In 2007, Che Kothari and Ryan Paterson, along with a group of like-minded creatives, decided to break bread and discuss the present and future state of the arts in Toronto. Who would have known that the cumulative discussions that took place between those who gathered that day would result in an annual festival that continues to celebrate the many facets of hip-hop and beyond, to this day?
Manifesto Community Projects, aka Manifesto, arose from the sheer frustration of misrepresentation in the urban arts sector, which is something that continues to be a battle royale of sorts in Canada. The youngsters in the community wanted to see themselves reflected creatively— and rightfully so. They wanted to see what they knew and understood to be inspiring, empowering, and straight-up dope.
What started as a foundation to bind together the creative ties across Toronto has become a festival and beloved community endeavor in Canada. Over the past 10 years, Manifesto has enlisted the assistance of musical luminaries such as Phonte, Slakah the Beatchild, Ryan Leslie, Rakim, Saukrates, Melanie Fiona, Tanika Charles, 9th Wonder, Shi Wisdom, Bilal, and many, many more. This year, Daniel Caesar, Adria Kain, Boi-1da, BJ the Chicago Kid, A Tribe Called Red, Montreal’s own mixmaster Kaytranada, and hip-hop frontman Anderson .Paak juiced up the attendees at various stages around Toronto. And the focus isn’t solely on the musical aspect of what Manifesto provides, but their stellar programming. Manifesto partnered with Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) for a screening of Noel Clarke’s KiDULTHOOD and AuDULTHOOD, had a networking brunch, DJ workshops, and a free concert in the downtown square.
The Summit discussion panels leave attendees with thought-provoking takeaways every time. From what I attended, this year was no different. Manifesto's founders feel that it is important to have a frank discussion about the arts and provide safe spaces that represent the diverse attendees. With the help of supermodel Stacie McKenzie and writer/producer/host Nam Kiwanuka, we learned about individual battles behind the veil of success. Director X discussed the importance of being focused and persistent with your goals, and a full female-driven panel discussed the highs and lows of being women in media. Che Kothari, Manifesto co-founder, stated, “There are so many important voices that are too often marginalized, and having a safe space for these voices to be shared and heard by more people is of crucial importance — and we push ourselves every year to work towards more inclusivity.”
When I asked Che about the future of Manifesto, he said, “As we continue on our journey, we will further flesh out all areas of our methodology, both through our own work but also in deep meaningful partnership with other individuals and organizations locally and internationally.” What struck me with this statement is that the link between community and the arts is essential, regardless of where you reside. Having key festivals like NXNW, NXNE, Revolt Music Conference (to name a few), and Manifesto are enriching to attendees — the art lovers and beyond.
Manifesto not only sets out to entertain, but to uplift, encourage, and inspire. They live by the methodology of incubate — learn your purpose and who you are; elevate — share creative expressions through art, dance, music, etc.; and generate — turn everything learned into a financially sustainable product for the artist and community. In the past 10 years Manifesto has done just that, and they plan to continue forging their path.
What does Kothari say is on the horizon for the festival? “The next 10 years of Manifesto is about further realizing the full methodology and continuing to spread love by every means necessary.”
To find out more about Manifesto, visit their website.