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black background; "NuZI"; letters are blue, red, yellow, and pink respectively. 2 white clouds crown "U"

Black womxn are the salt of the earth. They break open their rib cages and remove needed organs so that we can find home within.  Black womxn fight. For us. With us. In spite of us.

NuZi Collective’s co-founders Samira Warsame and Betty Mulat embody this philosophy completely. I had the privilege of sitting with them. To get to know a little about them, together, as well as their upcoming New Forms Showcase. To be honest, I highkey ship the hell out of these two! These folks have created a dynamic that many marriages fail to achieve. A brave tenderness oscillates between them that you can’t help but smile sheepishly. “We are both passionate, intelligent, strong women.” That’s ZamZam, given names Samira Warsame. “We went through some deep shit. Personally, and together. We really just clicked. You know when that happens? It just happened.” Their back and forth flows, conversationally translating well, into a delicious give-and-take in underground spaces.

Samira Warsame, AKA ZamZam, leans against a closed panel door. her waist is in the bottom left corner of the image and her body stretches to the top right with her elbow leaning agains a white panel door, her hand tilting her baseball cap clad head to the upper left corner. she is wearing a chunky white turtleneck under a loose satin jacket. her right hand is placed over her heart.ZamZam, a natural storyteller whose bright eyes, ease of conversation and passionate, poetic flow, have you continuously leaning in as she speaks. She is a slim, thoughtful, woman with a sleek natural hairstyle, soft yet striking features, and long lashes that make her liquid amber eyes sparkle. She is of strong Somali heritage, having grown up in a multicultural neighborhood in Whalley, Surrey most of her life.“I was really uplifted when I was younger… I grew up with my family and we were a unit. My grandparents, my uncles, my sibling, my mom, and my aunt. We were all in a house together […] Then, my mum got remarried to a white man, and my life changed drastically after that. We moved to a white neighbourhood in White Rock. And I noticed how my assimilation process was constant. It was at school. It was at home. I was aware of what was going on but I did not have the language. I could see it happening to my mum, see it happening to me, and see how my sibling who is half white, was treated differently than me, [I could] see how the way that I spoke, the way that I dressed, the way that people spoke to me, was so different from what it used to be…I was the only black girl in my school. In Surrey there were East Asians, Nigerians, Somalis, it was so diverse, I never felt bothered. But when I moved to that white neighbourhood, and I was in my teens, I was very hyper aware of it [my blackness].”

Betty Mulat, AKA Venetta, leans against a white wall with geometric squiggles, looking out the left side of the photo. she's wearing a shiny leather bucket hat over straight shoulder length hair. her left arm is perched on her hip and her right arm reaches across her waist so clasp her wrist. she is wearing a sheer black shirt with a mandarin collar over a black bra and high waisted light wash jeans accented by a black belt with a round silver buckle.Betty Mulat, artistically known as Venetta, with her wide, striking eyes, teeny weeny afro, golden skin, and smokey bourbon voice you’ll recognize captivating audiences during her techno/house sets at parties throughout the city. Wearing a ‘90s ski jacket and high waisted jeans, she exudes an elegant charm that lightens your spirit. She leans back in her chair and her voice softens as she adds somberly, “…dealing with hella racism growing up, being one of the only open Black girls in my school, I never thought the day would come where I thought things would change, so I wouldn’t think about political issues and stuff; for the sake of preserving my own safety and sanity, because I didn’t think things [c]ould change, especially so rapidly; you grow up and realize the only way forward is to unlearn what you’ve been indoctrinated with, to do your own shit and also seeing all these boss Black people, running shit. I wish I knew then what I know now. Growing up I tried to be anything but Black, but I realize it’s the biggest blessing in the world. Like, there was a time I didn’t want to be like this. There was a time where I tried to not look like this. When I look at old pics I think [to myself] ‘I feel for you and what you were going through.’ And I think about the young Black girls now who are surrounded by people who aren’t quite there yet in seeing who they are, and I can’t help but feel for them; but [I] never judge […] some people judge […] people are going at their own pace and we have to meet them where they’re at in their inner growth journey.” Venetta grew up an only child, to a single Ethiopian immigrant mother in Burnaby, BC. She attended a fairly diverse school however attributes the many experiences of the normalization of the institutionalized violence and discrimination to what drives the work the Collective does today. ” I feel as if it is actually a privilege to bear the responsibility of starting this [Collective] and doing this work,” she beams.

