Anybody Everybody Tottenham

Architecture, Art and Men Breaking Things Constantly - Hanna, Artist

November 12, 2022 Jamila Season 2 Episode 28
Anybody Everybody Tottenham
Architecture, Art and Men Breaking Things Constantly - Hanna, Artist
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Hanna is so much more than an artist - I was hoping she would give me a snappy term but it doesn't seem this easy. Hanna's passion and enthusiasm for her art and who can make and access art is really palpable. I have been a fan from afar for a little while, I hope I asked questions that you too will find interesting. Enjoy!

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Jamila  0:09  
Hi I'm Jamila and anybody everybody Tottenham is bi monthly podcast, introducing the good people of Tottenham to you. In today's episode, I'm talking to Hanna, another local creative of many talents. And we're talking about her path into architecture and art, where you can see some of her public art. And there's also quite a little feminist touch to the whole conversation. So really interesting. A bit of diy as well. So I hope you enjoy. So today on the pod, I have Hanna Benihoud with me, do you pronounce the D or not? I was like trying to be a bit French.

Hanna  0:58  
Yeah, Benihoud. Yeah, I mean, like, it's, it's Moroccan. So like, you can put your like the tongue on top Benihoud. That's the kind of like a bit complicated. So I just say, Benihoud

Jamila  1:11  
Okay. The other thing is like, I know, you want to be an artist - described as an artist, but I feel like it's not enough to describe you as an artist. What is What are you saying when you introduce yourself?

Hanna  1:25  
Oh, that's a good question. Yeah. It depends on who I'm talking to. Okay, because yeah, I suppose I'm a Well, yeah. Artist is kind of the easiest way to describe myself. But yeah, I suppose I'm an artist, architect. Designer. Like it kind of depends who I'm speaking to. Sometimes teacher like, I've taught before, like, at universities and stuff. So it kinda depends on what I'm up to.

Jamila  1:54  
Okay. Yeah, maybe you need to create a new word.

Hanna  1:59  
Maybe? Yeah. Well, I suppose I call I would call myself like a - people call themselves, multi hyphenists. So like, people slash this slash that. So maybe I'm one of those.

Jamila  2:13  
Okay. Okay. So let's start with your path into Tottenham. How long have you been here? And how did you first end up here?

Hanna  2:23  
I have lived here, maybe eight or nine years. But I grew up in Edmonton. So I grew up down the road. So I grew up in n18. And now living in n17. So I haven't gotten that far. So yeah, so I've known Tottenham for many, many years. And yeah, so we moved here about eight or nine years ago, and it's been fantastic. I love it here.

Jamila  2:52  
So why did you leave beautiful Edmonton? Actually, like on a sidenote and whenever people say that, Oh, Tottenham, I'm like, No, Edmonton. is the dodgy area.

Hanna  3:02  
Yeah, Edmonton kind of got bad rep. But that's just where I grew up. I kind of lived all over the place. So I grew up in Edmonton. And I've lived in like, Newcastle, in Lincolnshire, I moved to Vancouver for a while, and then I moved around in London as well. So I haven't lived with my parents since I was like 18 or something. So I've lived in bounds green, Kentish town, Finchley. I was renting so you know, wherever I could find a place. But when we bought I knew, I was like, I want to live in Edmonton in Tottenham, like, that's where I'd love to buy. So that's where we ended up buying was here because at the time, it was still a little hidden gem not many people knew about it as much. Unless you lived round here, like the marshes and like, you know, the river Lea and all that sort of stuff. It's so because that's linked. There's so much greenery in Tottenham that people don't really know about from you know, if you don't live in an area, so it was kind of a great opportunity to, you know, actually like invest time in a long time and money into Tottenham?

Jamila  4:15  
Yeah. And do you think Tottenham has changed over time that you've been here? And how?

