This fall, Paper Machine hosts artist-in-residence Kalamu ya Salaam who will be creating his project, BANANA REPUBLIC: Black Life and Culture. Building off the unfinished collaborative work of Kalamu ya Salaam, Keith Calhoun, and Chandra McCormick from the 1980s, Banana Republic will present a spectrum of photography by Keith and Chandra with words by Kalamu in a five-part series featuring analytical and creative reflections on Black New Orleans life and culture. The bulk of the documentation and literary work about New Orleans does not center the views, values, and work of Black New Orleanians. In response, the goal of Banana Republic is to offer inside views, opinions, and narratives on Black life and ways of being.
Bio: Kalamu ya Salaam (b. 24 March 1947) is a writer, editor, photographer, and retired educator. He and Ayo Fayemi-Robinson founded Runagate Press, which produces a series of New Orleans writers. Runagate publishes in partnership with the University of New Orleans Press (UNO Press). Salaam edited New Orleans Griot: The Tom Dent Reader (2018), which is the 2020 One Book/One New Orleans selection. His latest book of essays, Be About Beauty (2018), won the PEN Oakland award in 2019. Recent Runagate and UNO Press publications include Louisiana Midrash (2019) by Marian D. Moore and I Feel To Believe (2020) by Jarvis DeBerry. Publications in 2021 are I Am New Orleans – 36 poets revisit Marcus Christian’s definitive poem and Cosmic Deputy, a 50 year retrospective of poetry by Kalamu ya Salaam.
Salaam was born Vallery Ferdinand III in the lower ninth ward of New Orleans. He is a veteran who served on a nuclear missile base in South Korea. He was appointed to both the jazz and literature panels of the National Endowment of the Arts. He has been employed as the director of the Lower Ninth Ward Neighborhood Health Center, the executive director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, and for thirteen years as the editor of the Black Collegian Magazine.