The women met in 2015 at an after hours party. They clicked instantly and spent the next 24 hours together talking about pretty much everything you could imagine. There’s something magical that happens when you get more than one Black person in a room together. “We just talked about our dreams and our intentions, and what we want to see in our community in the city,” recalls ZamZam, “and why it’s hard for Black folks to come together. And ever since then we’ve been inseparable professionally; a sisterhood was formed and we were just on a  path. Back then you could see all this talent trying hard to find space […] and not feeling like there was enough space and feeling kind of defeated and depleted […] We could see both sides and we decided to accumulate our talents and knowledge [and] we’re like, alright this is happening. This is the future, this is our generation, and it’s what we need to survive in the city. We are not going to be pushed out or silenced or ostracized or feel like we don’t belong. We were both raised here, why the fuck do we feel we don’t belong here? Y’know?”

a series of colorful shapes form a sharp, geometric bird-like image.Belonging. That is an action, isn’t it? We are always actively doing the work to make space for ourselves to feel like we belong, right? NuZi Collective does that for the community. And in a pretty grassroots way too, often using their own personal funds to book artists for shows they’ve produced. The showcase at New Forms Festival has a line up boasting names like Afrodeustche, bearcat, Prado, House of Kenzo and more. “All black artists. Strictly black and gay!” squeals ZamZam. New Forms Festival connects artists locally and all over the world. To have an opportunity to showcase your work, skills, talent, or art on this platform, as a local artist, is a huge deal as it provides you with a broader audience. The importance of having community spaces to gather that are safe for Black and Indigenous and brown, queer and trans and non-binary and genderfluid and genderless and all of us, is not lost. Especially now, especially against the backdrop of gentrification in our cities, climate change in our world — and the greater picture of the crime of colonization on the lands we all currently inhabit. It’s important that our spaces are given back to the peoples who matter. “It’s easier to feel safe holding back than it is to express yourself,” surmises Venetta, “but finding the right spaces, where blackness and freedom are embraced, is what we need to continue pushing for […] The mission was to create a space for us, and now the mission is to protect that space as hard as we can. No ones coming in to disrupt that.”

2 square photographs side by side; b&w on the left, red and white o the right. both are busts of Hope. in the left he looks thoughtful and stares into the right corner of the frame. in the right, he stares directly at the camera, still serious. his mid length hair flops over the frames of his round face. he is wearing a dark shirt buttoned all the way up and a long beaded necklace. in the left picture you see a stitched detail of an indigenous design over his right breast.

As I walked through the streets of Commercial-Broadway on my way to Cafe Deux Soleil, I found myself admiring the vivid colours and graffiti on the exterior of the buildings, with the sight of artists painting murals and the sound of people busking.

b&w photograph; Patrick Kelly, AKA Hope, looks into the bottom right corner of the frame laughing. his mid length hair is parted down the middle and flops over this round cheeks. he is wearing a dark shirt buttoned all the way up with a long beaded necklace falling out of frame over this chest.I couldn’t have asked for a better spot to meet with Mr. Patrick Kelly, also known as Hope, a professional hip hop artist and performer from Leq’a:mel First Nation, currently based in Vancouver. Inspired by tradition, Hope uses the art of storytelling and rhyme to depict life on the reservation and illustrate to others what it means to be Indigenous.

Hope greeted me with a big grin and an exchange of pleasantries. As the chat between us ensued, I was pleasantly surprised at his charismatic and humble personality, especially considering the strength of his artistic profile. He has been prevalent in the BC music scene since 2011, when he released his first album with Indigenous hip hop duo Status Krew. He has since gone on to release an EP in 2014, Lights Out, an album in 2016 Handle Bars, and various music videos over time. In 2014 Hope alongside his rhyme partner, Doobie, joined local artist Mamarudegyal MTHC in co-founding Indigenous hip hop and Multimedia group Rudegang Entertainment. In 2017, Hope won Best in Hip Hop (Male category) in the Fraser Valley Music Awards!

white background. a green hand waves a microphone from the right of the frame to the left in 3 stills. the hand transitions from yellow, to blue, to green; the microphone transitions from blue, to green, to black. the cord is wrapped around the hand's wrist.Growing up in East Vancouver, Hope distinctly recalls “feeling judgement and stereotypes towards Indigenous people,” and feeling like “it gets embedded in you as a kid.” It was only after the retrospection of growing up and seeing the dangerous effects this type of thinking has on young kids, that Hope decided to challenge these stereotypes and judgements by becoming a positive influence through his music and art.

Having family members who work with the Federal government, as well as family members that are freedom fighters created a divide in perspectives that shaped his youth, which often finds its way into his music. With songs like “I Scream” and “The Pacific,” he utilized his experiences to “think about both sides, and to reason through the steps that cause certain things to happen or not.”

red and white image. a chained gate is centered between 2 bushes. on the right side there is a notice that reads "NOTICE. PERSONS USING THIS WALK DO SO AT THEIR OWN RISK"Hope’s latest album, Red Man, is in his words “the most important album of his career,” due to the evolution and growth Hope had gone through in making this album. With a little grin, he describes his first two solo releases as being “fun to make, but almost without mention of Indigenous people, or issues faced by them.” When I prompted him about this, he paused for a second and responded, “I grew up listening to Tupac […] and I thought it was all about being a gangster, being tough you know? But as I grew older, I realized that it was important to speak up against the bad things I saw and experienced back then.” He paused here and reflected in silence for a moment. “I recently lost my best friend — my cousin, and really, once that happened, everything kicked into gear for me, I knew exactly what I needed to do next.”

For Hope writing has always been a responsibility that he takes very seriously. Red Man was no exception, with Hope spending hours writing and working on the songs. He pushed himself to go in and perform unwritten songs. With hard-hitting lyrics, stunning rapping, intriguing collaborations and a message to remember, Hope’s Red Man has it all.