Hanna  4:20  
Yeah, of course. I mean, the building work that's happening in Tottenham is like, you know, astronomical like the towers that are going up. But it's I don't think it's I don't think it's all bad. It depends how you look at it. I think like what the great thing is, is that the businesses that have been able to pop up which are supported by more people moving in like I was recently - have you been to loop? There's like, this little cafe is like a vegan Cafe just by Tottenham Hale, and I was reading and they had like their business plan, like, like as a flyer so you could read like, and part of their strategies Like, you know, all these people were moving in, we can make this cafe work and it was about them trying to actually go for funding. So I think you know that where there comes opportunity with more people moving into the area, it's just hopefully that is supported by, you know, people not having to move out, which is tricky, because the prices have just gotten mad around here. So

Jamila  5:27  
it's just like, how far does the pendulum go? But I do feel as well that the council has a commitment to kind of keep the keep the feeling of the area. Yeah,

Hanna  5:39  
yeah. Well, I mean, we just see the nature of cities is that they change and, you know, I'm an architect I worked in housing like I'm not like all development is bad. Like, it's not, it's not as simple as that, you know. And it comes with investment and stuff like that, which is needed. But yeah, there is something so special about Tottenham and it just can't be like it that has to be like protected. And it all can't become sanitary. Or, like, clean and everything like perfect and sparkly and new. And it's just like well, I don't know like no, because that's not the heart of Tottenham. The heart of Tottenham is gritty and like, has got, like, have got opinions and attitudes and like, I love that and I don't want it to go you know?

Jamila  6:29  
Yeah, because I was gonna ask you so what is the special thing about Tottenham? But you put your your fingeron it.

Hanna  6:34  
I think so. Like, I think if I look at people, other people, even if we go on social media, like the businesses on social media or the you know, I don't know what you'd call them micro influencers, like who have accounts about Tottenham, they're so sassy like I love it, they've got such an attitude like they don't hold back and in Tottenham, I think there is like, respect for varying opinions. There are like people that I don't particularly like, agree with everything that they say, but I love that they say it, you know, like, and I love that they have a platform to do that and that they are still like pillars within the community, even if they're not all we're not all singing from the same hymn sheet. Like, you know, I think that's great.

Jamila  7:19  
I didn't realize we had micro influencers? 

Hanna  7:22  
But you know what I mean? Like,I don't know that they should probably wouldn't call herself this at all, but like, for example, have you do you watch? Do you follow n0sh.17 you know, she does like a food you know? And whenever she was like, "This is amazing. This is delicious. This place" I'm like, Mike, that's where we're going, you know, that's what I mean by like, micro influencers, like, you know, because I like it's just so Tottenham like I'd be like, 2Okay, I'm gonna go to that cafe and order that thing", like, you know, so I don't I'm sure she wouldn't describe herself as an influencer. You know, she's, I think she's like, she's a chef, I think. But you know, she just did this specific Tottenham account about Tottenham? And, I mean, I think that is like, such like, great. It's so great for the community to have that kind of micro like little community,

Jamila  8:15  
spotlight put a spotlight on cool places. 

Hanna  8:18  
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. 

Jamila  8:20  
And okay, so let's talk a little bit about your career because I like that you said now about the architecture, because sometimes I feel you're hiding a little bit you you're very, "I'm an artist. Now I'm an artist", but I think so much of your art is so much linked to your background in architecture. But at the same time, every architect starts off being an artist. And like when I look at the kids in my school that then went on to do architecture, to be honest, I can only remember two, they were really into their art first. So what was your path? To architecture first and then out of it?

Hanna  8:56  
Yeah. Because I'm so I was the same very, very arty, creative kids. But no one told me that you could have been artists as a career like, I didn't understand that you can make money from art, which is why I talk about it so much now. Because, you know, I grew up in Edmonton, we do like real jobs. Not like you know, like, fancy jobs like artists or something even though the reality isn't that fancy, but it felt like saying you wanted to be an artist felt like saying, you wanted to be a pop star. It was like unrealistic. Do you know what I mean? So even though I sort of I flirted with the idea, I thought I'd like the idea like my, especially my dad who's like, you know, an immigrant father hard working, like get a real job. He was like, Absolutely not. He wanted me to be an engineer. I didn't want to be an engineer. And so the nearest I got to I thought was interior designer, like maybe I could be even that he was like, "Absolutely not. That's not a real job." So We after butting heads for a long time, we finally agreed on architecture. That was what I was like allowed to do. So I went and studied to become an architect. And luckily for me, what I didn't know is how I mean, it's a bachelor of arts like it's so creative - architecture. So actually, I was in my element, I loved it. But then after, I mean, it's a pretty grueling, it's like seven years to become an architect. And because I graduated in 2008, the recession It actually took me nine years to do it. And then the reality of actually being in practice, isn't that creative. So I was sort of, like, looked at my, my trajectory and looked at my bosses and was like, Is this really the life I want for myself? And, you know, I was making art on the side as a hobby. And then I just thought, "Well, I'm young, I don't have kids, you know, I kind of got the ability to take a risk. So why don't I try it?" So I ended up, yeah, trying to pursue art as a career. And yeah, that was kind of about five and a bit years ago. 

