The 16th of June we had such a good time! Utrecht Canal Pride was happening around town for the second time, and therefore invited our friends Dance With Pride & Hilde Atalanta over for an instore programme. Dance With Pride is a non-profit that aims to stimulate equality within the music scene through panel talks & musical events - by which (+ merchandise) they collect money for small initiatives that support LGBTQI+ refugees, like for STIL Utrecht this event.
We spoke to both Axmed Maxamed, initiator of Dance With Pride, and Hilde Atalanta, who happened to be one of our first illustrators we have been selling art of in our store, about their work.
Hey Axmed the day was full of spontaneity and surprises, it felt really healthy! How did you experience the event?
I really, really enjoyed the event. It started off with some technical difficulties, but both the deejays and the people working in the store as well as the people that were there to dance, all helped out to make everything run along smoothly - so to me it felt, even though I'm not from Utrecht, like I was part of a community for that day and I was really happy with the turnout. I also loved the the fact that most people who were there were able to find out what we were raising money for, because Loes from STIL was there to explain what they do and where the money that was raised at this event would specifically go to. The music was great, vibe was great, shoutout to the deejays Suze Ijó, Daan Groeneveld & Matthieu - and Hilde's work was also very awesome, I'm glad that I got to know her better as well.
How do you think such a day can contribute to the city and its scene?
Even though we weren't on the official Pride calendar, there were a lot of Pride folks that happened to hop in once we welcomed them and told them what the event was about, in addition to people that already knew this was happening. It was great to have some extra foot traffic, people celebrating Pride who discovered something new, discovered the initiative we were raising money for and also Dance With Pride itself. Some of them ended up buying t-shirts. Luke and I also went by Savannah Bay (nearby bookstore which specialises in feminism, post-colonialism, gender and sexuality) to invite them. They came by as well as the Niet normaal * queer crew that were doing a party later that night in EKKO. Even though DWP is not from Utrecht we were able to get some of its queer community together and they were very supportive. The Niet normaal * crew offered to continue raise awareness and sell our t-shirts via their event, that was great! This all made it a special day, it really felt like a community event and we were very thankful for that.
What is in the future for Dance With Pride?
Continue with what we’re doing! More panel talks, parties, raising of awareness and money for small initiatives that support LGBTQI+ refugees. We are just trying to be part of the change that we want to see in the scene. The weekend after the event at your shop we had a panel talk with queer refugees followed by a fundraiser in Groningen. The hosts Fafi Abdel Nour and Miss Jay who organise this HOMOOST night were playing alongside Utrecht local Carista and Hellie Berry. We were really happy to follow up the instore with an event like that!
Is there any new music you've been loving lately?
As you know I really love music, did so all my life! I listen to music all day long. Usually I listen to mixes - most of the time, there aren't a lot of albums I enjoy in it's entirety. Once in a while there is one that really speaks to me - at this moment this is The Carters (Beyonce & Jay Z) - Everything is Love. It speaks to me on multiple levels that I can’t really explain without going to much into detail. I even got a Tidal membership for it but I am hoping you guys can get the vinyl soon, so I can get it physically as wel!
The iconic DWP t-shirts are now available in our shop.
Hilde Atalanta's illustrations are focussed on different forms of relationships, sexualities and gender identities. We love the dazzling portraits she makes as well as the empowering 'The Vulva Gallery' project where she celebrates diversity of.. yeah you know!
There was a lot of appreciation for your new works! How did you experience the day itself?
Yes, I was happily surprised with the positive attention my work received. I was also very happy with the combination of exhibiting my work together with Dance With Pride. I feel that collaborations like these, between queer artists, are important and bring together people who can inspire each other.
Have such questions of sexual- and gender identity always been present in your life? When did you decide to take the artistic route around such?
In a way, yes. I started illustrating about 2 years ago, and it felt natural to work with themes that are close to me. In a way my work is autobiographical, but it also includes the stories of people who are close to me.
Are the portraits based upon stories you heard or are they purely fictional? How does this process go?
The portraits I paint are a combination of friends (or models), and sometimes they are fictional portraits. I’m often making a series of portraits, as I love working on an idea for a longer period of time. A series can sometimes bring out a story more clearly. The process evolves quite naturally; I get an idea and feel that it needs to become a series of illustrations, I collect all the materials I need to complete this series, and I keep on working until I feel the circle is round.
Could you tell us something about the You're Welcome Club?
The popular media are portraying a certain image, “ideal” or “perfect” women and men. They are often white, athletic models, very feminine women and very masculine men. Many individuals don’t recognise themselves in these “ideal” women and men. I wanted to make a series of illustrations where I’m showing a wide diversity of human beings, with different kinds of backgrounds, sexualities, gender identities and body shapes. With You’re Welcome Club I’m aiming to make a series of illustrations in which people recognise themselves. I want people to feel welcome, to feel included, and to know that they belong in our society just as much as you and I do.
We were in awe of your ''The Future Is Inclusive'' pins! How does your ideal society look like? In what ways do you think art has the power to change societal structures?
My ideal society is an inclusive society, where people are open towards each other’s differences and where they respect each other. I feel that respecting others is often something we seem to forget. It’s easy to get confused by someone who looks different. It’s easy to be scared of people who feel different. Still, I feel we need to invest in having an empathic, or at least respectful attitude towards each other. The world would be very boring if we would all look and act the same, and we can learn so much from our differences. It’s simply so much more interesting to look at the world from all kinds of different perspectives. I’m not sure in what way art has the power to change, but I feel that images can tell stories and convey emotions in different ways than words can do.
Thanks a lot for your work! We can't wait to showcase more of yours in the shop! Can you shed light upon any exciting plans?
In July I’ll be exhibiting a selection of my works at the Amsterdam AIDS Conference. I’m also planning on making a The Vulva Gallery book, but I can’t tell you much about it yet.