Edoheart (born Eseohe Arhebamen-Yamasaki) is a renowned performance artist, who is most recognized for her Butoh-Vocal Theatre work. She is currently in the process of introducing ‘The Style Diaspora’, which is a new ethical fashion line that will employ the use of local African textiles and traditional methods.
We spoke to Edoheart to learn more about her performance work and why she is turning to kickstarter to help launch the line.
Who is Edoheart and what does your brand represent?
I’m a poet and multimedia artist. In 2006, I wanted to sell my creative services and so I registered a business in New York called EdoHeart, with the ‘h’ capitalized. I chose that name because Edo State is called ‘The Heartbeat of Nigeria’ and as an Edo woman, it inspired me. As the business EdoHeart, I provided communications and educational services, teaching in the arts, and some business management to nonprofits. As time went on, people began calling me Edoheart and I also began performing under that name. Edoheart represents creativity, culture, and passion.
Tell us about your training and how Edoheart was concepted?
I have two Bachelor’s degrees. One is in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Michigan. The other is in Studio Art and English from Hunter College. I also earned a Master’s degree from New York University in Performance Studies. Performance Studies has been described as an interdisciplinary studies in Critical Theory, Sociology, Language Theory, Anthropology and Legal Studies. So, I have a very philosophy-and-arts background.I’ve always loved to dance and sing; however, my studies in movement, performance and music were not formal. I would just find a dance class I was interested in and attend. I was always more drawn to cultural styles of dance. For example, I’ve studied Hula, Bharatanatyam, Butoh, Odissi, Tahitian dance, Edo and Yoruba dance, Hip Hop, Sabar, and Ballet. Right now, I’m studying Chan Buddhism Kung Fu with Shifu Shi Yan Ming.I trained off-and-on with an amazing classical vocal teacher Claudia Friedlander and I just played around making music with friends and on my own. I find it amazing when people specifically refer to me a dancer because it is not something I have studied as formally as others have; but, I’m grateful to find that something I love doing resonates with others. Truly, I consider myself a poet and artist.
You were heavily involved in spoken word poet at one time. How did this evolve into the performance work you do now? Are you still doing poetry?
I was more of a classical poet (if such a category exists) than a “spoken word” poet. I studied poetry formally and was more enamored of its conceptual-textual-linguistic qualities than the stylistic incarnation “spoken word” takes. I do still write poems. I’m building a third collection of poems. I currently have two collections of poetry out. The most recent collection is with Laughing Mouse Press. The first collection, called “Seeding The Clouds,” I published with Ornithology Press- a small press myself and my friend Daniel Kahn founded.
I chose poetry as an art form because my family was too poor to afford lessons in other creative arts. Poetry was cheap- just pencil and paper are needed. I’ve always written poetry for characters, perhaps because I read a lot of Shakespeare starting when I was about seven or eight years old. My mom wrote plays and my dad told stories and that also inspired the conceptual form of abstracted storytelling my poetry took. There are people that I imagine that speak out certain lines in my poetry or about whom a poem is written. As such, it was a small leap to bring some of those characters to life, or to act out a poem. Butoh, with its focus on other states of existence, made this possible.
Being from Nigeria and growing up in Detroit and now living in New York, would you say that your environment has any influence on your work?
The places I’ve lived absolutely influence my work. Some people tell me I need to choose one art form. It’s impossible for someone who has lived in these different places. The world is many things and made me multimedia. How can I be or do only one thing living in the world? I credit Nigeria for teaching me so much truth, magic, fire, reality, hard-work, nuance, strength, history, and soul. Detroit taught me about Africa-America in the most necessary way. Most Americans think I’m African-American; so, its even more important for me to understand that deep experience and Detroit taught that in spades. New York is a special place. It’s like the whole world in one big city. My neighborhood has Africans, African-Americans, Caribbean-Americans, Asians, white Americans, Europeans, Latin Americans. It’s the story of the future!
How have people responded to your work? Is it different depending on where you perform?
Different parts of the world have different personalities, it seems. Some places are raucously appreciative of a performance whereas other places give it more of a museum kind of respect and are very silent. When I perform butoh, responses are more extreme. It is amazing when someone cries at one of my butoh shows because I know they saw my soul and I feel heard.
You are currently working on a new project, ‘The Style Diaspora’. Can you tell us more about it?
Yes! It’s a platform for showcasing fashions that help solve different issues in the world. Our first line is called AFRICAN SILK. With the AFRICAN SILK line, we want to fight African poverty and underdevelopment.Billions in aid pours into Africa, yet so many people on the continent are still struggling to overcome poverty. Poverty breeds problems such as illness, slavery, and terrorism. Some of this is due to traditional African markets not gaining traction with the world economy at large and an inability to compete with huge manufacturers in Asia. There are so many people in Africa who work tremendously hard. What if they were paid fairly? What if the work they were offered was good for their environment and preserved their traditions?The AFRICAN SILK line will use traditional textile arts that are beneficial to the environment, preserve tradition, and provide an economic source for such textile artists. Please donate to our kickstarter here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1157985683/african-silk-fashion-line-saving-culture-fighting
. Time is running out and we need your support to set the stage for real change in Africa.
What type of pieces can we expect in the line?
You can expect modern looks that are luxurious, cool, and easy to wear while demonstrating a cultural flair. Our woman is any woman of any culture who wants the clothing she wears to be good for her body and good for the world. Our first look will be a silk bralette and brief set.The most important thing right now, is that we meet our fundraising goal so that we can put this plan into action. Do visit our kickstarter http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1157985683/african-silk-fashion-line-saving-culture-fighting
Besides The Style Diaspora, what else are you currently working on?
I’m working on an album of more acoustic songs, releasing a vinyl EP soon, writing a small collection of poems, and some more visual arts projects.
How can our readers learn more about your projects?
« African Inspiration: African Urban Vision (Luxotica Eyewear) by Lucia Giacani #Editorial New Book: Foreign Gods Inc by Okey Ndibe #Nigeria #NewRelease »