in the absence of things
Vocalist, composer, and playwright Somi Kakoma was born in Illinois to immigrants from Uganda and Rwanda. Known in the jazz world simply as ‘Somi’, she has built a career of transatlantic storytelling. Her last studio album, Petite Afrique (Sony, 2017), was a song cycle about African immigrants in the midst of a gentrified Harlem in New York City that won her an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album. It was also the highly anticipated follow-up to Somi's acclaimed major label debut The Lagos Music Salon (2014), which was inspired by an 18-month creative sabbatical in Lagos, Nigeria and landed at the top of US and international jazz charts. Both albums earned her ECHO Jazz Award nominations for Best International Jazz Vocalist.
Recently venturing into theater, Somi was named a 2019 Sundance Theatre Fellow for her original musical about the great South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba. The premiere production was shut down days before opening night due to COVID-19.
Mentored by the legendary Hugh Masekela, Somi is a Soros Equality Fellow, USA Doris Duke Fellow, TED Senior Fellow, and a tireless champion of her fellow African artists. In July 2020, she released a live album, Holy Room - Live at Alte Oper, which also features Frankfurt Radio Big Band. In her heart of hearts, Somi is an East African Midwestern girl who loves family, poetry, and freedom. www.somimusic.com
Mariona Lloreta is a Spanish-American interdisciplinary artist working internationally in film, painting and dance. Mariona’s work celebrates the universal thread that binds our human experience as it examines the fine line between presence and absence, wholesomeness and brokenness, past, present and future. Her work dives into themes of identity, spirituality and collective memory, while reflecting upon the beauty and vulnerability of human existence.
Recent projects include writing, directing and co-producing narrative film "A lua nunca morre" in Rio de Janeiro which has so far won the Best Experimental Film award and Best Cinematography at Oscar-Qualifying festival Reel Sisters in New York City, and has been selected by Oscar-Qualifying Edmonton International Film Festival, acclaimed New York Latino Film Festival, NALIP's Latino Media Fest, San Francisco Independent Film Festival and Miami Film Festival, among others. Her previous film, “Amenze, in between worlds,” which she wrote, directed and filmed, won Best Cinematography, received a Best International Film nomination and was selected by dozens of film festivals, including Oscar-qualifying Zinebi in Bilbao, Spain. Mariona also edited award-winning feature film "The Ghost and the House of Truth" (2019) in South Africa and produced narrative short film "On Monday of Last Week" (2018). She has directed and produced several documentary films, including "ReSignifications", commissioned by New York University and "Living Together" commissioned by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council in Boston.
Mariona is currently working on her first feature film and she is also producing several female-led, international projects. Mariona currently serves as Affiliate Professor of Screenwriting at Emerson College in Boston and as instructor at creative writing agency GrubStreet.
Priscilla Nzimiro Nwanah
Priscilla Nzimiro Nwanah has over 10 years of experience in the Television and Film industry, Producing/Directing Television format shows including Nigerian Idol, Malta Guinness street dance, The Apprentice Africa, Project Fame West Africa, and several independent productions that have been broadcast Pan-Africa wide. She worked as a Senior Producer/Director for Africa’s 1st Global Black entertainment channel, EbonyLifeTV, where she created and produced many programs in genres ranging from scripted to unscripted; reality, lifestyle and entertainment including The Fattening Room, Sistaz, Tiannah’s Empire, Wardrobe Diaries, Chefrican, On the Real and many more. Her debut film as a Producer, The Royal Hibiscus hotel, was selected and screened at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. She also produced the highest grossing Nollywood film, The Wedding Party 2: Destination Dubai in 2017.
She co-founded the “She Rocks” brand which was created to celebrate women in media, arts and entertainment. Starting as a weekly event showcase of upcoming female artists and honoring powerful women, it has evolved into other media channels, products and markets. In 2019, she launched her podcast platform, “Not just Nollywood”, discussing with industry greats about the film and audio/visual content industry as it relates to Africans on the continent and in diaspora.
At her core, Priscilla is a consummate artist, filmmaker and video artist. Priscilla continues to break the boundaries of female stereotypes in Africa. Her works explore through audio and visual means, topics that focus on Africans and their relationship between their natural, built and social environments.