Soft trumpet melodies gently weave their way throughout the room accompanied by an original beat loop. A plain space with white walls is transformed into an eclectic garden with a wide array of flowers in the form of faces, textures, and colors. The artist’s essence is captured in every photograph that hangs, every drop of paint that coats the walls, every sound that drifts into and out of the space. Mylo Mu takes us out of reality and lets us into The Ebonic Garden.
The Ebonic Garden was a lot of things: emotional, raw, flamboyant, and empowering. It was abstract at times and clear and straightforward at others. His work communicated a clear and concise message at first, but ultimately insisted upon a closer look and a broader perspective at the same time. The show featured Mu’s photography, projected visuals, spray-painted wall art, an “altar for the ancestors” that featured enhanced pictures of Ida B. Wells, Malcolm X, and Tupac, and an exclusive viewing of Mu’s Ebonic Garden Movie.
Photos by AJ Moultrié
In an impromptu interview with The B-side, Mu explained how navigating his artistic expression through the utilization of different mediums has shaped who he is as an artist. “Music becomes physical at some point,” he affirmed, “Hearing songs, you kind of hear the sounds and feel the textures. For me, going across different mediums is something I’ve had to do, just to understand what music I’m making.”
The concept for the garden stemmed from body language and how we understand each other with and without verbal communication. Each photo series was set with an explicit intention meant to serve a greater purpose. Before capturing each of his subjects Mylo posed the questions:
“What is blackness and what isn’t it? What about you do you feel is invisible and how can we highlight it?”
The general atmosphere behind the scenes of each shoot played an important part in shaping the outcome of the finished product. Minkah, who worked in collaboration with Mylo Mu to design the space, talked with The B-side about Mu’s process as a photographer. “It was about us interacting with Mylo, each other, and ourselves. It was a very collaborative process.” The idea of collaboration is an essential part of Mylo Mu’s work in his latest fashion and photography project, Gumbo Couture.Gumbo Couture centers itself around the mixture of identities, thought processes, and ideas.
As The Ebonic Garden saw its final day at the UFO Gallery, Mu premiered his short movie. The movie further illustrates the garden’s central message: one of awakening, recovery, and reclamation.
An astonished crowd stood in silence as Mu’s film came to an end. There was a special aura of validation and empowerment in the atmosphere. Mu had cultivated and executed the idea of reclaiming the past in an effort to frame the future. In his film, Mu was able to convey this idea through a kaleidoscope of varying images: a clip of Brandy singing a cappella, segments from Steve Harvey’s old stand up comedy shows, and Josephine Baker’s iconic “ZouZou” performance layered on top of Missy Elliot’s “Wake Up” to name a few.
Mylo Mu’s work offers a very tangible feeling of validation. Not only in the form of validating one’s blackness, but of one’s individuality and uniqueness. This theme of an active reclamation of black history is present throughout all of Mu’s work, and he was able to take the motif and transform it into a beautiful garden filled with diverse shapes, faces, and colors.
Mylo Mu’s artistry, whether it be music, fashion, photography, or visual art, is a space that is meant to inspire. More specifically, The Ebonic Garden is meant to serve as source of inspiration for black creativity, marginalized ways of life and thinking, and for those who feel insignificant or lost. Mu empowers the Bay Area community to use the healing powers of art, creativity, individuality and collaboration to communicate across all platforms and demographics, in a way that not only reminds us who we are, but of who we’ve always been.
Written by Shelby Mayes