Jamila  11:11  
What did your dad say? 

Hanna  11:14  
To this day, he would love me to go back to practice, oh, my God every day. He's like, "Oh, hanna. Like, if only you could just be an architect. We spent so much money on your education."

Jamila  11:29  
But interesting that he tried to push you into two male dominated areas, first, the engineering and then into architecture. And for that, I would have loved you to stay in architecture to have a you know, immigrant woman child in architecture.

Hanna  11:48  
I know. Yeah, like, credit where credit's due. He's never really, he's never sort of said, Yeah, anything that I've wanted to do in terms of being a woman, he's just been like, "Yeah, whatever, go for it. Why shouldn't you do that?" So yeah, but like, no art is pretty male dominated as well. So, okay. It is especially like public art. It's still in that world of like, development, like all my clients are local authorities and developers. So even though I'm not an architect anymore, I'm very much in that world I'm not in the traditional artists world. I don't have galleries. I don't really sell work like I, I'm very - actually my business is run very similar to a teeny tiny architecture practice.

Yeah. And I was wondering as well about how has your art developed over your time in architecture? Because you said you were very artsy. And then even at university, it kept on being Arty, but how did it move? Because I do feel like your art and especially you going into public art is very linked to architecture.

Yeah, absolutely. And you know, when me and my dad have these tussles, like, he knows, I wouldn't actually be the artists I am without architecture, there's no way like the way I, especially once you go through architecture school, you can't really take the goggles off, you just see the world in a certain way. And so a lot of my work is about manipulating public space, and how people feel in public. And like, how you integrate art with the built in fabric with the landscape, like how you can kind of create those moments that I do think architects actually really care about. But there just wasn't that ability for me to explore that in practice, really. So I found a way to do what I feel I was actually trained to do as an architect, but I couldn't feel like I was doing that in practice. But it's kind of Yeah, it's kind of tricky to describe to explain that to be like, I mean, sometimes, for example, my friends say to me, my architect friends will be like, "Oh, are you ever gonna come back?" And I was like, "I've not left architecture, I've just left traditional practice." Like, I feel like I'm doing what I've been trained to do. But that just looks quite different to like, building designing houses. You know,

Jamila  14:15  
I remember in one of your videos, you talked about this, but I forgot what the quote was, where you kind of said, What's the difference between going to a gallery and looking at art versus what you're doing now doing public art?

Hanna  14:30  
Yeah, I feel like that's one of the things I'm really passionate about is that barrier to entry. I think when it comes to public art galleries, some people will never go to them, like ever, they'll never, they'll never have the opportunity to experience art in that way. And so I think it's really important to have art out in the public realm. So you just stumble upon it. So you just get to interact with it without having to cross that threshold even in a free gallery. But obviously a lot of it's paid, you know, you actually have to pay to see the artwork. And it feels like a bit more of a way to democratize the art world by putting an importance on public art. The tricky thing that I find is that galleries are much more willing to take risks in terms of what they're willing to make and display art about. But when it gets into public, it gets a lot more conservative, which is something that I've tried to push at. But it is tricky because of the people who are funding my work.

Jamila  15:35  
And you have travelled a bit and you worked for a while in Vancouver? What have you noticed about public art or art in public around the world and in other countries?

