For their event’s seventh anniversary, the minds behind the Manifesto Festival of Community and Culture did some thinking on the theme of evolution.
“The number seven is a very sacred number, and really tied into the idea of regeneration,” says Manifesto chair Che Kothari. “Every seven years, every cell in the human body regenerates itself, and we’re kind of born again, and right now we’re kind of going through that as an organization.”
Manifesto is a community organization that works with young people. It helps kids launch careers in the arts, provides community forums, and even helps fund supplies for classrooms in the developing world. It also runs an event space on Bulwer Street, near Spadina Avenue and Queen Street West.
Kothari says that while Manifesto has always worked as a platform and springboard for young artists, it’s now also trying to do things for mid-career and established artists.
“We want to become a self-sustaining ecosystem of businesses,” Kothari says. “That’s the natural evolution. We want to be able to provide services to the community, and provide a pipeline for our artists to have income-generating opportunities. We want Manifesto to be a place for self knowledge, but the next question is, ‘How do our artists sustain themselves? How do they make a living at this?”
This focus on helping young artists become professionals is particularly obvious in the 2013 Manifesto Festival’s visual-art show. Entitled “Sacred Seven,” it will feature work by both young street artists and by artist and aboriginal elder Paul “Dazaunggee” Shilling. Shilling will also be taking part in Manifesto’s “Heartist” forum, discussing the role of mentors in the arts community (September 21, 4 p.m.).
“When we first came out, it was youth focused, people under 30,” says Ashley McKenzie-Barnes, who is in charge of this year’s visual-arts programming for the festival. “Now, it’s just interesting Canadian artists, people who are doing work touching on social issues…It’s really about the message now.”
The highlight of the festival, as always, will be the free Live at the Square concert, a daylong outdoor show at Yonge-Dundas Square, which which will feature not only rappers and singers, but also dancers and spoken-word artists (Sunday, September 22). Toronto-based rap veteran Eternia will be performing. This will be her fourth appearance at Manifesto, and she says she’s been able to witness to event’s evolution and growth over the last several years.
“I know they’re constantly trying to find ways to create new shows so they can include everyone they want to include,” she says. “They’re constantly trying to find new ways to shine the spotlight on people.”
She adds that in her opinion, Manifesto is one of the things that has helped Torontonian hip hop evolve over the last seven years.
“It’s increased our sense of pride and awareness of how dope our hip-hop culture is here,” she says. “I know Manifesto is bigger than just hip-hop…but I think it’s really helped increase the pride in our city. For years we were notorious for being insecure, for bashing each other. We’d buy the American albums but not the Canadian ones. It wasn’t cool to be a Canadian rapper. And I know other things have changed, with Drake and Kardi representing the city, but I do think Manifesto has been a slap in the face of our insecurities to remind us that we are talented, we are powerful and we belong on the international hip-hop scene.”