PHOTO BY CAMOVEMENT
“Before Music was used for entertainment it was used as a primary source of healing and a sublime connection to the divine” - Dupart
INTERVIEW : SURA DUPART “The Artist”
Sura (pronounced Su-Rah) mimics the sound of hoorah, and immediately when I hear the two my mind reverberates a kind of celebratory kindred vision of man, music, art, life, and soul. They are so impeccably intertwined I feel I must salute the hoorah in Sura, the artist, our elder brother. There is a kinetic vibration of sound, music, art, and culture that connects the musician and the audience to revel in a divine spiritual moment that is available to all of us through art. Whenever we need an uplifting ride to the cosmos of our joy; we tune our pods to the sounds of our beloved artist, musicians, and storytellers. They come in many forms: hip-hop, jazz, trap, blues, afro-beats, gospel, and many others. We
find our art is a soothing elixir for our souls in the very tap-tap moment we hear the beat drop. Bam! We are there; scurrying across the room, in a circle of inviting swerves, knee- drops, and derrie pops in rhythmic motions. Yeah, that’s the connection. The connection to the divine God source within us that is found in the pentatonic scales of our music. In music and dance and art we transform to our highest selves, there in a space all our own, we join with the divine to commune and fellowship in the moment. The sounds are contagious, angelical, and awe-so good.
Right there in those moments is where the artist, Sura says art and music are inherently spiritual.
I recently met up with the longtime Chicago artist and musician Sura Dupart and we chatted up his connections to music, art, and spirituality. As we talked for nearly two hours, uninterrupted, I found myself leaning in to hear the prophetic words, and soul nurturing advice from a seasoned elder. As African spiritual traditions teach us, I’ve always believed it important to honor our ancestors, and our elders. So, in saluting Sura’s contribution to Chicago’s art and music scene. I wondered how he got to this place in his life. A place of contentment, restoration, and divine reverence to the universal power we call “the holy divine” or God.
When you speak to Sura, about Sura, with Sura, you connect with a deep sense of knowing that you are talking about music, art, and divine connection all in the same. “Creativity is magic, it allows you to touch other people in a deeply profound way”. Sura says when he creates art he is “jamming, and jiving, ebbing-and-flowing his way through a conversation without words,” and a healing manifests in the soul. “It comes out clean, because you have no idea of how it will end, Said Dupart. That’s the magic.
The magic of creativity.
Dupart, an artist since the age of twenty-three is approaching his eightieth birthday in January. He says when he was 20, he was a bad guy. “I was conscious, but we would do anything; we thought we were untouchable”. He says that led to lots of smoking marijuana, and he was hiding himself from his true self. “Lucky for me, I was always around poets, and musicians”, says Dupart. He laughs, “we did dumb shit back then like LSD; and then we’d go to the zoo, and study animals”. He says Omar Porter Lamah was an artist he was influenced by. “I’d watch Omar do his thing
with art. I got inspired and wanted to do art for myself. Everything is art. Clothes and your body are all art. It helps you understand who you are. It is an expression of you”. Dupart says, “If the art is beautiful, so are you”. He explains how this love affair has sustained itself for more than
sixty years. “I just started painting and fell in love with it”. According to Dupart, when you are an artist you go from one thing to the next being led by the divine to just create. Dupart is adamant that creativity is accessible to everyone.
“Same ideas come to people around the world. It’s free. One time people had a harp. Black man came along and said let’s turn it into a
piano, and that’s what happened. The thought is for everybody”.
Dupart’s been in this game a long time and art helped him see the world. The world helped him see art, too. His work is influenced by his trips and studies in Japan, Brazil, Nigeria, Ghana, Thailand, and Mexico. He’s a musician, sculptor, painter, and drummer. “I get started, and one inspires the other. The painting, the music; then the sculpting came when I got a studio in Hammond Indiana. We had big pieces of stone, 5 days a week. It was an enjoyable retreat for me”. Once, while sculpting. “I was cutting a fish out of stone, cutting, shaping, trimming, then I started seeing rings go around the fish, like a rainbow. I never even envisioned that before I started. The spirit just leads you to a completed work everytime without fail, if you are willing to be guided”. According to Duparte’ “the stone will take you where it wants you to go”. He proclaims he likes sculpture because it is gently disruptive, and yet, still allows you to have a perfect piece of art in the end. “That’s the magic of it, you don’t have a lot of control, the art is controlled by the text and its divine connection”.
Art is rooted in Healing.
Anybody can be an artist. In fact, we all are all artists of something, but artists are not celebrated with economic accolades in this country in its traditional sense, so people turn to other careers. “You just have to start, just like with anything the more time you spend crafting your art”. You paint something beautiful. Changes your vibration. Dupart says he would really
like to see more black men do art, especially sculpting, wood, and metal. “Not too many black men deal with sculpture, wood, or metal. “I am hoping to inspire young black men to explore art”. The classes mostly talk about the Europeans; contribution to the sculpting world.
“Africans in Benin were the first to use metal-smithing so it is definitely a part of our ancestral heritage," says Dupart.
Dupart has a vision for Chicago that is rooted in art, culture, history, and divine
commemoration. “I would love to see the City of Chicago create more opportunities for artists on the southside” He envisions a tribute to the drummers on 63rd street. He is prepared, he’s already started sculpting a piece for the tribute. “I want to have a ceremony, and commend all
the people involved. I hate to see us start things, and then we don’t get credit for it”. Sura loves his city. He hopes to leave a legacy with the old and the young, alike.
As Sura speaks to the next generation, he leaves the following wisdom, practiced in his own daily life:
Read something positive often. Pray periodically, and be grateful for all that you have in the present moment. Stop abusing each other. Be more creative. You have a choice in this. The more conscious you are the more responsible you become. Preparation, gets you ready to perform in front of people. Coltrane would play all day. Fingering on the calls. That was preparation for all the music he put out here for us. You gotta love what you do. The essence of life is love. The universe is unique and perfect. It is dependable. No matter what the sun shines and sets each day. Music is transforming, and can make people feel better about themselves.
Love, Respect, Understanding. I’ve had a great ride. If I died today I’d be satisfied.
Right now you can find Sura lying on the couch in his living room looking at the tell-a-vision. Soon you can sway to the sounds of Sura and the Side Pocket Experience at the Silver Room on Chicago’s southside. It’s one of his favorite places to play.
This piece was written by Shannon Bonner, a beloved auntie, and native Texan. She is the owner and chief curator for Stash Market, and niche activations for The Avenue M Project, LLC.