How People, Intimacy, and Intersectionality are Invaluable in VJ and Artist Selflove Tribute’s Work

Music collectives are more than just a nice opportunity to network and Berlin based No Shade has been proving that in more than one way.

In sponsored collaboration with Zalando and adidas Originals.

In a three-part series we’re featuring the Berlin-based collective, No Shade

If you’re not familiar with them yet, No Shade’s talents spread far and wide, from club nights to training programs for female and non-binary DJs and VJs. Their aim is to offer and create supportive and educational spaces for their mentees and crew members, and in general, make sure that there is strong a sense of safety, community, and collaborative spirit in all that they work with, in the Berlin music scene.

In a three-part series, we’ll be highlighting the mentees journey and what being part of the program has done for them both personally and professionally. 

Learning isn’t always a steady curve and education can take many shapes. That’s especially true for recently graduated Elia Diane Fushi Bekene, or better known as Selflove Tribute. On the night of their graduation, and as the very first VJ program member in the history of No Shade, Elia told us about how their biggest learnings have come from hardships in life, listening to signs from the universe, and by engaging with the world around them in an emotionally connected way. 

Elia identifies as a black, genderqueer feminist photographer, visual artist, and audio artist. For their graduation, they performed with her own podcast and played added visuals on it. We grabbed them just a few hours before it all went down. 

What’s your relationship with visual storytelling? How did you start getting interested in telling stories through visual media? 

I write a lot. Selflove Tribute started three years ago with a newsletter about my feelings that I sent to maybe 10 friends every Monday. The day I started it, I had just been fired. I was a business analyst before and I hated my job, so I thought, “okay, that’s a sign”.

I think I started taking pictures because I wanted to represent people that I don’t see enough around me or in media, so black, queer, gender non-conforming people. I became a photographer without even really realizing it and for me, even though I love the pictures, it’s more about the stories behind the picture. 

Because I was writing so much, the idea of a podcast felt super natural, and now because I also animate and visualize my podcast, my work feels like it has come full circle between writing, photography, and VJ-ing.

Can you tell us a bit more about how people and communities play a role in your work?

What I do feels isolating sometimes, so for me, the biggest thing is to have a community and to see people reacting to my work. I love to see people’s faces in real life and maybe even form a relationship with the people who see my work.

At the end of the day, what I do is inspired by people and without them, my inspiration and creativity just goes down. I need to be stimulated. Also, feelings are my life. SelfLove Tribute is about feelings, so I cannot create without stories, and I make stories when I’m with other people. 

Of course your relationship with yourself is just as important, so in a community like No Shade you have this group of people who are somewhat like-minded and have gone through some of the same things. 

What’s your point of view of how representation has changed in the past few years. Do you feel that there’s been a big difference or is there still a long way to go? 

There’s a long way to go. And at the same time, it makes sense that there’s a long way to go because if you look back, we’ve lived for many years where this (or worse) has been the status quo, so we can’t expect everything to change in 10 years. 

Change is uncomfortable, but change is the only constant in life.

It’s good to have people, to meet people to actually create, who like the same things and also want to change both the industry and what representation looks like these days. 

When it comes to your work, what is it you’re hoping that people feel when they engage with it? 

To be honest, I don’t think about that very much because I want to leave people’s agency to themselves. I would never want to tell someone that they can or can’t feel a certain way. Because if you feel it, then it’s too late, that’s your feeling, you know, and that’s fine with me. 

That being said, I do try to open peoples eyes to the black experience and black bodies, especially black queer people. Because I think that in a lot of racial issues, we centralize white people and whiteness, and that’s something that I really want to stop doing. I realized that even I had to ask myself at some point: “What is my blackness outside of the white gaze?”, “What is my queerness outside of the straight gaze?” “What is my womanhood outside of the male gaze?” And it’s so complex because you’re so used to this way of seeing things. 

We cannot expect a generation to change everything. There are always going to be a positive and negative way to view things. The positive way is that there are more people who want to see and hear from minorities. And I love that. But the battle in that is you sometimes feel tokenized or fetishized or only there for what you look like. Or that you have to speak on behalf of all your people, and I can’t be every person or feel all of that. I don’t know what it’s like to be dark-skinned or trans for example. 

So with all of this taken into consideration, what are you hoping for yourself for the future?

I would love to exhibit. I really want to meet people face to face to see how they react to my work. I want to show more of my work but also make the rules around how it’s shown and not always have to ask for permission. That’s why a place like Instagram is really good but it’s the only platform I have at the moment. 

I want to do more physical stuff and do light installations. And, yeah, make money just to be able to invest it in other people in my community. I want to invest in women, in black people, in people of color and queer people. Because at the end of the day, if I can put my foot through the door then I can bring people with me. I want to literally work with my friends and make dope things while making people feel safe. 

How do you think the world will react to the changes you would like to see? 

I hope it shakes up in a few things, I hope that people feel something because felt knowledge is basically wisdom. There’s also knowledge in people, and by showing different people I hope to make people think differently with my work. Change is uncomfortable, but change is the only constant in life. There’s nothing that doesn’t change. 

A big thank you to Selflove Tribute for the immense amount of compassion and determination they put into their work and the people around them.

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