Creativity Found: finding creativity later in life

JP Kalonji – art and social change

August 06, 2023 Claire Murigande/Jean-Philippe Kalonji Episode 80
Creativity Found: finding creativity later in life
JP Kalonji – art and social change
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Art, life and advocacy
In this guest episode of the Narratives of Purpose podcast, Claire Murigande  discusses with editorial illustrator Jean-Philippe Kalonji the role artists and culture play in social change.
JP is an illustrator, comic artist, and painter stationed in the beautiful city of Geneva, Switzerland. We're taking a stroll down memory lane, reminiscing about JP's earliest days of falling in love with art, navigating his way through the practices that he's grown to adore, and recounting the hurdles he's had to leap over. This is a tale of passion merged with practicality as JP shares how his artistry beautifully intertwines with his routine life, and how it has the potential to spark social change.

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Researched, edited and produced by Claire Waite Brown
Music: Day Trips by Ketsa Undercover / Ketsa Creative Commons License Free Music Archive - Ketsa - Day Trips
Artworks: Emily Portnoi emilyportnoi.co.uk
Photo: Ella Pallet


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Speaker 1:

Hi. I'm Claire, founder of creativity found, a community for creative learners and educate connecting

Speaker 2:

adults who wants to find a creative outlet with the artists and crafters who can help them do so. With workshops, courses, online events, and kids. For this podcast, I chat with people who have found or re found their creativity as adults. We'll explore their childhood experiences of the arts, discuss how they came to the artistic practices they now love, and consider the barriers they may have experienced between the two. We'll also explore what it is that people value and gain from their newfound artistic pursuits. And how their creative lives in which they're practical, necessary everyday lives.

Speaker 3:

I have invited some hot loss shows that I admire and think you might like to make guest appearances on the creatively found podcast feed. I have chosen an episode from each show that communicates something of the creativity found ethos. Please enjoy, and I hope you're inspired to listen to more episodes by today's guest podcaster.

Speaker 4:

Hello, and welcome to a new episode of Directors of Purpose. My name is Claire Marie Gandy. I am your host on this show, and my goal is to amplify social impact by bringing you inspiring individual stories of ordinary people who are making extraordinary social impact within their careers all around the world. So if you're looking for a program that showcases unique stories of change makers, stories of people who are contributing to make a difference in society. And at the same time, you want to get inspired to take action Then this podcast is definitely for you. My second guest this November is Raffin Dip Calondri, also known as JP Calondri. BP is an Illustrator, a comic artist and a painter based in Geneva, Switzerland. He is the artistic director at Cevitas Maxima. An NGO that defends victims of war crimes. JP is also an editorial illustrator for the newspaper Luton, likewise headquartered in Geneva. I have known JP for several years now, and he is one of the many artists I believe should share the mic on this show alongside social entrepreneurs and other change makers. So for this very last episode of our second season, We bring an artistic touch to the conversations we've had all along, specifically around the topic of social justice, which is our focus this month. Do take a moment to rate and to review our show on your preferred podcast listening app. But right now, listen to JP's journey and how he contributes to social change as an artist.

Speaker 5:

A very warm welcome to you, JP. It's a great pleasure to have you on this show. How are you today?

Speaker 6:

I'm fine. Thank you to having me.

Speaker 5:

So I've known you now for quite a while, but I'd like to to give you the chance to introduce yourself to to our audience. So who is JP? And what would you like to share with our audience from your background?

Speaker 6:

No. I'm a cartoonist, author, comic author, I do a lot of storyboard. I work for the press usually and I work also in the comics world. I did a lot of several different work and and job. I like to to switch from different style to another one. Paper is not only my battlefield. This is what I'd like to say. I do this since now, well, twenty years now, more than twenty twenty five years. I started really early And, yeah, I enjoy doing this, and this is my life.

Speaker 5:

So you just said right there that you've been

Speaker 4:

doing this for twenty years.

Speaker 5:

Give us a little bit of a sense of how your path was to reach where you are today?

