Helga Artist, performer, and host Helga Davis brings a soulful curiosity and love of people to the podcast Helga, where she talks about the intimate lives of creative people as they share the steps they've taken along their path. She draws listeners into these discussions with cultural change-makers, whether already famous or rising talents, whose sensibilities expand our imaginations as we explore what we think we know about each other. The new season of Helga is a co-production of WNYC Studios and the Brown Arts Institute at Brown University. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including Radiolab, On the Media, and Death, Sex & Money. The Brown Arts Institute at Brown University is a new university-wide research enterprise and catalyst for the arts at Brown that creates new work and supports, amplifies, and adds new dimensions to the creative practices of Brown's arts departments, faculty, students, and community.
Helga

Helga

From WNYC Radio

Artist, performer, and host Helga Davis brings a soulful curiosity and love of people to the podcast Helga, where she talks about the intimate lives of creative people as they share the steps they've taken along their path. She draws listeners into these discussions with cultural change-makers, whether already famous or rising talents, whose sensibilities expand our imaginations as we explore what we think we know about each other. The new season of Helga is a co-production of WNYC Studios and the Brown Arts Institute at Brown University. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including Radiolab, On the Media, and Death, Sex & Money. The Brown Arts Institute at Brown University is a new university-wide research enterprise and catalyst for the arts at Brown that creates new work and supports, amplifies, and adds new dimensions to the creative practices of Brown's arts departments, faculty, students, and community.

Most Recent Episodes

Video artist Arthur Jafa on actualizing Black potential, part 2

Black people know this: There's a difference between what you say and what you mean. It's been a matter of survival for us. For over 30 years, American visual artist and cinematographer Arthur Jafa has captured the histories and experiences of Black Americans with projects that exemplify both the universal and particular facets of Black life. In the second part of this masterclass in Black thought, Jafa continues his free-from improvisation through his breadth of knowledge and understanding of visual culture — embedded with all the references, rhetorics, and personal reflections of someone who has spent a lifetime dedicated to centralizing the varied experiences of Black Being.

Video artist Arthur Jafa on actualizing Black potential, part 1

I don't want to be the prisoner in a box, even if it's a box I made. For over 30 years, American visual artist and cinematographer Arthur Jafa has captured the histories and experiences of Black Americans with projects that exemplify both the universal and particular facets of Black life. In this masterclass in Black thought — the first episode in a two-part series — Jafa shares a free-from improvisation through his breadth of knowledge and understanding of visual culture — embedded with all the references, rhetorics, and personal reflections of someone who has spent a lifetime dedicated to centralizing the varied experiences of Black Being. Charlie Parker John Coltrane Ornette Coleman Culture Strike Laura Raicovich Christina Sharpe Hortense Spillers Ultralight Beam - Kanye West Love is the Message, The Message is Death - Arthur Jafa John Henrik Clark Jean-Michel Basquiat Jimi Hendrix Cecil Taylor AGHDRA Women in Love Burnt Sugar Butch Morris Muddy Waters Carl Hancock Rux Virgil Abloh LMVH Off-White

Writer Macarena Gómez-Barris on finding beauty in ambiguity

This [term] 'femme' becomes more possible to me as a figure for not just embodiment, but for thought, action, engagement, connection. Macarena Goméz-Barris is Professor and Chair of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, founder of the Global South Center at Pratt Institute, an organization which supports artists, activists, and scholars in their efforts to decolonialize local and global communities. In this episode, Goméz-Barris talks about how one can and must find beauty in the most ambiguous of places, how she uses the word "femme" to escape the embattled histories of the word "female," and how she has—and hasn't—moved on from a traumatic early swimming lesson with her father. References: Constantine Petrou Cavafy Waiting for the Barbarians Audre Lorde Uses of the Erotic, The Erotic is Power Saidiya Hartman Octavia E. Butler Parable of the Talents

Silhouettist Kara Walker on early fame and symbols of Black servitude

There are whole histories of African American artists wrestling with stereotypical depictions and minstrelsy - and it seemed worthy anyway to me as an artist to consider them as some kind of artwork. American painter and silhouettist Kara Walker rose to international acclaim at the age of 28 as one of the youngest-ever recipients of a MacArthur Genius grant. Appearing in exhibitions, museums, and public collections worldwide, Walker's work wrestles with the ongoing psychological injury caused by the legacy of slavery. In this episode, Walker shares how she navigates her own inner conflicts, how a curiosity for history led her to the silhouette, and what happens when making use of symbols of Black servitude brings one acclaim. References: Buster Browns RISD - Rhode Island School of Design My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love University of the Pacific Robert Wilson Einstein on the Beach Stanley Whitney Glen Ligon Kehinde Wiley

