Amplified Voices, Societal Choices: The Artist’s Role in Social Transformation

Jackie Weinberger, Ordway 1/27/17

In this video, panelists Eleanor Savage, Julia Nekessa Opoti, and Ifrah Mansour explored the intersection of art, activism, and culture during a discussion moderated by Eyenga Bokamba prior to Somi’s performance at the Ordway.

Videography/Photography: Sherine Onukwuwe, Souleye Films

Speaker Bios

Eyenga Bokamba
Former Executive Director of Intermedia Arts, artist and inducted member of National Association of Women Artists

Eyenga Bokamba earned her undergraduate degree and teaching certification from the University of Minnesota and a graduate degree from Harvard University. She is an artist most drawn to abstraction as a means of expressing her perceptions of complex realities. Her work has been widely collected by public libraries, universities, and private collectors who value the spacious expansiveness and luminosity of her paintings.  In recognition of the high caliber of her work she has been inducted into the National Association of Women Artists as well as a 2006 recipient of a Bush Leadership Fellowship. A certified language arts teacher, she taught in Hopkins School District for 13 years. She also served as Minnesota’s Youth Engaged in Service Ambassador for the Points of Light Foundation in Washington, D.C. and the National Youth Leadership Council in Minnesota, during which time she co-authored the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, the legislation from which AmeriCorps was developed.

Eleanor Savage
Multimedia Artist, Activist, Community Organizer, and Jerome Foundation’s Program Officer

Eleanor is a Program Officer at the Jerome Foundation, a foundation that supports emerging artists.  She previously was the Associate Director of Events and Media Production at the Walker Art Center for sixteen years.  Eleanor founded and was Program Director of Intermedia Arts’ Naked Stages program for nine years; this program supports the creative development of emerging performance artists.  She has produced and curated many community-focused events through Intermedia Arts, Walker Art Center, and KFAI radio. She is a civic-minded media artist and activist and has produced work with many Minneapolis and New York performers and choreographers.

Julia Nekessa
Journalist, Producer, Editor, Writer, Talk Show Host

Julia is a communication and media practitioner working to create voice channels for some of Minnesota’s most pressing political issues. Her work in media promotes the articulation by grassroots voices of often unheard perspectives on minority and immigrant life in Minnesota, particularly the Twin Cities.  Her work explores such subjects as class, migration, education, sexuality, identity and belonging from the immigrant and diaspora perspectives. She currently produces and hosts “Reflections of New Minnesotans” a talk show on AM 950. Her past work includes stints in video production and work in media as a publisher, editor and writer.

Ifrah Mansour
Somali Multimedia Artist

Ifrah Mansour, a bilingual teacher living in Minneapolis, is a multimedia artist, interweaving text, movement, sound, digital media, and visual installation.  Much of her work centers around the Somali refugee experience.  She uses art to explore and expand perceptions of beauty, womanhood and East-African diaspora lives in hopes of bringing more awareness and acceptance into the world. Her work How to Have Fun in a Civil War will be at the Guthrie in February of 2018.

Somi is an acclaimed vocalist and songwriter, of East African descent whose music incorporates elements of jazz, soul, African and spoken word. She tours the world with her band performing her soulful music with a unique perspective that engages both the mind and the ears.  Somi shared an intimate set of music from her acclaimed album, The Lagos Music Salon, and select pieces from her upcoming album during her performance.

View more photos in an online gallery

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