Speaker 6:

First of all, I think drawing drawing started now, like like any young kids for me for me was, you know, by passion. And I really knew earlier that I really want to do it as my everyday life, you know. And I started to realize, this is what I wanted to, you know, for living. Watching other artists and cartoonist and and and people who just draw incredible characters or or write stories and they they simply inspire me. They simply inspire me. And when you are inspired, you know, by by these these these people, for me, it it became natural. I knew that this is what I wanted to. I was, like, completely focused on during day by day by day when all my friends was, like, putting out a note to to have fun. I was the okay, the geek, the weird guy, you know. I I don't like to use that that word about, like, geek things, you know. But I was just passionate about drawing and how drawing continued to nourish me and touch me and can touch also like people, like the power of the drawing, you know, is. So I love my job. I love my work. I love what I do, and I feel very fortunate to do what people don't know why I'm doing it right now. Because also I met a lot of professionals, you know, during all my career. These big professionals who now became friends, you know, and the people who used to admire. So it's a long it's it's a very long process, you know, from from the ages sixteen to twenty one to the first time when I met, you know, like, my my first editor It was for a magazine here, a local magazine engineer. You know, we talk about, like, young youngsters, bomb destiny graphic novels, you know. And it was called it, like, Softkeeper, and and the guy was named was Mark Villa. And this guy is I think is the first one who gave me my chance. So I'd like to think, you know, is the one who gave me my chance. Yeah. It was in nineteen ninety two I made my first comic book called Street Nation. It was, like, short story, short known stories about, like, the hip hop world. For the hip hop world in Geneva, you know, when when the movement when this music came, you know, in in Switzerland, you know, in Geneva. So I decided me to translate, you know, all my stories and all the good stories and the good vibes that we have here in short novels, short short drinks.

Speaker 5:

Now I'd like this to focus perhaps on something that you've been doing much more recently. You're the artistic director of an organization called CVITAS Maxima. Which is focusing on supporting victims of international crime. So first of all, tell me a bit about that organization and then you know, what led you to join them?

Speaker 6:

Well, Cevitas Maxima is an independent legal representation of victims of war crimes, and crimes against humanity. And it was built and and and created by Alain Bernard. And I met for the for the story, Alain is a is a very old is an old friend from now twenty years. He used to work at the TV, and I and I saw him, like, many times on TV. You know, like because he he actually played the case of Charles Taylor. In twenty sixteen, he called me. He said, like, hey, JP. How are you doing? Do you still, like, drawing? And I was like, yes. Absolutely. And he said, like, are you are you up for a coffee? He was like, okay, sure. Right? So he's been in a coffee. And then he had this idea. Like, then he said, look. I would like to put some illustration in my annual report, and I was like, but, like, do you want to make some drawings in your animal report talking about, like, victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity. And my first thought in the beginning, it was, like, really sharp because my drone is more, like, not not funny, but yeah. Such a comics, hero, Japanese style vibes. And and I didn't make, like, the the the the the the donation. You know, like, how how can I help you? And I mean, And then he said, like, wait a minute. Then he proposed me to create a a character called Youssef as a little girl. Then she can tell exactly the adventures of what happening in in library. Talk talk about the the mass murder and the the the the atrocity during, you know, the the the the bloodshed. In the beginning, he said, like, create some character or illustrate some topic on my annual report. And this is exactly what I made. And then he was really, really, really happy. And in the world of lawyers and expert and judge. There was a mass big response on on positivity, like, wow. This is this is great such a great idea, Alana, to illustrate this. Because let's be honest, you know, like, with all the problems of the world, you know, right now, you know, of course, it was before the pandemic. A lot of people was, like, in the bubble, you know, don't wanna hear about, like, what happened in in in Africa or even in the, you know, except the people who really work you know, in this kind of field. And me, my work was to create a bridge through my drawings, you know, to put a word or translate, you know, the words or the, probably, the review or the report and also explain what the entity will exactly do. It was very, you know, essential for for put in in light that it's a collaboration with also the local NGO in Liberia and not seen as European wide guys who we're going to to to make the difference or we this this is this is our goal. No. What I remember and and what I always notice from Allah is First of all, it's about the victims. It's to give them a place, a word, then they can explain, you know, and to to find justice. It's very important for him, and it's crucial for I think it's the core of CV test Maxima. This past year's month to five years in the grocery of CV test Maxima, know, and it was in twenty seventeen. Let me read you, you know, what what he said about it. It's he said this past year, Mark de Fabio, anniversary of Cibutos Maxima, journey since our start, and we are very proud of how far we have come and want to thank the victims for their trust because this is very the most important thing. He's the most passionate person that I ever met in his field is. And all all the people of CVD that I work with, I'm I'm really fortunate and and lucky. To work with this with this incredible incredible talent and and this is what I love also in my work because the the the drawing error. I mean, all everything when I've done, you know, just leading me to work in in this kind of field. And probably, I've jumped to your question about, like, how how come?