Silhouettist Kara Walker on early fame and symbols of Black servitude

Smithsonian director Kevin Young on the power of unexpected transformations

I like to say we're living in a precedent time, not an unprecedented one. How do we understand that? Being at the museum or writing histories both in poetry and in non-fiction are ways of trying to understand that. "Gatekeepers" hold an essential role in our culture as those in positions of power who determine what we see and hear — and therefore how we understand our world. The poet Kevin Young holds dual gatekeeping roles as both director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture as well as the poetry editor for The New Yorker magazine. In this episode, Young talks about how he holds these responsibilities and likens reading a poem to entering into a museum. He also shares his belief in the power of unexpected transformations, which songs have brought him comfort, and how it's always easiest to write about the place you've just left. References: Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture Public Enemy Chuck D Parliament Funkadelic African American Vernacular English Sister Sonya Sanchez Langston Hughes Gwendolyn Brooks Harriet Tubman's shawl David Hammonds' African American Flag Willie Nelson Earth, Wind and Fire John Coltrane's Love Supreme I Want You - Marvin Gay Mary Lou Williams Jean-Michel Basquiat Make Good the Promises Ida B. Wells Book of Hours - Kevin Young Stones - Kevin Young

Smithsonian director Kevin Young on the power of unexpected transformations

Sociologist Tricia Rose on hip-hop as a global profit powerhouse

It's hard when you try to talk across racial groups about race ... I do believe that there's a better chance of them getting further if we can create spaces of both accountability and connection. Tricia Rose is a pioneering scholar in the field of hip-hop, Chancellor's Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University, co-host with Cornel West of "The Tight Rope" podcast, and Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America. In this episode, Rose discusses how she balances her love of the early days of hip-hop with the global profit powerhouse it has become, the beauty of chaos, and how essential it is to build safe, stable communities at a time when everything is being done to isolate and separate. References: Fannie Lou Hamer Clarence Thomas Tightrope with Cornell West Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America

Visual artist Carrie Mae Weems on grace and inclusion

Within seriousness, there's little room for play, but within play there's tremendous room for seriousness. It's through the act of serious play that wonderful ideas are born. Carrie Mae Weems is one of today's most influential and generous contemporary American artists, as devoted to her own craft as she is to introducing other artists into the world. Her photography and diverse visual media has won her numerous awards including the Rome Prize, a MacArthur genius grant, and four honorary doctorates, and she was even named one of the 100 most influential women of all time by Ebony magazine. In this episode, Weems explores the struggles artists must maintain to find balance and reach an audience, how the field cannot advance without the deep and profound inclusion of Black artists, and what the concept of "grace" means to her and her mother. References: Dawoud Bey The Black Photographers Annual Joe Crawford Roy DeCarava Anthony Barboza Ming Smith Langston Hughes's 'Black Nativity' Cassandra Myth

Choreographer Bill T. Jones on the violence within seduction

I knew that there was a power I had when I stripped off my shirt and looked you in the eye as I moved my hips. But I also knew the other side of that attraction to me was the impulse to kill me. Legendary dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones has made a career of engaging his audience with brutal, unapologetic honesty. His seductive work has grappled with provocative political issues ranging from sexuality, race, and censorship to power and the AIDS epidemic — while also innovating in the expressive possibilities of movement itself. In this episode, Jones talks about what it meant to grow up as a "Black Yankee" in the 1950s and 1960s and as one of 12 children. He also reflects on the adjacency of violence to the power of seduction, and how, after decades as a performing artist, the body may retire but the mind never will. References: Alvin Ailey Percival Borde Pearl Primus Sammy Davis Jr. Bojangles Shirley Temple Sydney Poitier Charles Weideman Doris Humphrey Arnie Zane Lois Welk Rod Rogers Louise Roberts Arthur Aviles Marcel Proust Merce Cunningham George Balanchine Hannah Arendt Max Roach Freda Rosen

Jazz vocalist Somi on finding your voice

Once I could feel grounded in an East African context and value who I am in an American context - suddenly it was so apparent that music was where I was supposed to be. The dynamic, ascendant jazz singer Somi has been celebrated for her artistry as much as her activism. She became the first African woman ever nominated in any of the Grammy's Jazz categories last year, and she has performed at the United Nations' General Assembly by invitation from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Somi describes herself as a "East African Midwestern girl who loves family, poetry, and freedom" and yet hers is a story of survival, adversity, and transformation. In this episode, she discusses what happens when a teacher steals your joy, the power of a meditative practice that connects her to her ancestors, and how she is still finding her voice. References: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon Miriam Makeba The Babiito and Bunyoro-Batooro people Curtis Institute of Music 'Dreaming Zenzile:' Somi Kakoma and Miriam Makeba Zap Mama

Musician Bartees Strange on indie music's overlooked audiences

I was making it for the people who feel like they don't really get a shot or are not seen, talked about, or cared about at all. Even with his surging popularity in indie and rock scenes, Bartees Strange strives to bring his music to unexpected audiences and to tease apart the racial boundaries between them. He reckons with the concept of what it means to write music for the kids who are not seen, heard, or cared about. In this episode, Stange talks about growing up on a military base in England, working in the labor and climate movements in D.C., and how seeing an appearance by TV on the Radio on the Late Show with David Letterman was the cheat code for writing his own music. References: NSYNC Backstreet Boys Cleopatra (Group) "Cleopatra Comin At Ya" 50 Cent Get Rich Or Die Tryin Linkin Park Tunde Adebimpe Parliament Sun Ra Brothers Johnson Beach House Slowdive "Super Spirit" by Junie Morrison and George Clinton Burial Gorgon City Courtney Barnett Phoebe Bridgers Lucy Dacus Car Seat Headrest The National Mahershala Ali Fugazi Beauty Pill Chuck Brown Moses Sumney Serpent with Feet Tasha Wow - L'Rain Dan Kleederman TK Johnson John Daise