Hanna  15:48  
That's such an interesting question. Um, I think it's different in different places, for sure, I think, Mmm, hmm. What do I think about that? In Vancouver, there was an amazing mural scene, they're like really advanced, they have this a mural festival. And every year, they would really like support artists, and they do a big call out and like, you'd see really different kinds of artists paint really large. And it was a really great gateway, I think into getting traditional artists into public art. And especially for lots of artists, it's a great way to actually make a living through murals as well. So that was really interesting. Seeing that specific mural stuff there. I think here, we have a little bit more is kind of changing a little bit now but I think street art there was a little bit more than informal community or informal, like an underground art scene in terms of graffiti and like, yes, street art tagging, that sort of thing, which is much more prevalent in London, I think, compared to places like Vancouver, but that's like, That doesn't surprise me, because somewhere like Vancouver, culturally, is a lot more well behaved than us we're a lot more like rule breaky. Like in this  country, which I love, and it's something that I really missed the kind of it felt quite a well behaved city. Whereas here, I kind of love that, like, you know, you can see a mural down one street, but then you'll go around the corner, and then it'll be like, it'll, you'll go to a skate park, and there's like this incredible art, but it's all like, you know, lettering like traditional graffiti, art work. So yeah, I kind of love that you have more of that eclectic mix, here. But then I still think there's kind of like quite a long way to go. I think in terms of like, new build stuff, I still think like it can these new build places can feel a little bit more sterile. And I think there could be a lot more investment in public art. If I compare that to places like maybe like, one of my favorite places I went was Mexico City. And it just felt like there was like art or like beautiful architecture or everything like every turn it was so beautiful. Yeah, me I wish there's maybe a little bit of that. I just wish like that. The new stuff kind of has that kind of life to it. But all  stuffed up (?)

Jamila  18:16  
interesting like Mexico City because they have a strong mural tradition as well with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, isn't it?

Hanna  18:25  
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I mean, you can feel it, you feel it in the city.

Jamila  18:29  
I think it's really interesting the work you're doing, and I'm glad that the council's are supporting it. So let's talk about some places that are still there and that people can see. So what is to see at the moment of your work in London? I know at the moment you're in South London, so I don't know what you were thinking there.

Hanna  18:48  
I know but you gotta go where you gotta go, you know? Yeah, no, I did a bit in South London. I crossed the river. I'm back, I'm back, don't worry. So yeah, uhm permanent pieces, is probably the sculptural piece that I did in Brent Cross, which is called the rainbow ribbons, which was a really lovely project so that you can see that there. I've got a couple of murals around Tottenham, which you can see. And then I think, I think the rest is kind of temporary work. I do quite a bit of temporary stuff. So they kind of pop up

Jamila  19:25  
Edmonton. Edmonton, you've done.

Hanna  19:27  
Oh, my gosh, yeah, Edmonton inside out. Got I forgot about that Edmonton. Oh, yeah, that's I love that project as well. Yeah. That inside out. That's in Edmonton. Yeah, I think what else? I think that's it. I think that's it and you probably know more than me.

Jamila  19:44  
And I think like the nice thing about the ribbons for what you said so if people are interested in that, because you really talked it through through your YouTube channel. And that was like one of the other things I was thinking about your work and architectures, you are very much into with the whole making of things as well, because you really showed the process. Do you think that comes from your training in architecture, the whole idea of models? And also just the different textures and stuff?

Hanna  20:12  
Yeah, I think I absolutely, I think it's just like a love for three dimensional work. Like, for me murals is actually something that's really only come in the past year or two. I always built, I built installations, and I built stuff I love absolutely love building is what I'm really passionate about. Again, it's just tricky. To get those things commissioned is tricky, because they're harder to get in place. And then it's harder to either permanent or you have to store them or recycle them, it becomes tricky. Anyway, I love building and I'm very passionate about getting women building. So yeah, even if it's artwork, if it's DIY, I find it's so empowering, to be able to be like, I'm just gonna make it myself like, and it gives you such an appreciation for like, the built world around you, you know, the built environment isn't done by robots. It's not an algorithm, like there is a human that has put the stuff together. And like when you kind of try and do it yourself, you suddenly look around and realize how difficult everything is to actually make and you kind of have an appreciation for the crafts person behind all the all the things around us, you know,

Jamila  21:27  
Have you always been into diy and making or has this come? 

