Passion Projects: “Emo Farm” by Artist Kelechi Azu

Passion Projects is an on-going series where we ask our members, ‘What creative thing would you do with $500?’  From the many proposals we received earlier in the year, one of the projects we selected was from Philadelphia artist and teacher, Kelechi Azu aka Collie Flower Jones. We’re proud to have supported her, and very excited to share her passion project with you now!

If you’d like to be eligible for opportunities like this, you can learn more about becoming a member here.

If you had to pick three specific moments that shaped who you are today, what would they be?

Three moments…? Well, I guess I would say my top 3 moments would be:

1) At the age of 4 one day I was eating snacks at daycare and thought to myself that I’d never change. I’d probably be the same person till I’m 40. By then I’d change. Since then I’ve been carefully monitoring my self-preservation. To remain entertaining to others, keep working on my art projects, and living in my imagination. I can only hope young me was right.

2) Moving to the suburbs of New Jersey from the city of Philadelphia when I was 10. I felt like I was going from rags to riches, but in a hood to Disney channel type of way. I was finally going to be the type of kid that “had it all”. Here, my love for music changed as I embraced the emo culture. My African family was very confused with the amount of passion I had and what would become of me. It felt like I was entering a profound time in my life.

3) Last would be going to an art school in the city. There I had been away from my parents and could finally become the hipster, carefree, creative adult I wanted to be. I learned a lot about relationships, the future of my art projects, and my ego. By this time, I fully returned to rap and hip-hop and Avant-Garde jazz to a degree.

“Emo Farm” by Kelechi Azu

We really loved your passion projects proposal for the Emo Farm project, can you talk a little bit about what it is?

The Emo Farm project is a return to an important time in my life and my identity. The lack of representation for black kids in the scene bothered me. I found the overall erasure of Black people from the rock genre to be egregious. Emo Farm was my chance to give space to the black kids who felt left out. With the project, I could popularize the natural alt-hairstyles as well as embrace varied skin tones, facial features, and body types. Emo Farm is first a coloring book but also a project with collectible novelties and workshops to bring together black alt youth and adults.

Artwork from "Emo Farm" by Kelechi Azu
Artwork from "Emo Farm" by Kelechi Azu

What was it like growing up and being really into something that didn’t necessarily feel like it was meant for you?

Listening to music and being exposed to the scene would make me feel at peace and free. Trying to participate, for me, was embarrassing. Somedays felt like I was expressing myself to my heart’s content and other days I felt outcast by the more popular emo kids who happened to be white, had all the cool clothes and accessories, and popular Myspace and Facebook profiles. Trying to befriend them became a challenge and a constant failure. At the time, it was strange to feel like something so dear to my heart, just didn’t fit being tall, black, and overweight. It had my black peers looking at me like I was weird and my white peers thinking I was trying too hard.

Artwork from "Emo Farm" by Kelechi Azu

What are some of your favourite emo albums?

Well, growing up when I was 11-15, it was Can’t Stop Won’t Stop by The Maine, pretty much Relient K’s first 4 albums, HomeSick by A Day To Remember, Keeping Secrets by Coheed Cambria, all of Cute Is What We Aim For albums and A Weekend In The City by Block Party.

Adult Kelechi would say Self Machines, Deloused In The Comatorium, Bigger Than Me by MM@TA and A Girl Cried Red.

Who is inspiring your art these days? Could be other artists but doesn’t even have to be art-related…

Tiffany Haddish’s carefree and honest comedy speaks to me as a black girl. Alt Black girls who do cosplay on social media inspire me as they show off their creative costumes and make it work with their hair and make- up. Last I would say how I’ve organized completing my grad school assignments. I found a way to transfer those skills with my artist practice and it has changed the pacing and execution of my projects indefinitely.

Artwork from "Emo Farm" by Kelechi Azu
Artwork from "Emo Farm" by Kelechi Azu

Have you always had a desire to use your creativity to help others?

Absolutely! I’m always trying to explain what I’ve learned from my trials and tribulations. With teaching, I’ve learned how to do this appropriately.

Yeah, I read that you’ve worked as a teacher in the Philadelphia school district, what’s something you’ve learned from a student?

Sarcasm is not your friend! Speaking to kids with sarcasm can lead to kids thinking I’m always joking. It might seem witty with friends, but when you want to get a concept across it’s best to be straightforward and concise.

"Emo Farm" by Kelechi Azu currently stocked at Bluebonnet Records

What’s one thing you’d like to accomplish over the next year?

Next year I would like to sustain my entire lifestyle off of my creative pursuits. Haha. Wish me luck.

What about in your lifetime?

Be the best part-cartoonist, part-teacher I can be.

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