What happened when cocoa hero Tony's Chocolonely and creative wonder kid Joshua Kissi rolled up to the Okay Space on the same night? Chocolate-y magic and sweet enlightenment. The two entities have been working together on a project called REFRAMED: Cocoa and Color aimed at shifting the perspective on the West African cocoa farmers who make Chocolonely's delectable bars.
The project kicked off its first US exhibition with us at the Okay Space Gallery in early October, where brightly colored chocolate bars of all sizes covered the tables as attendees had their pick of a variety of Tony Chocolonely's chocolate. Anywhere you looked, there was chocolate and smiles. The only time folks stopped munching on chocolate was to take a bite of the fantastic cuisine—jollof rice, fried plantains and beef skewers—from Gold Coast Catering and plantain ice cream from Kelewele NYC. The room was packed with a diverse and wonderful crowd, excited to interact with Kissi's work and curious about learning how the chocolate brand was focused on empowering Africans and African economies. DJ GFlamee created the perfect atmosphere with tunes that highlighted the region and made a Thursday feel more like a Friday.
The highlight of the night, however, was a live Q&A session between Joshua Kissi and Dena White, Tony Chocolonely's head of marketing for the US. Kissi created the concept and took photos of the people in Ghana and the Ivory Coast working to create the chocolate the world adores. Together, they discussed the methods and importance of Tony Chololonely's fight to end slave labor in the cocoa industry. It was illuminating to have the session with the faces of those being honored surrounding us, looking on, being included in something that has long been swept under the rug.
While the chocolate has all been gobbled up, Kissi's striking photos will stay on display at the gallery until October 31st.
Check out some of the action from the event below, with photos by Polly Irungu.