Ashara Ekundayo x Erin Yoshi: Joy-Informed Art as a Tool of Resistance and Healing

Ashara Ekundayo x Erin Yoshi: Joy-Informed Art as a Tool of Resistance and Healing

In today’s episode of the Not Real Art Podcast, guest host and prolific Los Angeles-based muralist Erin Yoshi speaks with Ashara Ekundayo about the power of joy-informed art for resistance and healing.

Click play button above to hear this important conversation

Ashara is a Black feminist, an independent curator, an artist, and an interdisciplinary creative arts leader committed to an intersectional framework of social transformation that expands the influence and impact of arts and culture on racial and gender equity and environmental literacy, and more specifically one that necessitates a practice of recognizing joy in the midst of struggle.

“Not only is Oakland a place where people are grappling with a lot of issues that are hard and a lot of grief, but we are also creating beautiful stories and narratives that are about joy and are about pleasure.” — @blublakwomyn [0:41:54]

Tuning in, you’ll learn more about the work that Ashara does through her nonprofit, Artist as First Responder, which acknowledges that artists show up first in crisis and celebration to forge solutions, heal communities, and save lives through design, practice, invitation, and presentation.

Ashara shares her mission to hold space for creative labor, to create beautiful narratives about joy and pleasure in a society so focused on the trauma-informed, and her belief in the power of art and education to create change by showing us opportunities for who we are and what we can be.

Guest host and artist Erin Yoshi
Guest host and artist Erin Yoshi

“What happens when you have a lot of successes is you’re willing to take more risks. You’re willing to fail. I had things that didn’t go so well and things that went great, and you balance that out. That gives you courage, and that courage has given me permission to keep going forward with various endeavors that are creative, entrepreneurial, activist, organizing work. At this point, I have founded and cofounded several different endeavors that support creative art practice, social practice and, right now, really focus on a Black, feminist, Afrofuturist politic that is rooted in literary art, rooted in movement art, rooted in visual and new media art, rooted in justice, and is joy-informed.” — Ashara Ekundayo [0:08:33]

You’ll also discover some of the other remarkable projects, platforms, and exhibitions that Ashara has created and contributed to over the years, as well as some of her favorite artists right now, so make sure to tune in today for this insightful and powerful conversation about the intersection between love, art, joy, and rage!

“We see the trauma-informed happening, but what we also know is that artists show up first in celebration. The work that I am focused on right now is joy-informed as well. We show up and use joy as a tool, as a resistance, as a mechanism for healing our communities.” — @blublakwomyn [0:12:12]

New Book By Katie Love

From Cult To Comedy, A Memoir, by Katie Love

Author Katie Love: The Comedian Turning Heartbreak Into Humor [Podcast] coverThe year is 1970. The horror soap opera “Dark Shadows” is all the rage, the Vietnam War is raging and nine-year-old Katie, an imaginative and independent latch-key kid, comes home from school to discover her mother’s suicide.

Taken in by her older sister who has recently become a Jehovah’s Witness, Katie is shown an illustration from a bible picture book featuring wild animals peacefully lounging by a pool of water, surrounded by happy people picking fruit. An enticing offer is made: “Katie, this is Paradise. Do you want to see Mom again, happy and living forever? All you have to do is follow all of Jehovah’s commandments and you can be with Mom again.”

Mom happy and living forever? Two tickets to Paradise, please!

So begins Katie’s zealous quest to attain perfection and entrance into a utopian world which promises peace, love, and happiness. She discovers a much darker world. “Two Tickets to Paradise, from Cult to Comedy” tells the hilarious and heartbreaking story of an earnest, bible-toting kid intent on saving the world, and follows her metamorphosis into a boisterous comedian intent on saving herself through the healing powers of humor.


Key Points From This Episode:

  • Ashara reflects on her earliest memories as a ‘gatherer’ around the arts and crafts table.
  • How her parents introduced her to art and were formative influences on her practice.
  • Hear about Ashara’s career trajectory, formal education, and early desire to be a curator.
  • Learn more about Artist as First Responder (AAFR) and how it facilitates joy as a tool of resistance and a mechanism for healing communities.
  • Ashara explains the six-point philanthropic and interactive arts platform of AAFR.
  • The importance of celebrating artist’s work and arts labor as first responder work.
  • How Ashara navigates the traditional arts world as a queer, BIPOC arts leader and creative.
  • Learn about the former Impact Hub Oakland, founded by seven artists, including Ashara.
  • Ashara shares her belief that we are all born creative and her ongoing mission to hold and create space for creative labor.
  • What she looks for in the artists she works with; honesty, curiosity, and enjoyment.
  • What Ashara calls the artist ‘flake out factor’ and the importance of authentic commitment.
  • How traveling has influenced her work and the perspective it has offered Ashara.
  • Some of the priorities that have shifted in her personal life following the pandemic.
  • Why she believes having grace and patience with ourselves and each other is the new norm.
  • Discover the self-guided Black Joy StoryWindows exhibition in Downtown Oakland.
  • Hear about BLATANT, a publication of AAFR, and Ashara’s ongoing conversation partnership with the Museum of the African Diaspora.
  • Memorable conversations Ashara has had with Black women artists and cultural workers.
  • Ashara on the power art has to create change; witnessing opportunities for what can be.
  • How education goes hand-in-hand with creativity and the legacy of who we are.
  • Artists to watch, including Tongo Eisen-Martin, Tiff Massey, and Zanele Muholi.

“We would not have been able to survive a so-called shelter in place if artists had stopped creating art. We continue to want to acknowledge and support [them] and know that artists’ work and arts labor should be lifted and celebrated as first responder work.” — @blublakwomyn [0:17:21]

“We’re talking about blatant love, blatant art, blatant joy, blatant rage; undone and unfurled for all of us to behold through the lens and the eyes of the Black womanist imaginary.” — @blublakwomyn [0:48:09]

“Art shows us that [we] are not alone, that we’re together on this planet. It shows us, much like religion does, where we came from, how to live while you’re here, and where to go when you die. That is what art is for me. That is the utility of it.” — @blublakwomyn [0:49:53]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

“There’s a whole conversation and a whole funding stream that has become very popular in this country called trauma-informed – trauma-informed everything. We see the trauma-informed happening, but what we also know is that artists show up first in celebration. The work that I am focused on right now is joy-informed as well. We show up and use joy as a tool, as a resistance, as a mechanism for healing our communities. Artist as First Responder is the work that I am focused on right now.” — Ashara Ekundayo [0:12:02]