Thursday, 25 September 2014

In The Case Of Books II- Nairobi


Last week saw the culmination of the 2nd edition of my library performance project In The Case of Books. How fun was it!!! I will do a proper write-up soon but for now here are some pictures, a link to the video and other related articles.
I would like to thank the following participants...you guys maan...nothing but love!

 Mark Kiarie
Joel Lukhovi
Ondi Madete
Awuor Onyango
Maral Bolouri
Phyllis Muthony
Anisha Soff
Ricky Matthews Githinji
Daniel Muli
Neo Musangi
Chebet Mutai
Clifton Gachagua
Peterson Kamwathi
Okwiri Oduor
Ayany Primary School
Fountain Junior Primary School
Komarock Primary School
Kuona Trust
Start-a-Library
We got a mention on UP magazine!
And the video is out. Watch here:
And read about last years performance on Frieze magazine which also appeared on Chimurenga!



































Thursday, 14 August 2014

Of Death and Other Stories

                                                                                   Inmates II by Jackie Karuti
These have been days of turmoil. Sleep eludes me constantly while death beckons endlessly. Award-winning thesis material I tell you. So I was watching Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows-Part II yesterday, like normal people do (do not judge) and at one point Hermione reads out the story of the Deathly hallows, about death’s encounter with the three brothers. Remarkable magical story. And because you rolled your eyes I will not tell it to you. Watch the movie, better yet read the book. It reminded me of The Book Thief which is a story narrated by death himself. We know it’s a he because of the manly voice otherwise death could easily be a she. Or queer, but like Eddie Izzard queer because death certainly has a sense of humor and can be quite dramatic at times. Then again in these liberal, non-conforming, gender-bending times one can never tell.
Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes (husband & wife in my shelf together)

I can’t remember the last time I read so much and so randomly like I’ve done in the last three months. I say randomly because there really was no particular order, time or place for whatever I was reading. From fiction, memoirs, reviews, art books, periodicals & catalogs, poems, my own writing, ebooks, other blogs and even book covers. I do that in passing and try figure out what the book is about. A good deal of these books were given to me by friends, recommended, while some I bought and others I mysteriously found/ stumbled upon. I feel generous so I’ll share my top eleven. Because ‘Top Ten’ is too mainstream.

  1.       Nayirrah Waheed-Salt  (contemporary poetry)
  2.       Dylan Thomas-Collected poems (classic poetry) 
  3.       James Joyce-The Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man (classic autobiographical novel)
  4.       John Green-Looking for Alaska (young adult fiction)  
  5.       Margaret Atwood-Cat’s Eye (autobio-fictional novel) That's a made-up word. Feel free to disregard it 
  6.       Alexander McCall Smith-The Lost Art of Gratitude (fiction)
  7.       Koyo Kouoh-An ideal Library (art book)
  8.       Raw Material Company-Condition Report (art book) 
  9.       Issa Samb and the undecipherable form-Work by Dakar based legendary artist, Issa Samb (art book)  
  10.   Review of My Bed, the controversial installation by Bri-ish artist Tracey Emin. Say what you want about        her but that work is the truth. Try engage with it from a non-judgemental p.o.v
  11.   Okwiri Oduor-My Father’s Head (short story, like seriously 8pages only). The descriptive style in her work is spot on, beautiful and witty. It will even  make you turn your head in mild disgust in some areas. I’m stoked because I recently got to meet her, in my studio, just a few weeks after clinching the Caine Prize for African Writing award. Not me but her. As in she clinched the award not me. Clinched… somehow I’m not sure this word means what I think it means…

That improv reading spot in the studio
     The challenge for this month is to read atleast two classics. I have a Dostoyevsky I keep in my studio library. It's a great conversation starter. Now normally I would never keep books that I value there in the open but for some reason I'm not worried about someone nicking Crime & Punishment. It would annoy you. Very challenging book. So I might just pounce on that one. The other one that I'm already 3/4 way through is The Invisible Man by H.G Wells. Not to be confused with Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. And then maybe I'll throw in one of the Bronte sisters...obviously. 

