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Joanna of Art and Storytelling; On Mirroring Society

The filmmaker and musician sharing one perspective at a time

Joana, aka Joanne Of Art, is a multidisciplined artist with a passion for telling poignant, socially informed stories. Her skills span music, songwriting, production, filmmaking, and visual art, leading her to walk down various paths of creativity. All the while, raising awareness of narratives that both educate and elevate.

We are hyped to have Joana joining The Sassy Family, bringing her documentaries to our platform and educating through entertainment. Ahead of launching her monthly series, we sat down to chat with Joana on Voices Radio to hear more about her intentions and the stories she wants to share.


When asking Joana what her process of creating is, she explains how it's often organically led by her desire to tell stories. "When it comes to music, sometimes a little sample will come out of nowhere, and I'll loop it. And as a filmmaker, I'm very interested in storytelling through sound, [how] I can translate that into visuals". This has led to Joana making work that combines song with a film-like script, leading her listeners down different paths of imagination.

I'm very interested in storytelling through sound and translating that into visuals... having different characters

The narratives that Joana wants to spotlight is led by her belief that "for you to be a good artist you need to be aware of the times that you're living in. And if you have the privilege to get to a point where a lot of people resonate with your message then I think it's really important for you to use that voice to speak and mirror what's going on in society." Joana recognises that not all songs need to be activist songs, that joy and fun are equally important, but she explains how "I can't relate to an artist that only does stuff that, for me, has no meaning".

Discussing the inspiration behind Joana's work, she shares memories of her mother introducing her to the idea that "every village has a storyteller. And I realised how I'm a filmmaker so maybe I am the storyteller of my own village!". This has led Joana to focus on telling the stories of Africa before colonisation. "Unfortunately, I think we took a lot of things from the colonisers [such as] homophobia. There are a lot of studies that prove that queer people were acknowledged in many native civilizations so I feel it's time for us to retell the story."

I can't relate to an artist that only does stuff that, for me, has no meaning. We all need to let go, have fun, and release, but we also need somebody to call people out and the government!

This leads Joana to discuss the complex approach to tolerating behaviour and moving towards a more aware mentality through education that betters society as a whole, "We need to collect as many perspectives as possible and also understand that what you're saying is hurtful. If you don't understand that, then it means you don't have enough knowledge of other perspectives." This goes hand in hand with Joana's critique of educational systems not preparing people for failure or teaching emotional intelligence. "To be an educated person you need to go through the discomfort of not knowing, of failing in public". Joana points out how it is ego that often holds people back from accepting their mistakes, which, in turn, prevents people from overcoming their sense of shame regarding internalised racism, homophobia, and prejudice mindsets. We take this point very seriously, encouraging others to move out of their own way and work towards bettering themselves rather than automatically becoming defensive about their ignorance or lack of perspective.

I want to tell the stories of Africa before colonisation. Unfortunately, I think we took a lot of things from the colonisers [such as] homophobia. There are a lot of studies that prove that queer people were acknowledged in many native civilisations so I feel it's time for us to retell the story of our beloved continent, Africa.

We had the joy of having Joana in The Sassy Studio for a recent photoshoot, pictured alongside this article. During the shoot, we had many conversations about the pressures around a feminine appearance and the "perfect body" as well as heteronormative narratives that repress women and AFAB people, "I think the job now is to deconstruct all of these ideas". This is something that Joana explored in her short film; 'The Consequences of the Modern Prince Charming Tale'. "I was raised by a very African Catholic Grandma. She taught me how to peel an apple so that it wouldn't break because that meant I would be an amazing wife, and I remember practicing that!" Looking back, Joana is now starting to question which ideas were imposed on her and what she really wants for her future.

When discussing the divisions between gender, Joana reflects on the role Christianity played on creating the binaries between women and men "The woman had to be fragile and submissive, she was allowed to be emotional, but men aren't allowed to be emotional because that's a sign of weakness." This construct then leads to damaging labels beings prescribed to women who are assertive "whereas men, when they are assertive, are given a round of applause". In an attempt to breakdown her own internal prejudgments around behaviour, Joana explains how "as soon as I feel more masculine and uncomfortable, I ask why, who taught me to feel weird about being myself or putting my foot down, why am I taught to be submissive". This has led Joana to hold others accountable for their behaviour and how they respond to her.

I'm struggling with the masculine and feminine vibe I have. Sometimes if I feel more masculine it makes me uncomfortable but I want to accept all these things in myself

We end the conversation by hearing how Joana continues to maintain a mindset of "everything in moderation". This helps her stay grounded alongside talking to people who stimulate her mind and provide her with honesty and education. "Every single interaction can teach you something, so getting out of the house will help you encounter amazing people and be gifted with solutions and stories". We can't wait to see how Joana will share her ever-growing collection of perspectives and stories one film, one song, one photo at a time.

You can keep up-to-date with Joana's work via her IG @joanne_of_art and on YouTube

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