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Navani Knows Voodo Fe’ Mathelier: The Art of Freedom

14 Oct


This piece was originally published on

When my homegirl Selene first told me she was filming a video piece about the artist Voodo Fe’ and asked if I’d be interested in interviewing him I was intrigued by the way she described his work. I am always up for meeting creative folk. But what really captured me about him was this overarching theme in his work to take items and materials deemed trash and make them something beautiful. It’s this idea of being reborn, reinvented and making something from nothing, that really resonated deeply with me. It’s what initially drew me to other art forms like Hip-Hop. On the heels of his latest exhibit opening I had the opportunity to speak to Voodo Fe’ Mathelier and get the story behind his many triumphant ventures in street art, music and fashion leading him to work with brands from Calvin Klein to the NFL. To my surprise, the most outstanding tidbits he taught me were not even about art, but rather how to live life. Here the Brooklyn-bred artist shares why he believes he has been able to make a living as an artist, what his greatest gift is, and what everyone’s number one job is.

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Navani Knows Art: STRAIGHT SHOOTIN’ MAMAS 2013

20 Mar


It’s a rare occasion when I travel to the Bronx, despite the fact that I have family there. Maybe the occasional birthday party or holiday but that is usually it. My most recent visit came under the pretense of a much overdue visit with my titi. She lured me up north with a bribe of a home cooked meal to accompany her to an art show nearby. I like food and art so I made the exception. She lead me to El Fogon, a cultural center in the Bronx for an awesome photo exhibit celebrating women photographers in honor of National Women’s History Month. I was really impressed with the event itself as well as the work of the photographers featured in it so I wanted to take a minute to find out how STRAIGHT SHOOTIN’ MAMAS 2013 came to be. I caught up with Mia Roman, the curator of the exhibit to learn what went into putting together a strong exhibit centered on women artists:

How did you get involved as the curator of the STRAIGHT SHOOTIN’ MAMAS 2013 photo exhibit?

I was approached by a photographer friend of mine by the name of Elena “Mamarazzi” Marrero. She is more of a journalist documenting cultural events within the local boroughs of New York. She wanted to showcase the work of female photographers and had never curated or organized an exhibit before. Having worked with her in the past she thought i would be the perfect fit to bring her vision to life. So over dinner one evening in El Barrio of East Harlem the event was born.

How many artists submitted? How many were chosen?

Over 50 Artists submitted work and only 12 were chosen to exhibit. The decision was not an easy one. All the work was out of this world. Telling amazing stories through photographs, documenting lives and freezing memories to be shared for generations to come. We were working with a small venue so we were limited as to space and the amount of submissions we could exhibit. My vision was to create a story from around the world… taking Her-Story and creating History one image, one snap, one shoot at a time. We had photographs from Peru, Cuba, Columbia, Puerto Rico, New York, Buenos Aires, Morocco, Africa Dominican Republic and more. Celebrating the beautiful eye of the photographer and the lives of the women used as subjects.

Were all the artists Latina?

No, the Artists were from different backgrounds and from all over. My mission was to have women from different backgrounds unite as one, sharing their craft and passion for photography and celebrating their success together as a sisterhood. We have much to learn from one another. A true inspiration to see a fellow sister from another culture shares the same vision, purpose and passion for life and art.


What was the inspiration for having a women centered exhibit?

The inspiration was all the amazing female photographers within our community that have gone under-represented as artists. Many of these women document the happenings of not only their communities but movements from around the world. Most of the time we never get to see or share these historical images and as part of my life’s purpose is to provide a platform for women to share their voices through a creative channel. March which is also recognized as Women’s History Month was the perfect time to showcase such an event.
Proceeds from the door fee went to a charity; can you talk more about the organization and its significance?

The STRAIGHT SHOOTIN’ MAMAS 2013 Photo exhibit was a huge success. Just days before the event as we were putting the final touches on the plans a tragic accident happened. Rachel Marie Price a young and talented pro soccer hopeful from the Florida area was killed by a drunk driver. Upon hearing about this terrible tragedy we decided to donate the proceeds to The Rachel Marie Price Scholarship and Education Fund through the Wells Fargo Bank in Florida. The proceeds of the event will go to scholarships that will benefit underprivileged soccer athletes and Educational programs for Drunk Driving and Bullying.

What is the significance of the name of the exhibit? Were there specific themes you were looking for from the photos?

The name although a catchy phrase does not have any specific significance. It’s a play on words suggested by Bobby Gonzalez. We plan on doing more playing with the title and phrases to tease a 2014 show of the same. The specific theme was “Women at Work” we wanted to showcase the many roles women play around the world. The many contributions she makes in order for this Universe to evolve. For centuries women have played important roles in making things happen, supporting roles, leadership roles etc. but in many instances they go un-recognized and merely expected. So we wanted to honor her and her work. Whether it is an artist, judge, cook, mother, politician, there is no position more important than the other. Our goal was to have a show created by women for women showcasing women and it was a great success.

