Audrey Hudson on: hip hop, intersectionality, and education

Image of OCAD U Faculty Adurey Hudson

Image of OCAD U Faculty Audrey Hudson

SITE-SPECIFIC: Hip-Hop & Convergence Culture is a new course at OCAD U that you will be teaching this summer. Can you tell us more about it and what led you to conceptualizing this course?

AUDREY HUDSON: I graduated from OCAD in 2002 from the Faculty of Design, with a major in Material Art & Design. I took courses from a wide variety of programs, trying to find my voice as a mixed race Black female in a historically Eurocentric field of study. When I was doing my undergraduate work, I did not have very many courses that spoke to me on a personal level, but I always tried to bring my lived experiences into my practice. Two years ago when I was invited to teach at OCADU, I was ready to come back and share my knowledge with students through the experiences I gained as an artist/designer, educator and graduate student. I knew, that in coming back to the school that I loved, I wanted to insert my voice into the curriculum, and have the stories of Black, Indigenous and artists of colour to be heard in the art/design world. My aim behind this course is to connect this subculture of post-modernity we call hip-hop, to design, media and education.

S: How can hip hop be used as a tool for decolonizing education?

H: Colonization was (or arguably is), a long, painful process, and decolonizing is an even longer one. The history of colonization and settler colonialism in Canada is often silenced and unspoken about in curriculum. In order for the process of decolonization to begin, we need to acknowledge the need for Indigenous sovereignty and work together, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, to make this a reality. This means, educating one’s self about the knowledges that are silenced, and bringing them back into educative spaces. For me, hip-hop is a way to bring these rich knowledges and voices into pedagogical spaces and discuss histories of colonization, race, representation and sovereignty. I view hip-hop as a tool to begin decolonizing education because of the attention to minority voices and to the powers it speaks back to. Hip-Hop artists such as, A Tribe Called Red, JB the First Lady, Shad, K’Naan, and Wab Kinew are just a few Canadians who have taken up the work in their music. Here is an example:

S: In what ways has hip-hop culture impacted design and aesthetics since its advent?

H: Specifically we can see the influence of hip-hop in fashion, material culture, graphic design, art history, advertising, social media, and illustration. If we look at material culture, we can see the influence of Run DMC’s street sense, in poster design and advertisements we can see the aesthetic influence of graffiti in the typography. Hip-Hop is an art form that has traveled across continents, been through the roughest and most elite geographical spaces, and has made an impact on design and aesthetics along the way. In this course, emphasis will be on designing objects influenced by hip-hop and recognizing the cross-cultural exchange that has taken root, to analyze convergence culture and hip-hop’s relationship to design.

“The key here, is to take up these points of convergence/intersections in honest, ethical, and respectful ways, which means acknowledging those who came before you, then working from that point of intersectionality to make it your own, without appropriation.”

S: At what points do hip-hop culture, design, and race intersect, and how should designers and creatives approach these intersections?

H: I think these three elements intersect at various points but are not always travelling in the same direction. For me, race as a construct becomes a means to discuss positionality, a means to acknowledge the inequities faced by certain bodies, and also a means of expression. Because of the universal languages that are in hip-hop, I think this is able to transcend boundaries in some ways, but then also pose barriers in others. The subject is a bit contradictory, which makes it difficult… The key here, is to take up these points of convergence/intersections in honest, ethical, and respectful ways, which means acknowledging those who came before you, then working from that point of intersectionality to make it your own, without appropriation.

S: What advice can we take from hip-hop culture when looking for innovative ways of designing and fostering communities?

H: To bring elements of hip-hop into a design ‘cypher’ would foster a community of designers that would advance each other’s work. Hip-Hop was born in a community of marginalized Black youth in the South Bronx. Led by DJ Kool Herc, the youth in the area came together to have their voices be heard. Their culture and love for each other brought them together to celebrate and have a good time, but also to speak about the inequities of socio-economics, poverty, employment and violence. Hip-Hop brought people in the community together, as it is always evolving and making new connections, fostering different ideas and sharing lived experiences through the culture. If we take those concepts of community, brought on by these youth, and fostered design in a more collaborative, communal means by sharing ideas, listening to each other, and taking the influence of lived experience into design, we would see more innovative ways of working.

S: What is the role of creativity in advancing equity?

Thinking, production and conceptualizing are some of the many outlets to implement equity within creative work. Many artists and activists have been involved in the work of the Civil Rights Movement, the American Indian Movement, and in grassroots movements like Idle No More. The expressions to move towards equity can be seen in the music, literature, and the visual arts of the movements listed above. With its far-reaching voice, creativity has been and will continue to be at the forefront in a fight for equality.

About Audrey Hudson:
Audrey Hudson is a PhD Candidate at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto (OISE/UT). Her research considers hip-hop as a means of solidarity between Black and Indigenous communities, and how this can be articulated into culturally relevant pedagogy. Hudson is an Artist Educator who has been working and exhibiting in Toronto for the past 15 years. Currently, Hudson teaches in the Faculty of Design at OCAD University, where she conceptualized and developed a course on the influence of hip-hop on design.

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