And half the battle is just being here. Hopefully I will be lucky enough to meet some great musicians while working in the studios here. The chance of that is at least bigger when living here than sitting somewhere remote in Sweden.

    It actually helps having a Swedish background mixed with a Kenyan one. I have different references of course that can sometimes lead to confusion with the Americans. But overall they find it exotic that I have this mixed up different background and that I can use my references in a creative way that is new to them.

    “What can I say?” I am trying to create something personal
    I write my own music with producers of my choice. I obviously write about emotions and themes that preoccupy us all. But I’ve had a tendency to always write about other people’s emotions and not my own. I’m entering a new territory now, trying to use my own experiences, being much more personal, honest and open than I’ve ever been.

    My recent release “What can I say?” is really about how I have been very closed off without knowing it. How I’ve hurt people with no intention of doing it, and how difficult it can be to get close to me. I’m an “All or nothing” kind of person, but sometimes that comes across completely wrong. People that I want close to me feel rejected instead. I would like to change that about myself.

    I can see the changes in myself when I look at both my writing and my style from “Would you” up until now with “What can I say”. I some ways can’t even remember who I was back then when I made “Would you?” and filmed the video, or what I was thinking. I mean you go into phases. Maybe I will look back on “What can I say?” in five years and think: “what the hell was I thinking!?”

    Every change I go through on a personal level reveals itself somehow in my work. I think that is pretty normal. So naturally I get different ideas for my videos, my image, style, songs, themes whatever it is, creatively. Four years ago I was very happy with the “Would you?” video and now I am very happy with the “What can I say?” video. I feel it’s an achievement for me to be able to say that.

    I can still stand behind what I did three or four years ago even though I might be on a different path creatively nowadays. But then people always have an opinion. Before, they commented on me being too simple and not making anything out of myself, that my videos were without style or artistic punch. Now they say I am trying to be too sexy and take focus away from my music.

    That simplicity was my trademark and I’m messing with it. I decided long time ago just to trust myself and do what I feel like. I can’t win everybody over anyway. They expect you to stay the same, be familiar. At the same time they want you to change and do something new, show a different side.

    I’m just sticking to my guts, trying to create something personal. It’s a thin line between being private and personal. Private is not interesting, but personal is, otherwise you’ll just be the same as anyone else. I hope I can get respected for what I do, but I don’t expect everybody to like me or my personality.

    LA - the right place for me to be right now
    I want to be in a position where my music is fully MY body of work. If that means I have to struggle, that’s what I’ll do. It’s all about putting the music out there when it’s ready. I have enough material to release an album tomorrow if I wanted to, I’m just missing the icing on the cake.

    I am writing and performing. I work on a lot of new things. This summer I will perform a little, work and stay in LA. I want to evolve as an artist and as a female singer in today’s music industry and I need to find my true identity as a performer. I love the relentless drive and ambition in this city. I think this is the right place for me to be right now. I feel very relaxed and motivated.

    It’s all about music for me, and here nobody is questioning that. I can be who I am and I can be on the inside and on the outside at the same time. I can be seen but also be someone that can disappear when I feel like it. This is the way I wanted to feel while growing up in Sweden. I am feeling that now.

    jewelry LOREN STEWART
    leather harness ZANA BAYNE 
    jewelry LOREN STEWART      
    shorts LEVI’S
    bra LOREN STEWAMICHI NY
    rabbit fur jacket 12345 CLOTHING
    jewelry LOREN STEWART
  • photography by ELLINOR STIGLE
    stylist KAROLINA BROCK

    hair & make up AMANDA BECZNER
    model ANNA NINJA

    retouching KEVIN ROFF

    Vogue

    Written by Karolina Brock by Michaela Widergren

    In a collaborative photography project, stylist Karolina Brock and photographer Ellinor Stigle explore the two spheres of vogue: the dance and the eponymous magazine. By joining pieces of an American Vogue magazine with dancer Anna Ninja’s unique movements, they aim to build a bridge between the underground voguing scene’s stereotyped view of fashion and how fashion and beauty are seen today fueled by the magazine Vogue.

    Anna Ninja, Swedish member of the New York-based Legendary House of Ninja, is one of the world’s most interesting voguing artists right now, bringing together her skills as a trained contemporary dancer and freestyle voguer. As a heterosexual woman, she intrigues. She also has to prove herself in a voguing community established by gay Latinos and African Americans in New York in the 1980’s, a culture created as a form of social survival in a hetero normative and discriminating society.

    By merging the ideals of the two worlds (the voguing culture and the fashion magazine) they present a stripped-down version of the extravagance of voguing ball culture, and its dream of fashion and acceptance.

