Tariqa Waters on the art of un-branding a brand

Tariqa Waters is an artist, mother, entrepreneur and the driving force behind the shapeshifting venue Martyr Sauce. She styled her closet full of good finds with our collection and stopped by to chat with us about about her creations, her kids, and the importance of activism.

Q: Tell us about your recent series ‘100% Kanekalon: The Untold story of the Marginalized Matriarch’ that exhibited at NAAM

Through image and color, I told a story of a matriarch that exists in the margins, free of any privileged agenda, where satire exterminates appropriation. The matriarch’s story remains in the margins because it shouldn’t be understood by everyone. It can only be understood by those who need to understand. Originating from an inherent need to protect and identify family and self in a world where no protection is offered and no sense of identity is available–her strength, character, and wisdom exist independent of judgment or a perceptible state of “normal” where everything from style to sexuality remains liquid and can be expressed equally as sacred or superficial.

Q: Explain to us your space Martyr Sauce, what it has been, what it is now, what is it becoming?

Martyr Sauce is a renegade gallery. From day one my intention with that space was to open it up for underrepresented artists in the community to show their work…but how do you turn a stairway into a gallery? It quickly became, fuck it, you just do it! Turn an unconventional space into a resource for others. Soon the space became a piece of art in and of its self. Because this was my first commercial property, immediately I wanted to play with marketing and branding. The name Martyr Sauce actually came from my then-7-year-old daughter blurting out an alternative to “tartar sauce”, a word my son would often use as a replacement expletive and say in frustration. My husband and I held on to it and would use it in anecdotal conversations at dinner parties…“Can you believe this came out of our daughter’s mouth!? Martyr Sauce!” So, to make a long story longer, that’s how the name came about…out of the mouths of babes. My husband and I had a lot of fun with the concept of un-branding a brand; Turning Martyr Sauce into “nothing”. Empty bottles and branding only for branding’s sake. It got folks curious and had them involved in turning that nothing into something. Redefining it for them…what’s in their Martyr Sauce? It has since expanded to an underground space on 102 S Jackson St., which used to be Bud’s Jazz Records. Now, my husband, Ryan and I can combine our two passions, visual arts and music. I’m currently working on Martyr Sauce LIVE during First Thursday’s Art Walk.

Michelin Vest and Bibelobis Pant
RZ Cigarette Pant

Q: What/Who inspires you in fashion?

It’s changed over time. My go tos were often Grace Jones, Bowie, Prince, my mama, you know, the usual suspects. As I get older, it’s becoming evident that fashion functions as my Zoloft. I often rely on my fashion choices to take up space and bring about some sort of stimulant for not only myself but also for others.

Q: What do you love most about Seattle?

What do you miss about Atlanta? Seattle: I love the food and that I’m always over-dressed. Atlanta: I miss the food and that I was never over-dressed.

Q: What are some of your daily/ weekly rituals, if any?

A cup of coffee in the morning and more than a few glasses of wine at night.

Bloc Sweater, Terry Tap Pant & Long Polar Slippers
4 Way Zip Legging

Q: Your photoshoot with us was unique because Angela Davis visited us that same day, can you reflect upon that experience for you? What was it like seeing her speak at Town Hall with your children?

My daughter keeps an old binder of mine in her room. That binder is an account of all of the trouble I was stirring up from age 11 to 19. Speeches I would give and petitions I’d have my schoolmates sign demanding PG County School Board incorporate Black History into US History curriculum. There are print outs of every cover of the Black Panther Party newsletter along with various other pro-black, RIGHT ON artifacts. Countless pix of Assata, Malcolm, Huey, and Angela and even a letter I wrote to Bobby Seal requesting he come “drop some knowledge” on my junior H.S. class…I nearly shit myself when he replied; That’s in the binder as well. Open mic flyers from when I fancied myself a poet and ‘open mic’ was my way of life.

Going through my old binder with my kids is very much like going through my mom’s old photo albums clinging on to old stories.

I’ll never forget my mom driving me, age 15 an hour outside of town on a school night so I could hear Angela Davis speak. It was the first time I ever heard about the prison industrial complex. I remember listening to Dr. Davis’ words and realizing that activism isn’t frozen in time with Afros and bellbottoms. That reminder is equally, if not more resonant today and the fact that when I received it this time at the Town Hall in Seattle I was sitting next to my 15 year-old son and 12 year-old daughter means more to me than words can possibly express.

Q: Who inspires you now?

My children inspire me every day. I have phenomenal kids. No exaggeration. I’m not just saying that because I am their mom, I’m saying that because I am their mom. If I had crappy kids, I’d say Remy Ma.

Q: What’s next up for you?

In May, Martyr Sauce will be a music venue for Paul Allen’s new music fest, Upstream. I’m currently working on a new exhibit “Quilted Northern”. I have a few exhibits coming up at Martyr Sauce as well as Martyr Sauce LIVE.

Jumpmaster & Weald Pant

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