Shapeshifting stories of hope and hurt

Getting up close with Intercultural Journeys's Close Ups: Scars and Emblems

3 minute read
Rucker sits across from Temple outside at a small wooden table.
Ursula Rucker speaks with Solomon Temple, the first guest of the new season of 'Close Ups.' (Photo courtesy of Intercultural Journeys.)

Philly artist Ursula Rucker curates and hosts the second season of Close Ups, a series of hour-long performances and conversations created by Intercultural Journeys. The four part series entitled Close Ups: Scars and Emblems running from October 2021 through March 2022 spotlights an emerging group of Philadelphia artists of color spanning generations and genres. Each performance is accompanied by a conversation between the artist and Rucker, offering an intimate look into their creative processes.

Ready for your close up?

The premiere episode of Close Ups on October 6 features a vocal performance by non-binary (he/him) singer/songwriter Solomon Temple. With an R&B-influenced sound, Temple’s music touches on his relationship with himself and others through heartbreak, freedom, and confidence. Temple hosts and produces Songs For The Soul, a live music event created to penetrate the soul through music, art, and culture.

The second episode on November 10 showcases collaboration between Ani Gavino, Malaya Ulan, and Jasmine Lynea including dance, text, and poetry navigating intergenerational conversations on identity and romanticized love.

Gavino is a Filipinx movement artist and cultural worker, currently serving as the director of Ani/Malayaworks, an interdisciplinary project-based dance company. Through dance, Gavino tells stories from a Filipinx immigrant lens exploring ancestral memories and spiritual journeys. Ulan is a young Filipino American artist just wrapping up seventh grade who has turned to the art of writing as a form of self-expression. Lynea is a Philadelphia-based filmmaker and educator creating work focusing on the Black community and campaigning for political and social change. Lynea’s work has been exhibited nationally at the Hip Hop Film Festival, Langston Hughes Film Festival, Columbus Black International Film Festival, and BlackStar Film Festival.

The third episode on February 9 features poetry exploring letting go and rebirth by Sham-e-Ali Nayeem against the backdrop of music ranging from traditional rabab to modern electronica. Nayeem is an Indian Muslim American poet, artist, and public interest lawyer. Author of the 2019 poetry collection City of Pearls, Nayeem is the recipient of the Loft Literary Center Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship.

The series will culminate with a final performance on March 9 by poet Ursula Rucker and singer/songwriter/beatmaker Jacqueline Constance as they share an improvisational meditation on growth, love, and resistance.

Speak freely, together

An established poet, recording artist, songwriter, activist, and writer, Rucker has released five albums and collaborated with The Roots and Jazzanova to name a few. A Philly native, Rucker cites “being alive, awake, aware, paying attention, and having a beating heart” as motivation and inspiration for her art. Constance, also a Philly native, is a singer/songwriter blending R&B and hip hop to take the listener on an emotional journey with just a mic, her digital sampling, foot pedal, and a small mixer.

When asked what being an artist means to her, Rucker replies, “That’s a loaded big potato question. This is what I breathe, who I am, my heart, soul, and movements. The way I do everything. It means a lot.”

Rucker hopes this series will be a space where artists can speak their stories freely and truthfully, sparking dialogue from the audience around ideas of communal collective, healing, and mutual aid. Close Ups: Scars and Emblems tells shapeshifting stories of hurt and hope through varying artistic mediums of poetry, dance, and music.

What, When, Where

Close Ups: Scars and Emblems. Tickets are free but reservations are required. Presented by Intercultural Journeys. In-person and online screenings via Series begins Wednesday, October 6, 2021, at 7pm, at Bartram’s Garden, 5400 Lindbergh Boulevard, Philadelphia. Each showing will be available to stream on-demand on YouTube.


For the in-person event, most of Bartram's Garden is wheelchair accessible. Quoted from their website: "Large portions of our 50+ acre botanical garden can be explored via wheelchair, though some of our woodland paths should be used with discretion. The restrooms in the stable yard each have a wheelchair-accessible stall, though the restroom doors are not automated." Captions for the program will be available on-screen.

Captions will be available for the virtual screening. Any potential audience members who have accessibility questions can email Intercultural Journeys at [email protected].

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