LOVE FROM CUBA // Kelley Mullarkey, Art and Creative Director
Kelley Mullarkey is a Wonder Woman.
The Art and Creative Director of independent arts and culture magazine Majestic Disorder, is an impassioned global citizen; a devoted advocate for transparency and sustainability; a creative nomad enamoured with the diversity and commonalities found in individuals stories from distinct cultures.
Her publication, Majestic Disorder, is a magazine that more closely resembles a coffee-table book, using striking imagery and journalistic articles to delve into the lives, cultures and stories of our world’s people.
As Radical Yes! is a small brand with an international orientation, we love to collaborate and support other small creative businesses, especially those with a global focus. So when Majestic Disorder approached us about taking part in their Cuba project, we felt it was a natural extension and perfectly radical alignment to our own creative ambitions.
The photographs that have come back from the Cuba shoot are astonishing. The vibrant, quintessentially Caribbean narrative that weaves through the images is so arresting. We also love how effortlessly our Radical Yes! shoes camouflage into Havana’s pulsating back streets!
Upon her return we caught up with Kelley to speak fortunate misadventures, how MD is combatting the fallout of our profit-driven media and just how Cuba’s distinctive energy moved her.
Article & Interview by Alex Birch.
The Cuban streets of your photographs are so vibrant and rich. Did you turn up with a clear idea of the direction you’d be taking the shoot or did the country dictate your course?
Fate really planned this one out. After a crazy series of adventures which started with arriving (or not arriving) to a non-existent Airbnb address that we were given at booking and having to scramble to find a new place for our group to stay we ended up in Centro Habana — one of the capital’s oldest neighbourhoods.
The exhilarating youth culture located in this area is enough to make your full body quake. It absolutely set the tone for the entire journey and funny enough, the jazz musician featured in the editorial, Yissy Garcia, actually grew up in that neighbourhood. So it was actually like shooting in her own backyard. It made the entire experience even more special and magical.
Cuba’s bold colouring, warm light and vintage aesthetic gives you the impression of a lifestyle and culture of another era. Is this how it felt to you or were you met with a culture and ambiance you hadn’t anticipated?
To be honest, I was not sure what to expect. Americans have not been allowed to legally travel to Cuba for the last half century. I had eagerly been awaiting this journey. What we experienced was just electric and one of the most inspiring atmospheres I’ve ever worked in. Cuban creatives undeniably remain on the cusp of a forthcoming cultural, political and economical shift. You can feel it in the air and it’s impossible not to jump on the coattails of that infectious energy.
As the Art + Creative Director of Majestic Disorder, what stories are you most interested in bringing to life in the magazine? What themes and ideas excite you?
I am most excited by deep cultural exchanges. I am so grateful to all the individuals who open up and share their lives, traditions and cultures with us. It’s empowering and inspiring. There is a lot of hate, ignorance and confusion that tries to consume and manipulate us through media and false information on a daily basis. As creatives and artists, we must all find channels and ways to combat this, and majestic disorder is mine.
The myriad cultures of the world should not be a reminder of our differences but our similarities, commonalities and endless possibilities.
In your time with Majestic Disorder, which project or spread have you been most proud of?
Majestic Disorder has my entire heart and soul. I am so proud of every project we work on. For each issue we spend time traveling to under the radar locations to discover new creatives, document local cultures, expose social transparency, diversity and sustainability.
The idea for MD came after a summer backpacking across Europe and once I returned from working in Tanzania for an NGO. I was very disillusioned by our media system, consumption habits and the dark side of globalization. I also did not feel like I could relate to 99% of the stories of individuals featured in magazines. I wanted to read about every day makers, small local designers creating waves in Ghana, peek into the homes of interesting artists. I did not want to read about celebrities and flip through pages filled with over-photoshopped images generated by ad revenue from clothing brands that for the most part operate unethically.
Sustainability and human rights are at the core of everything I create. What are aesthetics without ethics? One of my proudest moments was last year when majestic disorder was asked by the Centre for Sustainable Fashion and UK Parliament to speak at the House of Lords and take part in a two part event called I Stood Up, held as part of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion seeking to give voice to a range of first time voters' concerns.
A lot of the young people expressed that they felt misinformed about the serious environmental and ethical issues attached to fashion production and its relationship to the agricultural industry.
They also felt as if their vote and opinion did not matter in the larger scheme of things. This is common across the board with today’s youth who feel left out, unvalued and in return do not vote or take part in serious discussions that will affect them for years to come. These conversations are so incredibly important for the future of our planet. I think it was a great entry point for them to start connecting to this complex web of global awareness that is starting to gain momentum.
We have to act now. People and planet must be put before profit.
What are three things you always say ‘yes’ to?
Coffee, last minute adventures and education.
What does being radical mean to you?
Being radical means being true to yourself, challenging yourself, sitting with the uncomfortable notion that you may be going against the grain and standing up for what you believe in. It means never backing down to please someone else. Using your voice to create change even in the smallest way possible is one of the most amazing and radically inspiring aspects of being alive.