Optimism and Activism is the theme for the Carbondale Salon series | PostIndependent.com

Optimism and Activism is the theme for the Carbondale Salon series

Uche Ogbuji performing at Mountain Fair in 2019.
Photo Courtesy of Uche Ogbuji

Activism doesn’t always need to be abrasive or hostile. When seeking a change to a social construct, art can sometimes present a nuance to activism that education and news can’t portray. 

“In a way, I kind of feel like making art is inherently political no matter what the subject is,” said Niloufar Nourbakhsh, a composer and pianist featured in The Salon. “Because there’s just no way to talk about anything without the politics and the social constructs that affect our lives.”

The one major aspect the artists featured in this Carbondale Salon have in common is that they can portray those layers of complexity through their performances.

The Salon performance series blends different art forms to highlight, in this circumstance, the strength of activism and the necessity for optimism through poetry, music, comedy and dance when striving for social change or awareness. 

“Activism and optimism is the theme and the activism is that you have to fight for that identity for marginalized people and that relevance, but the optimism is that the creative energy gives the ability of discovery,” said Uche Ogbuji, a poet and spoken word artist presenting at the event. 

Ogbuji’s passion is spoken word performance art while his “day job” is being an engineer. 

Born in Nigeria, Ogbuji moved to different countries growing up like Egypt and England, and briefly went to grade school in the United States. He went back to Nigeria and attended college there, eventually moving to Colorado and making it his longest lived residence. 

“My poetry is about the legacy of colonialism, especially in Africa and how it affects indigenous people and how indigenous people can basically have a place in the present, and also moving into the future,” Ogbuji said. 

Growing up, he had a lot of interest in what sci-fi futuristic thinking looked like from the perspective of marginalized people, he said. Sci-fi has almost always been more centered around a white, straight male perspective, and he wanted to experiment what it would look like from an afro perspective — a term now coined as Afrofuturism.

Although that is his main focus, the work he will be showing at The Salon will involve more of his childhood, with the end part being more centered around Colorado, but there will still be a layer of his favored themes. 

Nourbakhsh is an Iranian composer who wrote a full-length opera about the Iranian protests in 2009, ‘We, The Innumerable.’ An aria from the opera called ‘Solitary Confinement’ is an expert that will be shown at The Salon. 

Although the opera is set in 2009, she said the events happening today are very similar. 

“I’m hoping that through the experience of this work, people can have a deeper understanding of what’s happening in Iran, especially this aria is set in solitary confinement,” she said. “It is in relation to the 1000s of Iranians who are in prison right now. I hope it will be a chance for the audience to think about those people and connect with them on a different level.”

She added that art gives people a different way to connect and a different understanding than they would get from learning about Iran through the news. She also hopes this gives people a better opportunity to remember what is going on in Iran, instead of moving to the next “hot” topic. 

“The revolution that the people have started is just not going to go away, and it’s going to take time and they really need the help and support,” she said. “The more the international community is watching the events in Iran, the less danger there is for the people.”

Nourbakhsh opera was the overall launchpad for the theme of the art experience. 

“At the heart of the opera, it’s a story about love, the importance of love, the importance of choice and universal values,” she said. “That speaks to us, no matter where we’re from and what our background is, and how those two things can really lead to the liberation of a nation.”

Another artist who mostly performs in Denver is comedian A.J. Finney, who said his comedy is more on the self deprecating level, breaking social constructs by poking fun of himself. 

There will also be local dancers Claudia and Erik Peña, author José Alcántara, and songwriter Brad Smith. 

The Salon series was founded in Philadelphia by composer Andrea Clearfield in 1986 and later brought to Aspen by Andrea and Michele Kiley, and The Salon has been in Aspen for longer than five years with co-curator and host Alya Howe 

For more details and ticketing information, please visit carbondalearts.com

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