perfocraZe International Artist Residency and the crazinisT artisT studiO are calling for international and local organisations, individuals, fans, artists and the general public to come to our aid as a matter of urgency to purchase a studio and home for the continuity of pIAR. For the past four years, pIAR has served the arts and the queer community as a safe sanctuary for radical artistic programmes, advocacy, ‘artivism’ and cultural intervention. Since 2017, Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi [crazinisT artisT] (pronouns: sHit if not she) has rented a new space after six years of active public advocacy and fearless artivism in and outside Ghana. sHits new space is a safe sanctuary and has become a home for ‘all’. pIAR is a paradise for many queer and non-queer creative individuals from all over the world – converging, researching and developing projects that engage global audiences on sensitive issues such as gender/sexuality, racism, class and power relations. Artists in residence are also encouraged to discuss and explore other topics, including decolonisation, multiculturalism, patriarchy, healing practices, indigenous rituals, etc.
However, the new ANTI-LGBTQIA+ bill dubbed the ‘PROMOTION OF PROPER HUMAN SEXUAL RIGHTS AND GHANAIAN FAMILY VALUES BILL, 2021’ by some members of Parliament has endangered pIAR for their radical visibility as a safe sanctuary. The Bill has created mixed reactions among citizens, religious groups and the queer community. It has doubled up the violence against LGBTQIA+ persons across the country, recording several viral videos of mob attacks on suspected LGBTQIA+ persons without justice for the victims.
The bill also directly threatens the founder and artistic director's life and works as a transwoman, artivist, human rights advocate, and LGBTQIA+ activist. It is dangerously determined to prosecute anyone who identifies as queer or is perceived as (following the bill’s definition) an ‘LGBTTQQIAAP+’ person, ally or sympathiser. The bill will also prosecute landlords or anyone who rents their properties or premises to queer persons or LGBTQIA+ inclusive organisations. Therefore, we are calling on all friends, allies, sympathisers, human rights supporters, and organisations to come to our rescue by donating and sharing our fundraising call and supporting us to build an all-inclusive space of our own.
Click here to learn more about the Bill
What is pIAR?
Launched in 2018 after four years of its underground activities, perfocraZe International Artist Residency is an independent and interdisciplinary nonprofit artist-led space. It is founded and directed by the renowned international multidisciplinary artivist, curator, mentor and a human right advocate, Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi [a.k.a crazinisT artisT]. pIAR has hosted over 100 participants from more than 20 different countries since its inaugural edition (pIAR 2019). It serves as an incubator, hatchery and radical performance art space that promotes cultural exchange and international collaborations. The studio is located in Kumasi, the second-largest city in Ghana and the capital of the Ashanti Kingdom.
Founded and directed by a transwoman, pIAR is the first and the only artist residency of its kind in Ghana: it is openly LGBTQIA+ inclusive, focusing on radicalising the arts as a safe space to investigate sensitive political issues without boundaries. pIAR is a unique platform that provides opportunities for both queer and non-queer creatives or audiences to share their eccentric and diverse experiences, connect, and bridge the gap between arts and life. pIAR 2023 will mark its 5th anniversary, and we hope to celebrate it by launching a new biennial arts festival. We, therefore, hope that the general public, art enthusiasts, artists, cultural practitioners, donors, funders, friends and families will contribute to this fundraising.
Love fEAST at pIAR
Love fEAST is an annual dinner and a one-night festival that brings together several people from the local community and surrounding town, cities and villages to pIAR (crazinisT artisT studiO) every January regardless of their age, gender and sexual orientations. The festivity is a curated social intervention and an advocacy launched by Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi since 2020 to promote love, tolerance, hospitality, community networks, and healthy human relations between artists, queer families, and local communities. It marks the new year's celebration, rebirth, and untamed love. At Love fEAST, Va-Bene provides free drinks and food with DJ music and encourages all attendees to connect, make new friends and share stories that can motivate and inspire others. It has also served as an alternative platform to welcome and introduce the current artists in residence to the locals and the general public.
Why is pIAR at high risk? And Why the need for crowdfunding?
pIAR is an artistic home and an LGBTQIA+ inclusive space, directed by a trans woman, ‘artivist’ and advocate. These factors undoubtedly make pIAR one of the first targets of the anti-LGBTQIA+ bill which criminalises not only queer lives but also advocacy and sympathy.
The founder and artistic director Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi, also known as crazinisT artisT, is a multidisciplinary artivist and a shapeshifter ‘transvatar’ whose works challenge discriminations against queer people, the colonial legacy, racial stigmas and gender violence since 2012. According to the newly proposed bill, LGBTQIA+ rights advocacy will be criminalised, and all related centres and activities will be shut down. The bill also offers to jail landlords who may rent their properties to queer persons or organisations for LGBTQIA+ creative purposes or advocacy. In this sense, pIAR must own its premises and continue to provide a safe space for the artists in residence, regardless of their sexual and gender diversities.
pIAR must be many steps ahead of this inhuman bill or any other unpredictable misfortune. Should the director be directly affected as a person if the bill will eventually pass, sHit wishes that pIAR will continue to live with or without sHit. sHit is determined to secure sHits own property and facilities for pIAR to continue running the annual artists’ residency and exhibition programme, regardless of the bill’s outcome.
What are the costs to participate in pIAR?
