The Importance of Recreation in Jarrel Phillips’ ‘How We Play’ Exhibition

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Source: KQED

Jarrel Phillips is a unique character. He’s from San Francisco’s Fillmore area, raised out there in the ’90s and early 2000s, at the tail end of when Fillmore was “Fillmoe.” That’s where he soaked up the culture, and learned about the performing arts and the importance of storytelling. Now he works to give it back.

Photos from Phillips’ latest exhibition, How We Play, have been on the walls at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library since April of this year. The images show people being active, playing, dancing and expressing themselves in places as far as Ethiopia and Tanzania, as well in Phillips’ community in San Francisco.

Phillips, who’s also a capoeira instructor and cultural archivist currently working on his first book, told me that the goal of the exhibition is to show the importance of recreational activity. “It’s not just play, in the sense of kids playing; it’s play through performing arts and a sociological perspective,” said Phillips.
The underlying message of the exhibition is  explored through the role of the “the trickster,” according to Phillips. “Brer Rabbit, Anansi the Spider, and the Malandro of Brazil are all examples of characters who get what they want, not by force, but by trickery and wit.”

“Our power lies in our ability to create and re-create ourselves as much as we deem necessary for all of our pursuits,” says Phillips. “Like the trickster, we are not one-dimensional characters. The trickster wears many masks and we can play many roles.

Phillips told me that it’s important to acknowledge the past in his present work, as he doesn’t take lightly the changes that have and continue to happen to his hometown, especially in regards to the black community and the performing arts scene.

A closing ceremony for ‘How We Play’ is held Aug. 3, 2019, from 1pm–3pm at the San Francisco Public Library’s Jewett Gallery. Details here.