How long is the exhibit up?

The exhibit closes on March 23, 2013 at El Fogon Center for the Arts in the Bronx, NY

Where can people get more info?

They can get more info on the show and future shows on my website…. They can also email me at As a curator and artist I am always looking for artist to join me in my mission in bridging the gap between artists from other countries…

Navani Knows Graffiti: Interview with Artist James Top

16 Dec


I first met graffiti veteran James Top via The Halftime Show, when he would come on to promote the huge annual Graffiti Show in NYC that pays homage to the culture. He has always been an advocate for the art form and keeping its integrity in mainstream society. It’s always great to come across someone who is passionate about their art and spreading its message to the community. It has not always been easy to gain the respect he deserves as an artist. It has been a long fight to be viewed not just as a common vandal when he started in the ’70s, but a respectable artist. However, you would never know it by his positive disposition. With his work currently in the Schomburg Center as part of the exhibit Cover to Cover: 20 Years of African Voices it seems like he is finally victorious in this fight. I caught up with James at the opening reception to find out what his inspiration was for his piece; how the Internet has affected graffiti art and why he thinks it is the art form of the future:

Why has there been so much resistance on graffiti being accepted as part of African-American culture?

African-Americans have such little knowledge about this [graffiti] art form, not knowing that this art form is our art form. It’s the only art form besides Jazz created by us. It was created in our community and now it is worldwide and a lot of these artists are showing all over the world. We created it and everybody emulated us. It was started and created in our community and then the media connected it with vandalism and criminality and it’s so far from true.

What was the inspiration for your trademark Afro symbol which is in all your pieces and in the cover piece “You Can’t Shut Us Down” ?

When I was growing up in the projects – I grew up in the Louis H.P. Houses in East New York, Brooklyn – it was a project belt. There were project buildings in every direction. So, I never got a chance to see any art. Across the street from where I lived there was a place called Times Square Stores and I would go in there and see these head shops. I would always see these Afro posters of this Black guy with a big Afro with either a leopard or with his girl who also had a big Afro. Those were the only pictures or closest thing to art I would see of Black people. So, I started emulating that. I would go into the train yard which was across the street from my house and I would emulate that afro. That would become the way I would express myself and my trademark. That was my style, my unique thing to stand out amongst other graff artists.


How important was graffiti art in your development as a man?

My whole thing was to get self-esteem because I grew up in these projects and I always thought, “how do I become different when we are all clumped up in here the same way?” So, I found a way to give myself self-esteem and give myself an opportunity to be somebody – somebody different. I never smoked back then and all my friends started smoking and doing other things. But instead, I started doing graffiti art and today I am here with a lot of other great Black artists and I am very humbled and I am very blessed to be in this circle. For all my life I have been trying to express myself and be someone that represents my community in a positive way.

How did you get involved with African Voices Magazine to do their back cover in 2006?

I had a show at the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration and I met Caroline Butts [Executive Director at African Voices Communications] there. She was saying that the magazine [African Voices] was interested in me. I knew very little about the magazine at the time – that it was one of the leading magazines for African American artists- because my whole thing was to try to get into the Source or VIBE or one of the Hip-Hop magazines. That was where they usually put graffiti art, in Hip Hop and not with Black Culture. But ironically, it was African Voices that gave me my first cover, not any of the Hip-Hop publications. So, Caroline came up to Harlem and did a story on me and my wall called “The People’s Wall.” The wall is no longer up but it featured portraits of Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. That was something I wanted to do with my art – to do greater things and spread a bigger message. For a Black person what better place is there to do art than Harlem? That is our Mecca. That is where Black Culture was born. So, when I came here I didn’t want to be known as that same guy that used to write on the trains and in the streets. I wanted to help beautify my community. I wanted to be a part of the fabric of the community.

Besides being an artist you have also spent time being an educator in the community. Can you tell me about that?

I wanted to teach the youth about this art form. I was the director of art at the Harlem YMCA for about eight years. I also taught at Hostos Community college. I am a very strong advocate of graffiti art and getting it into the fabric of our academic systems here. I’m trying to help tear down the stereotypes associated with this art form. My television show called Graffiti NYC has been on the air for 15 years and that’s where I get a chance to do that. So, over the last 15 years I have been to just about every major graffiti event in NYC. I also got an opportunity to travel to Europe this year as well as Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I was involved in a project with the Museum of Public Art and we did a mural in Baton Rouge as part of the 14th Street mural project.


