WE WALKED THAT WAY
Written by Ashley Alleluya
Let me come clean right now – I don’t consider myself a hip-hop expert; I’m not even a hip-hop beginner. I know a handful of artists and songs who’ve broken through the genre, but I’ve never felt the need to listen to a complete discography or memorize the angst-ridden histories of the singers. What I do remember, however, is watching the fashion that the hip-hop movement inspired, and there was no escaping it. Clothes, hair, mannerisms, shoes – there was no escaping the influence that hip-hop had on everyone’s daily lives. ‘Walk This Way,’ an exhibition hosted by Visual Therapy last week, was conceived to capture this very essence.
When I arrived at the event, I realized my knowledge (or lack thereof) of the hip-hop world didn’t matter to the exhibition. Smartly curated, ‘Walk This Way’ featured a plethora of shoes, artists and songs that have shaped the way hip-hop and its surrounding fashion are perceived, and I was able to learn a lot from the event. It was evident from the crowd that quickly began gathering at the event (at one point, my editor struggled to get clear photographs of the venue) that everyone had arrived to be educated, or to reminisce about the effect of hip-hop in everyday life.
As I walked around and mingled, I wondered how many of the people gathered around me have been influenced by hip-hop. “Not everyone, but a large number of people are either hip-hop-heads or somehow take part in the urban culture hip-hop embodies. Whether they wear sneakers, listen to music, play basketball or are street artists, the hip-hop movement influences them all whether they agree or not,” Shahad Bishara informed me.
Speaking to Shahad Bishara, the creative genius behind ‘Walk This Way,’ I could see that hip-hop has also influenced her life. “I always wanted to do a hip-hop show, and I had a few ideas in mind,” she said. “This particular concept kept floating around in my head so I decided to start working on it,” and what a concept it is: a collection of iconic footwear from music videos that have stood the test of time, all proudly displayed with little backstories and the songs responsible for their fame. It is enough to make any music lover travel back in time or educate a hip-hop newbie.
Shahad was also quick to let me know that she’s not the only one responsible for putting ‘Walk This Way’ together. She credits Kicks TQ and DJ Bonita prominently for their contributions towards the exhibition. “I came across Kicks TQ’s profile one day and decided to contact him,” she said of their collaboration. “Kicks TQ was able to provide the shoes while DJ Bonita put together the written wall texts and music snippets using her hip-hop music background.”
What really stood out to me was the bowl of earpieces that stood by the entrance to the exhibition. We were encouraged to pick up a pair, scan a code under each shoe and listen to the song featuring that shoe. This was a novel concept to me, a very personal journey within a larger event that already had music playing and people mingling. Shahad seconded this feeling. “I wanted to make sure everyone who came was able to listen to the referenced hip-hop tracks, as it is the only way to fully experience the exhibition. The idea was that one could have both a private (with the headphones) and a public (with the DJ) listening experience,” she pointed out. Which is true – the event had a vague silent disco feeling, and anybody who’s been to one will tell you how exciting it is to have music playing for your ears only.
Like I confessed before, I love my pair of Converse All-Stars and I’ve been craving a pair of Adidas Superstars for a while now, but ask me about their influence in music, and I’d have no clue. I couldn’t tell you why they’re famous or who endorsed them, until ‘Walk This Way.’ So I walk around, finding the All-Star featured in such hip-hop classics as 2Pac’s ‘California Love’ in 1996 (why hadn’t I noticed this before?) and in The Game’s ‘Taylor Made.’ The title should’ve been a big clue, but alas.
The grudging millennial that I am, I of course instantly noticed two very popular pairs of Yeezys, but that could also be because I think Kanye West is hilarious and I notice everything he says, wears or does. Shahad herself recognizes that although the hip-hop scene is strong in Kuwait, not many among the younger crowd may identify with shoes that come from the eighties or early nineties, and it influenced the choice of shoes that made it to the final exhibit. “Most of the tracks we selected were released between early 2000 to now to appeal to the younger crowd who may not have been familiar with the older hip-hop tracks,” she said of the shortlisting process. “There are definitely many more songs I would have loved to include but I tried to touch on what’s relevant to today’s audience.”
It’s not only her choice of tracks and shoes that showed how much thought Shahad Bishara put into ‘Walk This Way.’ She also has a sharp eye on the trends that influence pop-culture and the psychology behind the style zeitgeist, from its origins to its current status. She told me, “Run DMC started it all with the Adidas Superstars and we’re just seeing everything evolve from there to current day fashion influencers like Kanye West and his Yeezys. It’s already been crazy with the Yeezys, but it also shows that the public will always want the biggest, best and latest.” The Yeezy movement has definitely taken the world by storm – even I know about them!
‘Walk This Way’ continued to display its collection of shoes and music from the 8th to the 13th of February, and the last night was marked by a series of performances by some of the freshest voices in the region. Frizzy Dizzy, Boom Beats and DJ BoiSkout all put up a great show for those who attended, adding fireworks to an already memorable event. Shahad fondly recalled the impromptu rap by Abdullah Trill and confessed that it was one of her favorite moments because she’s “secretly a fan.”
I think it goes without saying that ‘Walk This Way’ definitely made some big strides within the local art scene. I asked Shahad if she had any more exhibitions planned. She is playing with the idea of taking ‘Walk This Way’ to a wider audience. “I would love to show it outside of Kuwait, maybe with a bigger collection,” she revealed. You should, Shahad – the crowd, the appreciation and the willingness to see more of the event is testament to the fact that Kuwait appreciates a concept that gives them a new perspective on a lifestyle cornerstone.
As I left the gallery descending down the spiral staircase, I was at eye-level with the floor for about five seconds. It was then that I noticed another sign that ‘Walk This Way’ was a success – all the people gathered in the gallery had worn some of their best sneakers in honor of the event – some of these were also part of the exhibition. I may have arrived at ‘Walk This Way’ in my H&M boots that have been featured in no music videos, but I left knowing that my shoes – for an evening – had been part of an important cultural milestone in Kuwait.