This Agency Owned By And Repping WOC Is Making Waves In The Art World
For centuries, the art world has been dominated by men, while works created by women of color have generally been tokenized, ignored, or appropriated. Fortunately, the tides are turning—women artists of color are finally being the attention they deserve, thanks to movements like Browntourage, a media agency that showcases WOC-centric work.
Cali-based artists Hawa Arsala and Tonia Belgari are the minds behind Browntourage, which originally began as a blog the two put together to show “how effed up the world is, in whatever low-key digital way” they could, Arsala told Mask Magazine. Their project quickly surged into a full-blown professional agency that is “part-curatorial portal, part-new media magazine, and part-event production company,” completely run by women of color. Women make up only 30 percent of artists represented by galleries in New York and LA, and women of color are an even smaller fraction of that, so WOC-owned and operated operations like this one are essential.
“Mainstream media borrows from subculture constantly,” Arsala told The Creators Project. “If we can insert ourselves in the cultural feedback loop, then maybe we can shift the conversation a bit.”
Browntourage is art about women of color that is also created by women of color. For Arsala and Belgari, representation is essential at every level—and it means curating work that not only depicts WOC, but that is made by them as well.
“PRINT your REALITY,” Browntourage’s most recent work, was created in collaboration with Iranian-American artist Morehshin Allahyari. It’s an interactive virtual gallery of Allahyari’s 3D printed works, all of which represent real objects that have been banned by the Iranian government.
The art Browntourage creates often crosses mediums and genres. “border_convos,” another recent collab, is an audio/visual mixtape created by 8ulentina and Foozool as part of the company’s “BORNTORAGE” series. The mixtape samples sounds from around the world, ranging from Turkey, Syria, and Armenia to Canada and the United States, while the visuals are snippets of previous work created by other Middle Eastern artists.
“Because we come from an academic background, we’d have a lot of conversations about representation,” Arsala said. “We wanted to imbue the situations we were in with more representation and show our community that you can be cool and still be somewhat socially conscious.”
At its core, Browntourage is a melding of wokeness and coolness, an embodiment of the idea that the best creative work is that which actively engages with politics and culture. More importantly, it creates a space for women of color to create art that represents them on their own terms.
Images via Browntourage, Mask Magazine, The Creators Project
Stay tuned to Milk for more from WOC artists.