In regards to more contemporary work, I'm looking for a Haruki Murakami. Yes, the uber awesome writer from Kyoto. Short stories, poetry, novels...anything. But I'll be one happy lass if I can get his latest book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki & His years of Pilgrimage. I dare you to not acknowledge that awesome title. 

     Seriously though of late I've been drawn towards coming of age stories like John Greens's Alaska that highlight lots of rebellion, teen angst, anarchy, raging hormones and that awkward stage when  you can't seem to fit in anywhere. I thought I was just a late-bloomer, which I totally am, for devouring what most seasoned readers and writers would term as mindless teen pulp at my very advanced non-teen age. I beg to differ. For some reason this books mean so much more to me now than they would ever have when I was that age. And isn't that the point ultimately? To read something that stirs up something inside you, to read something that disturbs you, to read something that evokes emotion in whatever form and yes, to read something that makes you feel infinite...?

                Book installation , Where Books Go to Die, 2014
      Rumour has it that Murakami is well on his way to being nominated or even possibly clinching (again with the clinching) the Nobel Prize for Literature. We shall see. My next challenge is African Literature. It shames me how little I've collected or read. Suggestions are welcome.


Friday, 20 June 2014

A Great Perhaps


Circa 1920
Colored pencils, ink & pastels on paper 2014
Residency is over. No more easy nights filled with kwaito music three doors down, independent films and plays downstairs, Black label pints, chicken and feta cheese pizza at The chalkboard, coffee and jazz  at Patapata, late-night exhibitions and thrift shopping at Arts on Main...Maboneng!! Really chill place. Back home to normalcy…not always a good thing. Traveling, somebody said, leaves you speechless then turns you into a storyteller. This just proves my point. 
Do you sometimes regret something immediately you say it? I thought so. Today In my feeble attempt to be funny I think I might have freaked someone out by suggesting I’m off to slash my wrists. *Pause for effect*. I really can’t afford to be making such comments while creating a body of work showing people hanging from nooses. Ok, don’t be weird now. Immediately I hit ‘send’ I face-palmed myself. Ah well…worst case scenario, she’ll probably unfriend me or send me survival self-help pamphlets. At least I can practice my paper-crane making skills with those.

Fordsburg Studios aka The Bag Factory. Johannesburg
I digress. Back to my residency. It was at the Bag Factory in Johannesburg for roughly 6weeks. It unfortunately came to an abrupt halt last week thanks to fucked up immigration laws. Couldn’t get my visa extended and so I had to come back two weeks early and consequently miss my exhibition on Thursday.
I feel like I left everything hanging. Accurate choice of words again. I wish I had more time to fully execute the ideas I had in my head especially with my video and hanging pieces. I however really enjoyed working on a material I don’t effectively use, paper, as well as ink, colored pencils and wood. I started off with some sketches and gradually added other media like pastels, ink and my iconic yellow paint but eventually the simplicity of colored pencils and ink on fabriano paper won me over.
The process

'You are here,You were here, You're getting here' 2014
Colored pencils & ink on paper, dowel wood
The final installation, coz that’s what I see the work as, was purely by accident. I had intended on framing the finished works using fancy box frames but unfortunately those things don’t come cheap. After quick calculations I realized I would have to forego my weekly purchase of books, film screening tickets, red wine and special ciggies and really, we couldn’t have that. So I improvised and I have to say it turned out quite well. I’m happy with the results. So now when I continue with the work here in Nairobi, I will follow the design of the frames I invented. *cough, genius*. I also got to shoot a video performance about a wedding with my Joburg based photographer friend and this lovely young woman studying at Wits university who I met there. It’s work in progress and a helmet is all I can show for now but I’ll give you more deets when it’s ready.