There is NO application FEE! Accommodation at pIAR is entirely FREE for all participants. Food is offered to local artists for free, whilst Non-Ghanaian artists make modest contributions during their stay if they wish to eat the three daily meals prepared by the ‘pIAR Kitchen’.
Does pIAR have any cultural funding? Who funds pIAR?
NO! pIAR has been surviving through passion, love and a strong commitment by the founder and contribution from pIAR lovers and donors.
However, it remains a mystery how the founder and artistic director Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi managed to raise the first pillars of pIAR. Since its establishment, the residency has primarily been funded and sustained through sHits creative fees and salaries as an artist. However, some generous and kind individuals have continued to donate and support sHits hard work, passion, and radical revolution.
What are some of the achievements of pIAR?
pIAR has hosted over 100 artists, collaborators and several virtual programmes since 2019.
pIAR has curated more than 12 international group exhibitions and exchange programmes.
pIAR, in collaboration with crazinisT artisT studiO, has mentored many local young creatives and has provided them with the skills to achieve economic autonomy and artistic growth.
pIAR provides free temporal accommodation for a small number of LGBTQIA+ persons who have been threatened or ejected from their homes by families or landlords because of their gender and sexual identities.
How will the funding help pIAR survive and continue to grow?
pIAR currently accommodates its staff members (10 occupants) at the crazinisT artisT studiO and hosts 8 artists each month (from January to August). Everyone will be affected if the landlord is forced to evacuate us or to shut down pIAR under the pressure or the influence of the current anti-LGBTQIA+ bill.
Our emergency and priority are:
- To purchase a new apartment that can accommodate at least 10 members of staff, 8 artists in residence, a 4 mentees and 4 interns
- To provide spaces for research, performances, sound recording, workshops and other artistic projects.
- To purchase security materials (e.g. a safe, CCTV cameras, barbed wire) and pay legal practitioners for receiving practical advice and protection.
- To create a borehole system that will provide the house with water.
Our current rented home and premises (which we have to vacate soon)
- 2 small bedrooms accommodating 2 artists each
- 1 large room accommodating 4 artists
- 1 larger room for 5 pIAR team members
- 1 small room for 2 pIAR team members
- 1 toilet and 1 bath, indoors
- 1 toilet and 1 bath, outdoors
- Porch/open library
- 1 room for rehearsals
- Ample outdoor space for rehearsals, performances and studio work.
What are the plans for pIAR, after securing our own space?
- Building a sustainable safe haven for the arts, specifically for the queer creatives and non-creatives who may need our immediate support.
- Creating a multi-purpose garden for growing vegetables/herbs for relaxation/healing rituals.
- Having a multi-purpose conference hall
- Having a theatre hall suitable for all genres of live events, including theatre, performance art, storytelling and music.
- Having offices for administrative works.
- Establishing an ‘archival lab’ that will commission research/archival projects for emerging artists dealing with the present, past and future of colonialism and queer history.
- Building a well-equipped sound studio.
- Creating a well-furnished library with digital facilities for artists and the local community in their research.
- Having 20 self-contained single rooms to accommodate both the staff and the artists in residence.
- Having a large kitchen that can accommodate up to 10 cooking sessions simultaneously.
- Having a dining room with the capacity to accommodate up to 30 people.
- Having an open-air event space (for 200-500 people).
- Providing six public toilets and baths for visitors and the audience.
ABOUT VA-BENE ELIKEM FIATSI (aka crazinisT artisT)
Pronoun: ‘sHit’ if not ‘she’.
Born in 1981 in Ho, Ghana, Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi [crazinisT artisT] works internationally but lives in Kumasi, Ghana. sHit is a multidisciplinary ‘artivist’, curator, founder and artistic director of perfocraZe International Artists Residency (pIAR) which aims at promoting exchanges between international and local artists, activists, researchers, curators and thinkers. As a performer and installation artist, crazinisT investigates gender stereotypes, prejudices, queerness, identity politics and conflicts, sexual stigmas and their consequences for marginalized groups or individuals. With rituals and a gender-fluid persona, sHit employs sHits own body as a thought-provoking tool in performances, photography, video and installations. sHit ‘life-and-live-art’ confronts issues such as: disenfranchisement, social justice, violence, objectification, internalized oppression, anti-blackness, systemic indoctrination, and more.
crazinisT has performed and exhibited across the globe, including Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Switzerland, South Africa, Germany, Netherlands, Cape Verde, USA, Spain, Brazil, France and the UK. sHit has also been featured in several publications and magazines, such as I-D Vice London, I-D Vice Amsterdam, The Financial Times, King Kong Magazine, CCQ London, Maimi Rails, ‘Freeflowingvisuals’, TRT WORD Film Documentary, This is Africa, Art Ghana, Lost At E Minor, CNN, The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Tageszeitung (TAZ), Horizonte da Cena and Radio FRO.
About crazinisT artisT studiO
crazinisT artisT studiO is a non-profit interdisciplinary incubator and practical performance research space that started in 2011 as a personal/solo artist’s space for painting, which later transitioned into a multidisciplinary studio practice through performances, videos, photography, installations and films. The year 2015 marked its first international cross-disciplinary collaboration, with 68 international participants performing for The Return of the Slaves a 12-hours durational performance in the slave dungeon of Elmina Castle.
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