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The Institute of Black Imagination.

34 EpisodesProduced by darioWebsite

Welcome to The Institute of Black Imagination hosted by artist, writer, and brand consultant Dario Calmese. Each week we bring you conversations from The Pool of Black Genius: a collection of iconoclasts at the leading edge of cultural thought and innovation. More than anything, we are here to inspi… read more


E15. FUNKtional Design & Material Culture w. Artist Xenobia Bailey

Today’s episode is with fiber artist and cultivator of funk, Xenobia Bailey.

Born in Seattle Washington, into a family that survived off of a material culture provided by both the land and the ingenuity of the Black homemaker. Xenobia discovered her passions early in life, going on to study ethno-musicology at the University of Washington, and later attending Pratt Institute for Industrial Design. Xenobia found her freedom in the funk and her work centralizes the liberation of the black creative mind.

Known for her eclectic crocheted hats and large-scale mandalas consisting of colorful concentric circles and repeating patterns, Xenobia creates pieces that allow mental space to daydream, or dreamscape, through the lens of the undocumented world of contemporary African American material culture. These visuals are mesmerizing and swirling in their own staticness

Xenobia’s works infiltrated pop culture during the 80 and 90s, making appearances in Spike Lee’s ‘Do the Right thing’, United Colors of Benetton and Absolut Vodka advertisements, and was featured in mainstream fashion publications like Elle magazine. Her work is in the permanent collections at Harlem's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Allentown Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Arts and in the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City.

During our conversation, we discuss the African American homemaker, the power of soundscaping and lullabies, the black creative collective, and what is FUNKtional design, and yes, the power of the funk. Recorded remotely and safely this conversation will have you reevaluating the cycles of life and the power of the black intellectual mind. It is with great pleasure to introduce to you, artist Xenobia Bailey.

Here are some highlights:

On how music has evolved in black culture: “Music is the only part of African American Culture that’s evolved since we were brought here. You know, like they took our language from us but they couldn’t take our beat and our rhythm and stuff. And so that evolved into like jazz and funk and I guess you call the blues too, but I think like jazz that is something, its so abstract and arbonguard and if the material culture was um equal to where jazz is, we’d be on the space age, you know!”

On the power of soundscaping and lullabies: “We don’t have lullabies for our children in our community; they have to know that there’s light at the end of this madness, you know. And they are the light, you know, and that could be in lullabies, you know. Like it’s not going to always, you’re not going to be powerless forever, you know. You’re going to grow up and you’re going to create another world or you could, you know, whatever but you have a powerful imagination that is yours! It’s greater than anything that exists now, you know!”

On what is Funk: “Funk is everlasting life! Nothing ever dies in funk. Okay, you take an apple tree, okay, and if nobody picks that apple, that apple is going to fall to the ground. And it’s going to decompose and it’s going to go back into the soil, and that’s when it gets it’s funkiest, it’s most fertile is when its, you know, decomposing because that’s when that seed inside that apple starts germinating and going into another tree, that’s its funkiest, that’s its richest for life. And also when you go into that state of, like when you get to your funkiest really that’s your richest time, you know.” 

Xenobia's Instagram: @xenba_xenba

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Editorial content provided by Kalimah Small.

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