Garden of Celebration: Che Ebrahim

Garden of Celebration, launched by Auckland dance group Jang Huddle in collaboration with a number of talented artists, is an experimental day of celebration including workshops, exhibitions, and performances. Taking place on Saturday 19 October from 2pm until late at Raynham Park, the event features artists including: Hans, Imugi, Tei, Alexa Casino, Lion Dixon, Bb girl, Cindy Jang, KC, and more. Their mission is to create a platform for minority groups in Aotearoa to share their stories and their experiences in a safe and welcoming environment. They will be sowing seeds of change, acceptance and understanding with this community-focused event. 

Find out more on Facebook and get your tickets here!

Photo courtesy of Che Ebrahim

In true Millennial/Generation Z style, Anuja Mitra and Sherry Zhang chatted to illustrator and musician Che Ebrahim through precariously balanced laptops and low battery FaceTime screens. Oscen would like to believe this multi-platform conversation — stretched across three corners of Auckland — is a reflection of the amorphous space art and conversation occupies. Or maybe we’d all gotten our coffee date time last Saturday slightly mixed up. Oops!

Che is an illustrator of “pseudo socio-political art” and one half of Bb gurl with Yery Cho, a group who make ‘pussy poppin’ emo music. When asked how they would describe themselves, Che smiles cheekily, “I don’t know what I do. I draw and make music, and also sleep a lot.” They feel comfortable calling themselves a producer. But as a musician or an artist? “I still feel like I’m winging it.” Che’s relationship with music has always been “kinda weird.” After they listened to all of Linkin Park’s discography at 13 years old, Che started making their own beats at 15. ‘‘My brother used to make beats; I thought, oh I’d try it!’

Only in the past two years did Che find more confidence in their music. Reflecting on their growth since then, Che attributes being mindful as the most important way to self-development as an artist. They focused on the content they liked by looking at chord structures and certain rhythms; all while emphasising the importance of being thoughtful through their own practice. For example, Che chooses to draw inspiration from international acts as they didn’t want to copy local sounds. Despite this, they believe that the influence of their community will “always creep in”.

Garden of Celebration is coming up on Saturday the 19th of October, with an explosion of connections and friendships between diverse marginalised communities. Che acknowledges their friends in providing a safe place. “It’s really encouraging to have people around you doing the same thing,” They say. “I probably wouldn’t have put out music if not for my brother, or Yery (of Bb gurl and Imugi) and Carl (Imugi); they really believed in me. Before I met these guys, I didn’t have a group of friends I could talk about music with, just close friends.” When we asked Che about their experiences within the creative community in Auckland, they said they still find it hard to fully fit within the group. “I still feel a little different. I’m the only trans brown kid. Everyone is really good friends, but outside of the internal things, such as going to art spaces, or even just places… gigs in Auckland, it’s still very white. Bros. Not respectful spaces.”

Che says they still sometimes feel uncomfortable at these events. However, they are careful to point that their experience may be very insular and praises the changes being championed by movements such as Pasifka queer vogue-dance group FAFSWAG. Despite this, they’d still like to see a broader variety of events. “White people have basically every kind of event… I want to see different people, different narratives. Before I was in any way involved in the music scene, it felt so impenetrable, so I’d like to see the breaking down of walls.”

As for the intersection between visual art and music, Che has always felt a pull to build the “world” around an album. They cite Welcome to the Black Parade by My Chemical Romance as an example, and want to play around with the idea of creating a comic that supplements the Bb gurl world. For Che, music as a medium is “really conducive” to other forms of art, but laments that this is not recognised enough. “Music is [treated as] more disposable, people just want to put stuff out … having an art direction, something as small as a colour palette or style, some semblance of a world bigger than the music, amplifies and make it better.” Garden of Celebration is tipping into this space, bringing together experimental multi-medium projects from a range of artists of colour. Hopefully, this will spur more collaboration, disruption and deconstruction of different art forms from our diverse communities.

Art has always been instinctive for Che, having been drawn to it from a young age. Yet they feel that comics are one of the hardest industries. So far Che has found Instagram commissions to be a good way to support their practice, but finds it disheartening to see people they like and admire struggle in the industry. “Thinking specifically for drawing, if you have a real niche way of storytelling, it’s harder to make a living.”

Che’s current project is Bb girl, describing the duo as “emo music through a hip hop RnB lens”. Sometimes Che will start with a beat or idea which Yery expands on. But often it’s more of a “mish-mash [that] happens in different ways, and an organic process.” Bb gurl’s debut album will hopefully come out by the end of the year, and Che is also working hard on a separate EP. They’re also hoping to incorporate more of their visual art into their music, and are working on a comic while continuing to take commissions. Che’s considered approach is a refreshing presence in Auckland’s music scene, bridging and highlighting the untapped intersection between music and visual arts.

Che Ebrahim will be exhibiting art and performing at Garden of Celebration this Saturday 19 October. Don’t miss it!