musician. producer. theater artist. educator.
Ikwe (f.k.a Kelsey Pyro) is a music producer, vocalist, songwriting, storytelling and performance art. Her artistic work is often rooted in her identity as a Black and Ojibwe (Native American) woman. Her work has been presented at The Shed, Lincoln Center Out Of Doors with La Casita, and SoundSet Music Festival. Ikwe is a recipient of the 2018 and 2019 Brooklyn Arts Council Community Arts Grant. She was a 2018 Artist In Residence at The Shed where she developed and presented her work titled MAKADEWIIYAASIKWE, meaning “woman of African descent” in the Ojibwe language. In 2019 she was an Artist In Residence for The Wyckoff House’s Protest Garden Artist Residency. Her work was also presented at the Prelude Festival presented by The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center in 2020 and the Yehaw Virtual Gallery in 2021. Her piece 5.25.2020 is currently on view as part of the Black@Intersections exhibition at SECCA (The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Arts) in Winston-Salem North Carolina. Response to 5.25.2020 will also be on view in Spring 2022 at Buckham Gallery in Flint, MI. She is a 2022 recipient of the Audiofemme Agenda Grant.
" As an individual of mixed heritage, my work is often connected to my African American and Ojibwe experience. I use music, songwriting, poetry, performance art and recently photography and film to amplify the mixed African American and Native American. At times I work focuses on my Black identity, other times it focuses on my Native story.
I innately use oral traditions from my Ojibwe and African American background to inform my lyricals. The mixing of organic and electronic sounds is ever present in my creations. My process involves making traditional hand drums and incorporating their sound in my hip-hop music production. My recording process takes place in my home studio and begins with live vocals, hand drum, guitar, and sometimes cello. I then add electronic instruments and found sound.
My work as a performance artist began by combining history, slurs, and stereotypical imagery of African Americans and Native Americans and creating a new image using body paint and costume. My performance work is photographed in collaboration with Kino Galbraith. The work has expanded through telling story through film. Kino and I’s collaborative work focuses on capturing Black and Native stories, spaces, and land. Through my work I hope to amplify the mixed Black experience, the Native experience, and mixed Black and Native American experience." - Ikwe