Do you think the Internet has helped or hindered the art form?

I think the Internet has helped. It has given us an opportunity to get information out there easily and people can see art work much faster. I don’t get much work from the Internet (laughs). I get my work still by word of mouth. But we can only hope to grow with the Internet like everybody else. Now you can see graffiti shows online, you don’t actually have to be there so I think that’s a good thing because people can see something they might like and purchase it.

What is the future of graffiti art in your opinion?

I see bigger and better things in the future. Spray paint is the medium of the future; painting with paint brushes is out. Of course, it’s always hard for artists, especially artists of color and graffiti artists on top of that. So there’s label on top of label. But you know what, there is no burden you can’t carry. So I always go into all these projects with a certain amount of enthusiasm and just good vibes and energy.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working with the Schomburg staff to present a James Top & The Odd Partners exhibition in the near future, The Stay High 149 short documentary by me will be showing at The People’s Film Festival in Harlem at the Maysles Theater from May 30th to June 1, 2013 and in The 2013 NYC Graffiti Film Festival at Gallery 69 in NYC in April 2013. The Best of Graffiti NYC is now available, for more info email us: I will be doing some more painting in January and I am just looking forward to life.

Where can people find you online and learn more about what you are doing?

People can see more of my work at You can also email me at Check out the show Graffiti NYC on every Sunday at 1:30 am on channel 67 on MNN network (Manhattan only) or live steam on the net at

You can see James Top’s work featured in the exhibit Cover to Cover: 20 Years of African Voices at the Schomburg Center through January 19th, 2013.

Navani Knows Dia De Los Muertos, BK

29 Oct

While many people are gearing up for Halloween – an excuse to play a role, dress up, party and eat insane amounts of candy (oh wait maybe that is just me, Reeses’s anyone?) some of us are focusing on what happens after Halloween – on el Dia De Los Muertos. This traditional Latino holiday gives us a chance to pay respects and homage to the friends and family who have passed. One great way to celebrate this year in the tri-state area would be to check the the amazing installation project and event being headed by two dope artists: Adrian “Viajero” Roman and Ben Rojas aka “Borish.” The second annual Dia De Los Muertos Brooklyn event not only boasts amazing art work including an 8-feet by 8-feet altar AND a performance by Ase, but also the chance for you to participate in the ceremony that celebrates the presence of our ancestors in our lives.

Check out the deets below and some sneak peek photos after the jump.

Date: November 2, 2012
Time: 7pm – 11pm
Where: 411 46th street (btwn 4th and 5th ave)
Sunset Park Brooklyn, NY 11220

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Navani Knows French Street Art

24 Jul


I always like to keep up on many graf/street artists here in the U.S. but recently I was put on to someone across the pond which is always dope. My colleague sent me this video of French street artist Adam Sender on one of his recent overnight V.H.C. Colors projects. It’s cool to see the difference in style and work VS. what we have been accustomed to here in the U.S.

When I asked Adam if he minded me posting it or wanted to stay anonymous, he replied:

“It’s fine, the cops all know me.” lol

Learn more about the 20-year-old artist on facebook. Check out the video below:

Photo via

Navani Knows: TOOFLY Film @ 5pointz

16 Jul

There are certain people I like to keep tabs on because they always embody positivity in what they do, or simply because their work inspires me in some form or fashion. Latina Graf Artist TOOFLY is one of those people. Here, in this recently released short film by Jay Maldonado she is seen working on one of her latest projects: a piece at legendary graf epicenter, 5pointz. Check out what she has to say about her artisitc process, choosing materials and colors and her vision for the piece below:



Navani Knows: TOOFLY Helps Launch Navani Knows Radio

18 Dec

This whole year I focused on making moves towards another passion of mine: radio. I’ve been interning at various shows and helping out where ever I can (Shout out to Brooklyn Bodega Radio, Rap is Outta Control, The Halftime Show). I ‘ve had the honor to work with some of the greatest people in the NY Radio scene who have graciously taken me under their wing. In some odd turn of events, my year ends with an offer to have my own online radio show via Urban Latino Radio.

I am completely speechless and excited. So, Navani Knows Radio is born, a weekly show that will focus on music and culture. Specifically Hip-Hop music and how it influences art, food, dance, literature and film. Me and my co-host Suley will be probing guests with inciteful questions in an effort to give exposure to great artists outside the mainstream.

This week we set off our first “trial” show dedicated to the Holidays with graffiti queen TOOFLY. The Queens resident has been in the game for 20 years and had many great stories to share about making her way in the male dominated art form. She also dished on holiday traditions in her native Ecuadaor as well as show us her awesome merchandise featured in the NY Daily News Gift Guide. You can catch her today at the Ladies Love Holiday Pop Up Shop.

