DJ OwaBowa On Advocating For Equality

Sassy Sisters Podcast with Cyd Eva and Special Guest Orla Adams



Orla Adams, aka DJ Owabowa, sits down with lifelong friend, Sassy Sister Cyd Eva to bring our latest series of podcasts to a close. Orla's love for Djing and hip-hop dancing is something she combines with her work as a nurse practitioner; finding a healthy balance between her creativity and careers. Intent on decolonising the world around her, Orla has spent the past decade equipping herself with the tools and knowledge to challenge systems of oppression.

In this episode, we hear OwaBowa discuss the importance of racial equality within healthcare in Canada. She provides us with an insight into the fundamental steps all industries and institutions need to be taking, as well as discussing how her journey to Cape Town cemented a deep love for South African house music.


 

From hiphop dancing and rap, to healthcare and community action, Orla Adam's is a joyful example of someone pursuing their dreams, conscientiously. It was in 2014, when, aged 26, Orla decided she wanted to learn hip-hop dancing. This led her to connect with fellow creative wonder Cyd Eva and begin a journey of creating events and parties that celebrated the diversity of underground street culture.


Our parties were inclusive of all ages, races, and classes. We tried to cut across these fragmented communities in Vancouver and bring people together


One of the first initiatives the duo step up was a female freestyle rap collective where, every week, they would meet in one another's home to flex their skills. "I realised that I was struggling to freestyle rap in front of men, especially when I wanted to say dirty things about my pussy." By creating this group, Orla explains how she was able to express herself freely in the safety of fellow women;s company. Orla and Cyd Eva's creative partnership grew from there, leading them to run parties and events, as well as run a magazine that spotlighted an inclusive underground creative scene in Vancouver. Talking about the vision, Orla explains how "Our parties were inclusive of all ages, races, and classes. We tried to cut across these fragmented communities in Vancouver and bring people together."

Over the past decade or so, while DJing and working as a nurse, Orla moved between Canada and South Africa, developing a deep love for music and dance in both cultural landscapes. Spending a year in Cape Town cemented Orla's passion for South African house music, describing it as an eye-opening experience."I had no idea that South Africans are the biggest consumers of house music in the entire world! Their house music was dope in 2007, it's dope in 2021, and I always look to South Africa for what's next. It's cutting edge in terms of music and dance and so rarely get the credit it deserves." This lack of recognition is something that fueled Orla to celebrate the many marginalised communities whose work is far too often sidelined.


I always look to South Africa for what's next. It's cutting edge in terms of music and dance and so rarely gets the credit it deserves.



From hearing these two friends discuss their work, the focus on celebrating Indigenous creatives across intergenerational communities is something that shines through. As a second-generation Irish settler, Orla explains how the more she learns about Canada and the Indigenous genocide that happened, the more awareness she has about the systemic racism that continues to exist. "The land-based racism and colonialism in Canada is still not fully understood by white and non-Indigenous Canadians and it's something that's really important to look at...We need to challenge systemic racism!". Having relocated from Vancouver to Toronto, Orla explains how she's been working at a health centre for immigrants and refugees. This experience has taught Orla about "the inequalities and barriers, including the lack of access to healthcare and employment, that folk face when they arrive in Canada."This reality is far from Canada's reputation for being an open place for people to move to. Seeing this, Orla continues to focus on using her work as a nurse to contribute to change and push for equality for all humans, wherever they are from.


None of us are free until we're all free and I'm trying to really learn how to incorporate feminism into a picture of liberation for everyone. It's about removing barriers...and designing a society that gives people opportunities.


This drive for equality, and calling out people when they are discriminating and repressing is something that runs in parallel to Orla's approach to feminism. Explaining to Cyd Eva about the lack of intersectionality in many feminist movements, she spreads an incredibly important message about educating oneself on where discrimination lies in every movement. "It's about removing barriers...and designing a society that gives people opportunities. None of us are free until we're all free and I'm trying to really learn how to incorporate feminism into a picture of liberation for everyone" of all abilities, disabilities, genders, and ethnicities.

Ebony and Ivory Lingerie Campaign - Afro-inspired lingerie for womxn of all colours

When discussing her journey into nursing, Orla explains how it was because of nursing school that she became a breakdancer and DJ. When studying, she explains how "I hadn't done science for ten years so it was really intense. All brain, all the time and I decided I needed a creative release." From scratch DJing hip-hop records to connecting with Afrobeat and Afrohouse, Orla played out in clubs while working as a nurse. A couple of years ago, when reevaluating her career, Orla decided she wanted more autonomy over patient care. This led her to train as a nurse practitioner, increasing her work satisfaction by going deeper into the diagnosis and support of her patients. "It's allowed me to make more of a difference and impact on patience lives." as well as "have more of a platform from which to advocate for health equity". This is vital to ensure each person is met with the specific support they need and deserve, rather than be inadequately treated based on their ethnicity or background by healthcare systems.


As future clinicians and people who are treating and diagnosing patience, if we're not learning about systemic racism in school, then we're going to unconsciously reproduce systemic racism


For Orla, this continual movement between DJing, dance, and her medical career is what has led to a greater sense of fullfillment. However, embracing her creativity came with confronting certain obstacles. Orla shares how "my perfectionism and my self-criticism has been my biggest barrier to my artistic practice." Moving past this by stepping into the fear and being vulnerable as an artist came with another element of awareness towards her work. Orla explains "I have received feedback before about the fact that I'm a white woman from Canada playing African music which is problematic, it just is." Taking this criticism on board led to Orla "reconnecting with myself and my intentions and reflect on what I can do to not replicate colonial dynamics". This is something which we advocate for on The Sassy Show: asking every white person of priviledge to accept their personal duty of identifying and acting upon deconstructing the racism that damages societies around the world.



For Orla, anti-racist, allyship action took the form of co-founding a student-led antiracism discussion series focusing on racism in healthcare and medicine. Having seen how there was zero awareness of systemic racism within their studies as practitioner nurses, Orla explains how "As future clinicians and people who are treating and diagnosing patience, if we're not learning about systemic racism in school, then we're going to unconsciously reproduce systemic racism unless we actively challenge it". After inviting all members of the institution to take part in the discussion groups, the team then presented specific recommendations to the University on how to approach antiracism in their curriculums. This is an example of how we can all be implementing the necessary changes to create equality within every industry.


Wrapping up the conversation, Orla gives a shout-out to the wonderful array of musicians included in her Sassy Sisters tracklist, dipping our ears into the world of South African house music. We suggest you tune into DJ OwaBowa's Soundcloud to indulge in her mixes and join her in dancing in a new direction of equality.


Catch Orla's DJ mixes on Soundcloud and keep up to date with her vibe on IG @owabowa


Catch Orla modelling the beautiful lingerie of Ebony and Ivory on IG @ebonyandivorylingerie


And keep up to date with our Sassy host Cyd Eva as she designs, creates and spotlights wonder from around the world on IG @cydeva

 

OwaBora's Tracklist


Mr JazziQ - Vsop


Branko & Princess Nokia - Take Off


Real - Chlz


Kalash Criminel - Dans La Zone


911 - Damso