Het HEM’s opening chapter tells the story of Edson Sabajo and Guillaume Schmidt: a creative entrepreneurial duo known for their successful streetwear and lifestyle brand Patta.
Deeply rooted in hip-hop culture, Sabajo and Schmidt are among the cultural vanguard of Amsterdam. As facilitators, they are in constant contact with their artistic and musical environment, and give a face to a new generation of ‘homo universalis’: multitalented makers, in no way bound to a single form, discipline or artistic expression, venturing off the beaten tracks and away from standard platforms to create ripe conditions for realising their ideas.
‘Music is at the heart of everything we do,’ says Guillaume. ‘One of the basic principles of hip-hop is that you are unique: that you distinguish yourself from the rest and that you’re your own person.’ This is reflected in the music and rap texts, but also in clothing and in the overall lifestyle. Much more than a popular music genre, hip-hop takes the form of a philosophy of life, in which social awareness, brotherhood and a do-it-yourself creativity are intertwined.
Culture takes shape in communities. It develops through inspiration, interaction and the integration of new ideas. Through different historical periods, across various cultures and geographical influences, and among friends, family and kindred spirits. James Brown’s motto weaves a common thread through CHAPTER 1NE, which explores the nature of culture as something that is fluid and passed from one person to another. In addition, the famous words of the ‘Godfather of Soul’ – who regularly used his unique voice to express his political and social beliefs – also relate to Sabajo and Schmidt’s personal motivation to make a lasting social contribution through their entrepreneurship.
Stemming from hip-hop culture, this group exhibition focuses on the artistic language of sampling and assemblage, and on the philosophy of learning through doing as the basis for the emergence of new cultural narratives. The artworks unfold a layered story about the role of communities and the rise of a powerful and expressive urban culture, developing beyond the realm of the establishment and its conventional cultural venues. The programme zooms in on three specific aspects.
First, the method of breaking, sampling and assemblage as an artistic language and modus operandi to create something new based on the work of others. Aware of standing on the shoulders of giants, this sampling culture honours icons from the past through the free appropriation of references and quotes, and places Western concepts about originality and creative genius in a broader perspective.
As a counterculture, developing outside the established cultural venues, hip-hop has grown from a philosophy of learning through doing. Working independently from such institutions, cooperation, brotherhood and mutual support are an important engine for exploring new terrains. The community is therefore an essential hothouse for creativity, providing makers with the encouragement and incentive needed to make something out of nothing.
The third aspect lies within the roots of this culture, a complex story of migration and the representation of role models of colour. The body itself functions as an instrument of self-expression, as an anchor for rapprochement and social cohesion, but also as a beacon of conflict. All to often, individuals are held responsible for the image and reputation of an entire group, while this is based solely on skin colour or ethnicity. By exposing ourselves to diverse stories, examples and role models, we aim to break ingrained mechanisms of rash and often harmful assumptions.