Speaker 5:

Mhmm. Exactly.

Speaker 6:

I could say, like, I'm not only a cartoonist, you know, I'm not only a comics author. I'm I'm I'm not only an artist. I'm I'm also a human being, you know, and I'm living here. And I I can't be, you know, only in my bubble, you know? What I could do, you know, with my skills and with with my art, is to help in any way. Maya, in a moment of my life, I was like, okay. You have fun. You've been in in US. You you had all those good things. You've been in Japan. You enjoy all that. So what now? If I can help you know with my drumming simply, if I can help you know with my drumming cause such like this one. There is no question for me. Yeah. I'm super lucky. And with the big experience, you know, that I have with Musou and the and the the the cartoon that we we create, you know, with the the crew of CV test Maxima. After a year, it was still successful in Nigeria and Monrovia that some of the artists there and people from the theater started to play the adventure of Musou and they go into the ages to talk about, like, okay, let's talk about our wounds. Let's talk about what happened, you know, to degeneration. They didn't know, like, the the genocide.

Speaker 5:

So basically, being part of the healing process. Right?

Speaker 6:

Exactly. Being a part of the healing process, I was astonished about, like, how many comic book and graphic novel talked about, like, the end, the recollect. Okay. Great. We know the collapse. But now what? What are we going to do? Is anyone who's able to draw a future of it on the good side, and it's the same for movies. So, like, is anyone could show me like a a future it is possible? If someone have the power or the thought to project your mind to the future without seeing, like, this catastrophe, like, when people say, oh, you didn't give a spell, everyone there. Why why why can't you see a bit of hope. I'm like, by looking forward and by believe that no, this is not the end. I have a young girl. I'm a young dad. I have a girl of six years old now, and I don't want to say to her, like, oh, sorry. You're boring. You know what? Everything is gonna fall apart. So just enjoy for the moment because you're all gonna burn. Now, this is my responsibility as an adult, as an artist. Do the best as I can to be a part of the right history and not feed the beast or feed the bad news. Of course, there is information that's very important to say, like, there is this problem. But it's not about, like, avoid the problem or or hiding, you know? No. It's about, like, okay. I'm gonna talk to people and have solutions to create, you know. I'm I wanna be a part of this people. And this is the reason why I work with this NGOs. And the reason why I work with Natal, the newspaper, when they came to me, and they decided to make a a portrait of me.

Speaker 5:

So just for our listeners, Leton is a newspaper in Geneva right. And so you're collaborating with them on editorials and on specific topics because I recall seeing a few articles we had collaborated mostly about domestic violence as well, and the heritage of Switzerland and colonialism, things that were not really known.

Speaker 6:

True. That that that one was a smart move in them. Because they were like, okay. And let let's talk about the colonial thing and said, like, okay. We have an artist, and I think he's gonna he's gonna he's gonna dig it. It's gonna plunge on it. And this is exactly what I what I did, and it was closed.

Speaker 5:

Now in terms of you know, working collaborating with Luton, do you see how your drawings are also participating in building this bridge? You know, you mentioned earlier that you're kind of building this bridge between all these topics and getting closer to people. What is your observation there?