Work in Progress
My lovely friend Delene who actually took me thrift shopping in Pretoria to buy said helmet and veil deserves a big hug. She invited me to give a presentation to her class at the University of Pretoria. I also have to say a big thank you to my studio mate Thato who was such a great friend during my stay in Joburg. We ended up collaborating on work, discovering new things together, almost getting mugged together, partying together, bouncing ideas off each other and introducing one another to each other’s’ friends. 
Where the magic happened. Very Tracy Emin methinks.
12 Decades, Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg
Other beautiful people I connected with at the Bag Factory were Pat Mautloa who is/was such a fixer and more than happy to just talk or offer advice on anything, David Koloane, yes the one and only, who always popped in to say hi and bye every day without fail, Tshepi who we traded beautiful and silly stories with and who always offered to help every single time she stopped by, Thonton with his calm demeanor and French accent and finally Nicola who I only got to share a real conversation with on my last days but whose view on life really made me pay attention and whose input contributed to my work. They’ll probably never read this but if you see them tell them thank you. And hug them as well. They all played a part in my 'Great Perhaps'.
Exhibition poster| A Great Perhaps| June 18th 2014, Bag Factory Studios, Johannesburg SA
In related news, the one week I spent in Dakar during my residency period was pure magic. I wrote something about my experience in my last entry but I still can’t emphasize how good an experience it was. I’m more than happy to share the biennale exhibition catalogue that’s in my studio with anyone who’s interested. Just bring good vibes. I think it’s important to see what was curated as great art coming from Africa and also familiarize oneself with artists doing incredible things out there. Ignorance ain't cool man. So what have I been upto here in Nairobi this past few days I’ve been back…

One of Dennis' Matatu wood-cut prints
I attended my studio-mate’s exhibition yesterday which coincidentally opened the same night mine was opening in Johannesburg. Such an international vibe. It was a very intricate installation of matatu’s (our public transport vehicles) using stop-motion seen through numerous light-boxes. His print work, which is exceptional by the way, and sculptures were not exhibited here but one can see them in his studio. Pass by Kuona Trust this week. And can somebody tell him I raved about his work here. Thank you. I might just get a week’s supply of free beer or samosas.

I also attended a cool gig last Saturday hosted by an underrated band called Yellow Light Machine. These kids are going to be on everyone’s lips and list very soon. 
Yellow  Light Machine in concert
They are too good. There’s a party going down tonight at the Belgium ambassador’s residence…Yosh! Then on Saturday there’s an exhibition organized by Circle Art Agency. Come Sunday afternoon there’s a screening at the National Museum of Edvard Munch, him of The Scream. They've screened War Horse and Frakenstein before which sadly I missed but I’ll try make it to this one. Then next Sunday there’s a reading salon organized at Kwani Trust with sessions to be held by some of Africa’s leading writers. This one looks good. I have actually been struggling with my reading these last couple of weeks. A page or two is the most I can do without my mind straying. 
Stories from Dakar, Nairobi & SA
This is worrying seeing as I could chow a book or two per week. I have to confess though, I’m addicted to fan-fiction and I don’t seem to have a problem reading that. It’s pointless word porn but it occupies my insomnic nights pretty well. It also serves as a good break whenever I hit writers/artists block. There’s really good stuff out there. I’m just saying. Anyway, maybe listening to other people read and talk about books will ease my mind.
As I finish… I received this beautiful card yesterday all the way from India from my lovely friend Kat whom I spent all of two weeks with and it already seems like a decade of friendship although it’s only been an year now.
Love + fist-bump  in an envelope
I had an unfortunate series of events earlier this year with the most crashing being a rejection letter, well email really, from a school I was hoping to get into. It hurt like a MF and I was in a state for a few days plus the other bad things happening at the same time were not helping. She was enormous help during the application process and when I didn’t get selected she was equally devastated. Anyway the point here is, months later when it has stopped mattering she still finds it necessary to send me love from miles away with a declaration of support. So much love for this woman. I promised to have a street named after her one day.

Still on random acts of kindness, my lovely writer friend who traveled to London yesterday just sent me a text saying, "This is a man...who has got your books". He offered to to bring me back Looking for Alaska by John Green, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami who're quickly becoming favorites and 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel G. Marquez to replace the one I lost during my exhibition. Magical book this one.

P.s: She didn't freak out. She replied and said she’s actually on her way to hang herself. Another day paper cranes…another day.
Notes about an unread book I & II 2014
Notebook covers, dowel wood and canvas string