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My name is Aiala Tchikanha, I am the co-founder of IAM – International African Minds. I was born in Huambo, Angola, raised in Lisbon, Portugal and currently living in Vienna, Austria. My Co-founder, Donovan Gumbo, was born in Zimbabwe, lived in the USA and is currently living in Canada. IAM started in December 2019 when I was insensately looking for a job but just getting the silence treatment or no as an answer. Being unemployed gave me a lot of time to reflect on my life. I realized that the people who where not giving me a job opportunity had the same mindset I did once. They did not know our culture, did not want to know and wanted to stay away from it. Why? Because of structural racism which is present everywhere from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to bed. Once I realized this, I started finding and talking with more people from the African diaspora via LinkedIn. My mindset immediately started changing – I was getting to know people from the African Diaspora whom I admired. This was new to me and was a beautiful kind of therapy. I started developing a sense of self worth, becoming self aware and conscious about the society and the way it profoundly contributes to structural racism. All I wanted was more people to feel the same I was feeling. To discover that we have all being lied to through all the years. We are truly talented and amazing people although society has always made a great effort to make us believe otherwise. That’s when I meet Donovan. We immediately connected and decided to work together for IAM – International African Minds. In the beginning we wanted to focus on storytelling and writing a collective book in the end. Then we moved from this idea to the idea of promoting International African entrepreneurs. But we had no plan and did not want to follow one, we just wanted to share our ideas as they came to us. No filters. Eventually, this journey led us to focus on art and relevant news. Today, IAM – International African Minds is a place to get to know the International African self, indulge in art therapy and get acquainted with what’s going on in the world.
What push you everyday to look for these amazing artists and share it with your audience?
I take care of the curation of the contents posted on IAM – International African Minds and for me looking for the artists and contemplating their beautiful and inspiring work is a daily therapy. For me it does not feel like work at all. It feels like I am doing something very pleasurable, like a hobby that truly has a healing therapeutic effect on me. Then, when I found something quite orgasmic for the mind I feel like – other people need this too, we need to share.
How do you see the future of Africa in the international art scene? Does the continent really need to find a place in the international art scene or can it just walk solo?
The digital world is truly coming as a blessing for the future of African art. If you look at the hundreds of thousands of international museums and art galleries out there you will realize how much this field is impregnated with structural racism. With the digital world taking the center stage, those museums and art galleries can no longer use the argument they used to use to defend their racist practices. They used to say, we don’t showcase enough of the work of black artists because there are not enough black artists. IAM wants to prove that this is just plain nonsense and straightforward ignorance. There are more than enough brilliant International African Artists out there and they need to be celebrated while they are still alive. The art scene also has some kind of obsession with dead artists. They praise Basquiat but fail to acknowledge the new generation of brilliant artist coming from the African Diaspora. Walking solo is a hard battle. People tend to demand for freedom of choice and speech but are highly dependent on others and others’ mindset. People tend to believe that because a certain important (high-end) museum says this is art and this is not art that information is fully accurate and correct. In order to go solo, African artists, curators and collectors need to develop strong bonds a high sense of self awareness and sense of community to have an impact as a group in the international art scene. The problem I see sometimes is that some people from our community are still asleep or did not fully woke up. Some tend to neglect their own kind to be accepted by other cultures just as I once did. In order to go solo we need to wake up our people first. In a way, this is a waking up process we need to invest in.
What did change in you from IAM inception?
I believe I already exposed this on the first question. In the beginning we started focusing on tech entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in general. We had a moment of dealing with history, sometimes we still do and now the focus is all kinds of art and relevant news. Some people love the change, others think it’s now too much focused on art and can make people think that art is the only thing International African Minds can do, which is not true. We decided to follow our inner voice. We will never be able to make everyone happy. We cannot focus on hundreds of different fields simultaneously. We are not a big company and do not have enough people working to accommodate all content requests. We will continue to focus on doing what we do best and what makes us happy.
How does IAM inspire and enrich you?
IAM inspires me because it is my daily therapy and self awareness class. It enriches me through its relevant news and through the way it reveals our heritage, culture and contemporary art. It makes me feel like I belong, I have a great heritage of wisdom and talent and I am part of an inspiring cultural movement.
What are the feedback you have received so far from your audience?
The feedback has been amazing. We do not have hundreds of thousands of followers nor thousands of likes on our posts but very often people send DMs saying that they love what we are doing and asking us to continue. This still makes me speechless every time. I never thought that so many people would connect and be inspired by what we do. It has been truly amazing and exceeded all our expectations.
We all need to be inspired… please, share a positive insight of your life or a quote that you believe can enlighten someone today. Especially a new artist.
“Follow what you are really into. Make work out of things you are really interested in. Stop with the sugar cubes for the curators and the sugar cubes for the collectors. Make what you are into. Make work out of what keeps you up at night. Life ain’t perfect people. It doesn’t look like Instagram. You don’t wake up looking like those pictures you post on Instagram. Life gets messy and there’s nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with life showing up and being messy. Messy and being a little bit vulnerable is what connects us all people. So, I would say, don’t be afraid of that.” — Mark Bradford
Following IAM INTERNATIONAL AFRICAN MINDS is a wonderful opportunity to know more about African art and broaden your vision and deepen your roots. It is never too late to learn new things.
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