Art is an important piece of every culture, as it allows us to explore the complexities of life in an engaging way. It is also one of the most expressive ways that communities can share and celebrate their unique identity with others. This week’s #WebsiteWednesday features the portfolio of a cultural producer who provides a global platform for artists from the LGBTQ+ and East African communities to tell their stories: Rocca.xyz.
Rocca.xyz is the online portfolio of London-based artist and cultural producer Rocca Holly-Nambi. Rocca is currently the Head of Arts for the British Council, East Africa, a program promoting creatives and artists from countries in East Africa and the UK. She is also completing a Ph.D. in Visual Cultures at the University of London. Her artistic work centers on the culture of both the East African and the LGBTQ+ communities. Rocca has earned many awards and grants in nearly 20 years as an artist. This includes an ISPA Global Fellow grant, a grant from the European Cultural Foundation, and award recognition from the Gordon Forum for the Arts, the British Council, and the Big Lottery Fund, among many others.
Rocca founded the East Africa Arts British Council program and has overseen it since its start. The program aims to connect contemporary British and East African artists through grants, opportunities and projects. One of Rocca’s main projects in her role on the Council is producing a collection of artworks from East African artists. The project highlights work from artists who must use innovative visual strategies to represent LGBTQ+ points of view in art and “thrive in atmospheres of queer oppression.” Rocca says her goal is to “highlight the artists’ work, celebrate the impact visual culture has on the queer journey, and build strategies for creating alternative spaces and avenues of thought.” In her role for the council, she says she has also helped commission 16 major new artworks of East African artists and curated film festivals in seven countries. This program is a testament to Rocca’s passion for art and the great positive impact she has had on artists in East Africa.
Rocca’s work outside her role on the Council also includes notable projects. Her own studio work aims to visualize “both the mess and potential of new connections” in a thought-provoking way. In one example piece, Rocca uses enamel paint on an egg box to convey what she describes as “everyday queerness.” As part of a residence at the Edinburgh Mela Festival, Rocca helped form and managed a youth hip hop group in Edinburgh, which later performed across Scotland. One of Rocca’s most unique visual pieces is Jump, created in response to the 500 year anniversary of Thomas More’s book Utopia. More’s book centers on the political system of an imaginary “ideal” island nation. Rocca’s piece subverts this idea by showing a looping video of performance artist Ife Piankhi moving through a deserted island while a poem Ife wrote plays over the video. Rocca uses the piece to show the island can be a utopia for some and a repetitive dystopia for others.
Art is one of the most powerful tools we have to convey emotion and explore different cultures. Rocca shines as an example of the .xyz community through her celebrated art and the positive impact she’s created in her career. See more of Rocca’s work by following her on Instagram and Twitter, or checking out her portfolio on Rocca.xyz.