Hanna  21:32  
Ahem so when I, I've always loved it, but I've never quite had the guts to like, just go for it. And no one's ever taught me I'm totally self taught - again this is why I love YouTube. I've learned everything I know from YouTube. But when I moved to Vancouver, I had I got a job in a makerspace, which meant I had free training, some free training on the tools there. And then the rest was just self taught. And it was more like a need because when at the beginning of my career, but even sometimes now with the projects I've just done called the deconstructed disco. There wasn't enough budget, either I made it myself or I, I really reduced my idea. Because there was not enough budget to get someone else to build it. So I was like, I'm just gonna learn how to do it. You know, and I love that I just I really, I really find it thrilling making stuff.

Jamila  22:26  
Yeah. Because you mentioned Vancouver, because that was like one of your passion projects "tools for women". Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Hanna  22:36  
Yeah, absolutely. So I was in this makerspace. And I was like, I was called a community manager. But it was basically a receptionist. And then I like spoke to lots of people in the MakerSpace. And I realized that something crazy something like 7% of our members were women. And I was like "what the hell is going on here like?" So I was like, right, I'm going to do something about this. Let me just see who else is interested. So I created a night. So we always had like maker events where anyone who was a maker would come. But I was like, I'm going to do one specifically for women. So I created this event called the Women's maker meetup. And I was like getting ready. And I honestly I thought I would have - I had this like little table and I was l"ok i do over there maybe like five people." And in 24 hours, 75 women had signed up. And I was like, "Well, what the hell is going on?" And then all these women turned up. I was like, "Guys, where are you? Like, you all clearly love making, we have this incredible space here. But you're not coming? Like why are you not coming here?" And so it was so interesting to hear what the barriers were like women were secretly sawing stuff like in their bedroom. And I've learned a few things from that. And one of the there's a couple of reasons. But the woodshop is kind of like a gym. It's performative. And like, when you're making something, you know, there's certain tools, you got to wait in line. So you watch someone. And so if there's one woman in the shop in a woodshop, all the men like are like, they're not mean, they're like, Oh, they're excited. So they want to know what you're doing. They're like, hi, like, you know, kind of, but you're like, it's like being in a gym, right? 2Don't look at me, just let me do my thing," like, and you know. So there was that there was this idea of the fact that, you know, there was so much interest, so much eyes on you and actually making stuff is quite performative when it's in a communal space. The second thing is that is that men have much more confidence in getting things wrong again and again and again. And women I think, because we have fewer chances to do things, we're less confident in getting things wrong. And there's this perception I thought that the men knew what they were doing, and I thought the same and it was only till I worked there that I realized they break stuff constantly. They have no idea what they're doing like, but they just do it with confidence. And so I was like, right, "I'm just letting you know, none of those guys in there know what they do. And by the way," I mean, and just really give women the confidence to actually make mistakes. And then the third thing was mentorship. Again, it's like, when sometimes things have been explained to you and guys are trying to tell you what to do. Like it can be a bit tricky for them. And for us, no one wants to be mansplained to like, sometimes they're being patronizing. Sometimes they're being helpful. So I created a mentorship program where women could actually teach other women how to use the tools. So yeah, so those were the kind of the three things that came out. So it was a bit of a long explanation. But that's how it started. And it's now still going. It's now turned into I turned it into a residency. So every month, you could apply for things. And you could do meetups, and it's now been four years running, I've left and it's still going, 

Jamila  25:53  
which is a nice legacy. Do we have makerspaces like that? In London?

Hanna  25:59  
Yes, we do. So the closest one to Tottenham is building blocks. It's just by Meridian water. The problem with it is that like it is an incredible facility. They're really really, really nice there. But they have no hand tools there. So if you don't have anything, it's quite hard to go and make stuff they're like you need a little bit of like experience to go and like really get use out of building blocks, which I think is a bit of shame.

Jamila  26:32  
There is another one in black horse. 

Hanna  26:34  
Yeah, this one as well. Yeah, that's quite cool.

Jamila  26:38  
I was thinking as well like women seems to be one of your topics as well, because I don't know like not topics. Passions.