    The word ‘Vogue’ has over time grown into an expression with multiple meanings and fields of applications. Vogue as an epic fashion magazine served as a muse in itself to the original voguing ball room scene to the extent of the culture naming their dance movement after it. Furthermore the voguing culture and its dance form has today inspired the magazine as well as fashion, music and media world wide.

    jacket AUGUSTIN TEBOUL
    dress COSTUME NATIONAL
    top and shorts  AUGUSTIN TEBOUL
    belt as head band BERGE
    jacket AUGUSTIN TEBOUL
    top HENRIK VIBSKOV
    dress LACOSTE
    coat COSTUME NATIONAL
    top and shorts AUGUSTIN TEBOUL
    belt as head band BERGE
  • an interview with the artist

    artwork “The Head Of Marie Antoinette” 2013

    by MARCO MAZZONI

    An Interview with Marco Mazzoni

    Written by Mari Florer

    Marco Mazzoni’s fascination for art began when he was 14 years old. His friends who had a rock band, asked him to do the cover for their album. “I became interested in art looking for cues from the covers of Korn and Jack Off Jill”.
    He has recently ended the two exhibitions Animanera at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery, New York, and Memory is a Bothersome Consoler, at Galleria Patricia Armocida, Milan. He explains that these solo exhibitions have been an end of a cycle and that he is now working on a change.
    “Right now I am studying the symbols of medieval monsters and my new influences are Hieronymus Bosch and The Disasters of War by Francisco Goya”, he says.

    In his favorite media, the sketchbook, you can see drawings with motives of small animals like owls, butterflies and birds or plants like flowers and leaves… and of course the female face – often with a Chiaroscuro light hiding her eyes. Marco describes the light as “knowledge”, the perfect encounter with nature.

    You were born in 1982 in Tortona, Italy. Did you also grow up there? How was your childhood?
    I grew up in a small town near Tortona in the north of Italy, where there was nothing to do. When I was a child spent a lot of time making up stories for my comics while my mother was in the garden or preparing lunch. When I was a teenager I used to drive around on my scooter and I also played drums in a punk band.

    Can you tell us how one of your working days look like?
    I wake up, drink coffee; I go out with my dog for a walk in the park; then into the studio, drawing until evening. I walk the dog. Off to the bar for a beer with my friends and then to bed.

    Do you listen to music when you draw. If so, what kind of music?
    Music is very important to me. At this moment my iPod playlist has albums of Magneta Lane, Now Now and Scarling.

    You recently had an exhibition at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery in New York. I think the following quote from the gallery is interesting: “The imagery reflects the financial crisis and post-election political climate in Italy, with themes of poverty, injustice and power struggles.” Can you explain how this expresses itself in your drawings?

    I prepared the show, listening to the Italian news radio during the Vatican and Italian election. My works The Judge and Famine are just a representation of the power. The Judge is the moralist who controls everything from above. Famine is a visualization of an idea that if the food comes from a single supplier people ultimately loses their individuality.

    How would you describe the political situation in Italy right now?
    Hard to say… we are in an experimental phase right now but I think the situation in Italy for the last fifty years was summed up brilliantly by the Sicilian author Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa in his book The Leopard. “You have to change everything to not change anything”.

    You studied at the Brera Academy of fine arts in Milan. I read that you had to develop your skills on your own because the teachers were more interested in the idea or concept. Was that a good thing or were you disappointed?
    The real problem was that teachers wanted the students to paint just oil on canvas and thought that drawing was just for kids. In the end I think it was positive because if they do not accept what you do, but you do it anyway, it means that it is what you really want to do.

    What is your idea/concept behind your artwork right now?
    I have been working a lot with the female figures in the traditional Sardinian stories, but in recent months my interest has turned to the hostility of nature, a hostility that strives for an eternal balance without humanity.

    I know that you find a lot of inspiration from the Sardinian folklore. Why are you so fascinated with these stories?
    Because they are a part of my genius loci. I have a Sardinian mother with a very large family. If you look at the stories of that region, you will find that there is a matriarchal system, even in the underworld, where the women tease their husbands to give rise to conflicts with other families. I think it is interesting because in Italy today men are politically macho historically; but if you look back in history men were subordinated to women. I wanted to study the stories to understand the country I live in.

    Why are you hiding the eyes of the women you draw?
    Because it represents the hallucinogenic effect of medicinal herbs, and because I don’t want that people see A face, but THE face and if you delete eyes to take away the reference point you have to recognize a person.

    The luminous in the woman’s eyes makes me think of death – life leaving the body that are left to be a part of nature. Is there a struggle between life and death you want to show us in your pictures?
    The light is like “knowledge”, the perfect moment in an encounter with nature. Great balance could be represented with a near death experience.

    Are there any religious thoughts behind your art?
    Religion is a fundamental part of my nation; the Vatican is in the center of Italy. Much of my work is a critique of the church, and its cultural impositions, of which we are slaves. Historically, women who helped people in small country towns with their knowledge and their medical care were eliminated and called witches.

    Are you open for free interpretations of your work? For example one of my friends saw a connection to fantasy and science fiction.
    I am very pleased. The opinions of others stimulate me and lead me to study other fields for my work.

    Do you have some new exhibition planned in near future?
    I have a solo show at the end of 2013 with Roq La Rue Gallery in Seattle, and a solo show in November 2014 with Thinkspace Art Gallery in Los Angeles.

    Any interesting art exhibition you are going to visit soon?
    Marc Quinn in Venice.

    What are you doing this summer?
    I’ll go to bed early.

    All My Dreams On Hold, 2012
    The Judge, 2013
    The Chemical Peacock, 2012
    Argument Against The Man, 2013
    Famine, 2013
    Iris Flooding, 2013
    The Widower, 2013
    The Viewers, 2013
    White Noise, 2013
    To Follow The Sun, 2013
    Copper Bells, 2013

Pages