Speaker 6:

Yes. My observation is working with the press is working fast, sketching really quick. I observe also First, you have to learn and and read, of course, the articles, you know, before, you know, everything have to be inked. And approved, you know, by the journalist and the chief editor before the printing. What I observed also is my way, my my different manners of drawing, and my approach is to find the particular details in it that the rear can have a a straight look. And he needs to have, like, two things in mind. First, look the picture and said, Oh, wow. This is beautiful. Second, the initiation have to reflect the general ID of the article. And I learned from day one since now. I loved to read articles because, first, you know, I I nourish my my my my my knowledge about, like, different topics. I'm really here to just make a link. Yeah. I'm I'm the little chain and make that link. But that chain of that link have to be clean, have to be a perfect DNA, you know. In the article. And I gained their trust because my goal was like, okay, I'm gonna make you beautiful beautiful things that automatically you will call me like, hey, We have this topic. We need JP. You have to do this period.

Speaker 5:

So you basically establish yourself as a artist of reference, if I can say, for their newspaper,

Speaker 6:

I honestly can say that. And in a moment, I'm I'm happy to say that there is, like, some journalists. We say, like, hey, I have this article, but I want Colange. Make the drawing for this. Some of them say, like, oh, but we could we could put a photo, like, no. I want an illustration on Palynziq. And some readers said like, hey, you know what? I I buy in the song now because I see her drawing and I read the article. So It's a win win, you know. It's a win win. And for me, also, it assembles me as a, oh, oh, okay. You draw on the top. It serves.

Speaker 5:

I have this feeling that maybe artists in general or even culture at large if you take it like that, the impact in society is not always recognized. Do you see that way or not? And how do you see that evolving in the future?

Speaker 6:

It's a quite long story of how this is not being recognized or the the cultural genre is is not recognized, you know, by society and then being abused or used and people don't see the actors. But during the pandemic, lots of people were in a lot of course, and they realized, like, without all the essential group of people that could run the world of artists or actors in in in kind of discipline, suffer a slight of recognition, but I also open an eye clearly, I oh, there is a problem. A country without culture is not a country. We are essential to the life in general of of anyone. The culture is it's one of the core. It's it's very important. You you cannot put aside that. Yeah. Not possible. I mean, people traveling to go in in in different cities of Europe. In Italy, tell about the culture. You go in Italy, you go in Rome, come on. The city. It's just like, okay. There was a galatian, but the rest, you know, all these paintings to this culture that it's smell it's smell that, you know. And when you go in New York or the Mona or in Africa, it's so, so, so linked to what we are now, you know. As human beings.

Speaker 5:

Investing culture and support artists. That's the message. Right?

Speaker 6:

Yeah. Message is just like investing. Because you gain on that. It's interesting now that you see that Red Bull, this energy drink company, was more into extreme sport and now they turned the they changing their their vibes into, like, artists, street artists. They invest a lot in that, you know, like potentially things. So they they realized the impact, you know, okay, every step, the insurances, the things of that. But artists nowadays. It's competition is tough. But as long as you know, what do you get? If you have interesting to say, you always find a place.

Speaker 4:

This example, you're sharing me

Speaker 5:

that Red Bull is is switching their gears from from extreme sports to artist. What would you as an artist and doing this for over twenty years now, what would be your advice to the younger generation or someone who'd come up to you let's say your daughter, you mentioned your daughter is six years old. If in a few years, she says, you know, dad, I want to go this path. What would be your main advice from from your experience so far?

Speaker 6:

Mainly, just be simple. Love what you do. Be serious with that. Be committed. Enjoy every minute because it's a passion. And at the end of the month, it's a passion is not a work. You get it's been, like, forty eight hours. It's, like, oh, during, like, crazy. Of course, you're gonna be tired at the moment and then you take a break. But you don't feel that, you know, because sometimes, of course, it's it's not coming. The the the character that you have in your mind is not not flawless as as as you want. But it's there is something like very spiritual with with the with the drawing. It's something that is not physically here is in your mind, in your spirit, any floaters come into your mind and it's a little bit weird that it's become a bit more clear. And then boom, you put this on the paper and then the ID that you have in your mind, close from ninety eight percent and then you put it on your sheet. He's just, like, seventy four, seventy five, but it's it's I think this process for me It's okay. We we we call magic. But for me, throwing have a spiritual connection. Yeah. The advice is be committed be committed to what you do and and do it seriously, and do it with the heart. It's success. As long as you do this, you know, with your heart, it's it's successful. Go wild. Be you, be honest, with with your work. And whatever you you could do, it's you. Because we all have one fingerprint.