Hanna  26:46  
Yeah. Very proud, loud feminist.

Jamila  26:51  
Because yeah, so I knew about tools and women and then women of the night.(lol)

Hanna  26:57  
Yeah, girls of the light. Yeah. And that was Tottenham based. Actually, that was a passion project that I did in Tottenham. And, yeah, that was I projected different animated women in different spaces around Tottenham and I actually crowdsourced the spaces through Instagram from local people. So people send me like drop pins, about where they didn't feel safe in Tottenham and I went and projected in those spaces for seven nights running up to International Women's Day. That was amazing. I had such an amazing response from like the community here. It was so lovely to see and lots of others supportive. Yeah, like other women and artists. It was amazing.

Jamila  27:36  
So are you working on something now? What can we look forward to? Or is it all secret?

Hanna  27:41  
No, I'm at the moment I have well, I have a hopefully a piece happening in Walthamstow soon, which is exciting, but it's kind of in flux of what exactly it's going to be. But I'm hoping it will be sculptural which is really exciting. And then another like mural piece happening in South London soon and then yeah, more YouTube stuff and we'll see 

Jamila  28:08  
Hopefully! I'm waiting! it's I feel like ...

Hanna  28:10  
know I know I am I am I am going to do some more this year for it.

Jamila  28:15  
Okay, let's get to some top tips. So what are your top tips for Tottenham places that people should go and explore - it can be like we always have some nature commentary because you also have a dog so maybe some perfect walking or a dog park I don't know.

Hanna  28:33  
Okay, one of the places I like to walk honey is a bit off. You wouldn't really go there unless you live pretty close. But like off Tottenham Hale there's a place called the paddock and it is like it's not quite the marshes. It's just it's just behind and it's like a nature reserve and it's just like this little loop but the trees are so overgrown, especially in summer that like, apart from the fact that obviously you can hear the road it really doesn't look like you're in like London at all like because even in the marshes, you can see like the big masks can't you? Like London's always on the horizon but this is kind of enclosed so you feel like you kind of feel like you're out of London there's this really amazing like community group that like volunteer group that look after it and they do a great job so that's probably like the place I like taking honey. In terms of eating I don't know maybe if I'm going to pick somewhere Lazy Susan is like my favorite - they are a Vietnamese / Chinese takeaway place and they're just round the back of my studio. You can't go and eat there but you can order through Instagram and go and pick it up and the food is so good. And it's just woman and her partner who run it out of the like warehouse kitchen.

Jamila  29:50  
Art. Where do you see art?

Hanna  29:52  
Yeah, oh, that's a good one. Well, um, if you want to see like good examples of like Street Arts and stuff graffiti, there are some amazing pieces like in the skate park in Markfield Park. And you can just like walk around and see what people have done. And it changes like every single week, because people just like constantly paint over stuff. So if you're interested in street art, that's definitely I like walking around there and get inspiration for like illustrations and stuff. So yeah, I love seeing what's new there.

Jamila  30:24  
Okay, thank you very much.

Hanna  30:28  
No worries.

Jamila  30:29  
So I will link your website, your Instagram and your YouTube in the description. So have a lovely day. Thank you very much. Bye, bye, 

Hanna  30:37  
see you later, byyyee. 

Jamila  30:39  
So I hope you enjoyed this episode. And I can really recommend watching Hannah's YouTube videos, I think there's just like about 10. And she's so open and bold, as she said before about money, how she kind of budgets for things, how much you should be charging. And another thing that I forgot to mention and talk to her about what I really enjoy about her work is how she gets the local people involved in creating public art. So she's done it both for the ribbons project, but also for the inside out. And you can see this a little bit in those videos as well. So I really liked the whole concept of public art and then learning more about it behind the scenes as well. So you know - a bit of a fan girl over here, so hope you enjoyed it. I'll link everything you know me. I hope you enjoyed today's episode, learned something new, and let that Tottenham love, grow. Take care. And until next time, bye

Transcribed by

Introducing Hanna
Connection to Tottenham
Getting into Architecture and Art
Public Art
Current Work
DIY and Tools for Women
Top Tips