Suley and I also dished on our fave picks for gift ideas this Christmas that cover everyone from music lovers to the do-gooders. Take a look at our own gift guide after the jump….

I am so excited to be embarking on this new journey in the New Year. Thanks to all of you that have supported me along the way. Tune in for the Navani Knows Show 2012 Launch on January 6th (Three Kings Day) on Urban Latino Radio from 6-8pm.

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Navani Knows Girl Power: Few & Far Wall @ Art Basel

6 Dec

I am all about girl power, especially when it comes to male dominated fields – like Hip-Hop, graf arts, and countless others. So,  I was thrilled to get an update on the homie TOOFLY’s experience at @ Art Basel, where she participated on the first female only wall there. Check out what she had to say about being part of Few & Far and see some pics below…

I made it back this year to rock a collabo wall with the Few & far graff/street art ladies. It was such a blast to get together again, and rep the ONLY ALL WOMEN WALL at ART BASEL. Super proud of that. It’s been a long time coming since 2003 when the NYC graff ladies got together to rock an all women wall at the Graffiti Hall of Fame. Thanks to Lady Pink “herstory” was made. As I think back to those days, and check out the flicks today, I can say I am proud of how far it’s come. Women everywhere are getting together and creating the environment they want. A cipher that’s at peace with one another, creative, and fun. It’s all I ever wanted, and I’m happy to keep the tradition alive for those loving hearts I meet along the way…

FEW & FAR™ @Primary Flight in Miami Art Basel
Artists: Meme , Ksra , Glow, Hops, Reds, Tatiana Suarez, Amandalynn, Lady Mags, Gloria Muriel, Erin Yoshi, TooFly, Dime, Agana, and 179.
DEC 1st – 4th
554 NW 24th Street, Miami, FL 33127
sponsored by: Ironlak  and Nomads

Primary Flight is Miami’s original open air museum and street level mural installation that takes place annually throughout the Wynwood Arts District and the Miami Design District. Primary Flight is arguably the world’s largest event of its kind, having featured over 250 world class artists from around the globe since its inception, the majority of whom travel to Miami during Art Basel. Artists from all walks of contemporary art headline our annual event, collaborating on high profile walls throughout Miami’s urban landscape. Maps outlining the installation are circulated, providing patrons with an opportunity to view the works in progress.

Check out more flicks from the event after the jump…

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Navani Knows Ladies Love Project Holiday Pop Up Shop

29 Nov

‘Tis the season to be merry and mix our love of art and music, and even coquito! Save the date for the official Ladies Love Project Holiday Pop Up Shop. What does that mean, you say?

December 17th, the LADIES LOVE PROJECT presents its third POP-UP SHOP at the West Village Brecht Forum, 451 West Street from 12pm – 8pm. The PROJECT, a brainchild of renowned street artist TOOFLY and sound sensation PattyDukes of the Circa95 duo, highlights some of NYC’s most creative underground artists and designers.  The one-day-only holiday event boasts an intimate, yet extraordinarily colorful market experience designed to familiarize consumers, media and tastemakers with established artists.

The group of paricipating artists and designers will be showcasing one of a kind, limited edition, handcrafted goods just in time for the holidays! Featured market designers and artists include: Toofly, Good Wood NYC, Junkprints, Vanilla Medallions, Marka27, Antonio Kel 5MH, while several other brands will be in attendance. Music across all genres will be provided by iPod DJ’s Rephstar (of Circa95), Ben Ferrari, Jacina Love, and Slik Nik The Ruler. A live broadcasting of the event will be streamed at, while complimentary holiday treats by Jenny Kinns Cupcakes and Mi Isla Coquito by Millie will help promote the holiday cheer! Exclusive event photography will be taken by Samantha Morales with video by Barrio Media.

Why not do some last minute Holiday shopping while supporting local artists this season?

Navani Knows: Feliz Dia De Los Muertos

1 Nov

TOOFLY celebrated the Day of the Dead in style this year by painting her latest street installation. For those not familiar with the history, The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to the indigenous cultures. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors have been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2,500–3,000 years. In the pre-Hispanic era, the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth have created an array of imagery especially the image of a skull found in various art works, illustrations, graphic designs, and handmade crafts.

I am def feeling the theme of death and rebirth right now in my own life. Lots of endings happening all at once so I find myself surrendering and looking forward to the new beginnings (AKA rebirth) they make room for. Therefore, I am personally inspired by this piece.

Check out TOOFLY’s newest piece which is located on the corner of Metropolitian and Union in BK. Also, she will be featured in the Sound of Art Exhibit on November 3rd.

More pics after the jump… Continue reading


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