Speaker 5:

There's this thing I like to do at the end of every discussion with my guests, which is my quick preview questions. I have three short questions because I like to find out, you know, what type of music you're listening to or what books you're reading. So I have three short questions. And the first one is, you know, what is the music that you're listening at the moment? Or what is the book that you're reading? Do you have something that is kind of on a repeat on your playlist for instance? Or do you have a book on your nightstand that you can just go to bed without reading.

Speaker 6:

I'm sorry, typical. Because I drove I I most of the time, I put soundtrack movies. I like I like some truck movies to to twelve. And and it and it depends, again, you know, to drive. It could be, like, from a pop to rock to punk rock, do UK staff, local counter? Is is just one one of the the the guy I'm listening a lot. I'm I'm seeing a lot, you know, some some steel. My man, you know, Yasheng Bay, AKA, most definitely. Some old school stuff, some new stuff also. I just have a lot of new artists. This this is like it's too many it's difficult to say. And the last album probably of a fire modems. This is really lyricist punk rock sound. This is kind of very energetic music. And in terms of books, blah blah blah blah. The book now It's the bible way of g Judaism story. It's called the Setha Hire Shop.

Speaker 5:

The second question is, is there a book or even a specific music album, whatever, that had resonated with you at a specific time in your life?

Speaker 6:

Yes. There is a specific book specific one. Yeah. It's Hago Currie. The Hagakwa is the is the code of a bushi buschino samurai, you know, in Japanese. It's it's an old treating written from the eighteenth to the sixteenth century. It's really interesting in terms of book. And in terms of music, DNB Drummond Place, when I wanna get mad, you know, just like, oh, any fact you choose one track. I'm not gonna say one track. One artist is Delinja. Delinja. Trouble that is.

Speaker 5:

In my very, very last one where I think this is a tough one. Maybe you don't have an answer to it, is that do you have, like, an all time favorites, you know, be it book or music that you would say people need to listen to that or people need to read this book.

Speaker 6:

For the music, it will be my statements. So what? And for the book, easy. For me, it would be the bible. Easy.

Speaker 5:

Thank you so much. Thank you. And and thank you for the time. I know you guys took a lot of time and I really appreciate it. It was great to to connect with you again and thank you for sharing your journey with me and with our listeners.

Speaker 6:

No problem. Thanks again to all the listeners and I've got a podcast and and for you for your invitation.

Speaker 4:

That is episode twenty five, a conversation with JP Canons j. I truly enjoyed this discussion. And was delighted to host an artist for the first time on the podcast. I really like how JP uses his skills and his art beyond entertainment to support different causes as something natural that shouldn't be even questioned. I must confess that I regained interest in reading the newspaper a little since I saw his illustrations. This goes to show how impactful his drawings are. Thank you so much for tuning in today and listening to this new episode. Or should I say this last episode, which concludes our second season. Joining again soon for most stories of social impact from local change makers. If he wants to be a featured guest or you know someone who might be interested, feel free to reach out. You can send us an email at narratives podcast, all in one word at gmail dot com. You'll find the email address in the show notes or you can contact us directly on social. We are on Facebook. Add narratives of purpose. On Instagram, add narratives of purpose underscore podcast and on LinkedIn, at ninetieth of purpose podcast. Don't forget to leave us a review wherever you listen to your podcasts and share our show within your network. Make sure you also sign up for our newsletter on our home page so you can stay informed first hand about all our activities. Until the next episode, Take care of yourselves. Stay well, and as always, stay inspired. This podcast was produced by Tom at rustic studios.

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