Posts filed under ‘review’
Publication: Filling the Blank Space of Global Art Peripheries: Measurements of Art Mobility & their Ambivalence in Nairobi by Olivier Marcel
Olivier Marcel takes a critical look at art mobility in Kenya through the lens of two cultural institutions, Goethe Institut Nairobi and Kuona Trust. His research findings offer interesting perspectives and his use of cartography to map out art mobility offers visual account of relationships that exist and might have been missed in the art space.
Filling the Blank Space of Global Art Peripheries: Measurements of Art Mobility and their Ambivalence in Nairobi, Kenya by Olivier Marcel of Bordeaux 3 University
In recent years, art made in Africa, particularly in the metropolitan context, has witnessed a substantial increase in attention coming from transnational institutions. While many researchers have pointed out the deceitful nature of contemporary art’s globalization, this turn of events still challenges the way we conceive the space of contemporary art. In this paper I use cartography as a critical tool to approach the international mobility facilitated by two art organizations based in Nairobi, Kenya.
This is a worthwhile paper to read. Download Filling the Blank Space of Global Art Peripheries- Measurements o
Kenya at 50 Music!
Homages: Judi Kibinge – A Series of Retrospectives on Kenyan Filmmakers, Feb. 4-5 2011 @ Goethe Institut
2010 was a successive year for Kenyan film. The impact of films such as Pumzi and Soul Boy is a good occasion to take a closer look at the Kenyan film scene. Many of the protagonists are not well known, not even in Kenya, and Goethe Institut takes time to pay homage to their work. Homage series started by introducing Jacob Barua to a keenly interested audience last year and continues with Judy Kibinge.
Dates: February 4-5, 2011
Venue: Goethe-Institut Auditorium
Time: 4.00 pm Friday and 3.00 pm on Saturday
This series will screen a representative selection of her corpus of work and will accompany the screening with a discussion with the filmmaker.
Building a road on the rumble of a freshly built and destroyed police building, a Chinese company demonstrates both the power of its entrepreneurship and the utter planlessness of Nairobi. Just like the city that hosts his art, Evans’ career as a contemporary dancer is mostly unplanned. For over five years, he has been “working everywhere, for no one and for everyone”, on most of the scenes in town (Sarakasi, GoDown, KNT, Goethe or Alliance), and with many different dancers and choreographers, both Kenyan and foreign (Kebaya Moturi, Neema Bagamuhunda, Miriam Rother, Stephanie Thiersch, etc.). Nairobi offers so many of these opportunities that Evans doesn’t feel the need to struggle for those international platforms that most Kenyan artists dream about.
“You don’t sell dances on DVD, they have to be performed on a stage. Even though Kenyans are very poor at appreciating art, Nairobi has enough market.”
Despite this genuine confidence in the development of the culture sector, the state of the art in Kenya is still one of a chrysalis. The path to recognition was first drawn by pioneers like Opiyo Okatch in the 1990’s. But, still today, very few people are willing to understand the body language and vocabulary of contemporary dance. According to Evans, serious dancers and choreographers in Kenya are a mere 30 individuals. It is a common stereotype for the African continent that music and dance have since the dawn of time been associated with every event in society. The dance produced by this young and urban generation has little if any tradition to stick to and is becoming more and more independent project wise. Follow artists like Evans to see where that road leads to.
Bonus picture: Evans rests after teaching yoga at the Sarakasi Dome for the African Yoga Project.
Nairobi Mint is a chronicle about those who make it now in town. Every article of this series is a cross-portrayal between a cultural agent and an urban feature. Artists, curators, critics, institutional representatives, cultural infrastructures, places and landscapes will be handpicked for what they reveal about the city. In the past decade, Nairobi has been growing into a cultural metropolis, developing new spaces for art, attracting and inspiring creators. Nairobi Mint is an attempt to inform and analyse this metropolis in new territories, getting behind the scene, in the gardens of events, and finding the freshest flavors growing there.
About the author: Olivier Marcel is a junior research fellow at the French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA-Nairobi). Based in Nairobi since 2009, he is working on cultural developments in Nairobi. More on his blog: Nairobi, Cultural Metropolis.
“Nairobi is a land of opportunities. But Kenyan society doesn’t believe in art and artists are used to shying away. They should sensitize themselves to the fact that they are key decision makers.” Jacob Oketch
It is a common discourse amongst wananchi that culture in Kenya is still a rural asset and that the city is only a den of vice. However, in recent years, Nairobi has seen art spaces expand and a whole host of cultural agents invest in them, making Nairobi a cultural metropolis in its own right. But to who is this flourishing activity addressed? Indeed, one could argue that cultural production in the city has had a strong tendency to cater for the expatriate market, providing only exportable art such as paintings, sculptures or attire that represent a limited idea of Africa.
Storytelling is one of those arts that is difficult to export. As Jacob Oketch will say, eye contact with the public is essential. While using Dholuo, he is famous for exuberant, overflowing and very communicative performances. According to him, storytelling is also an art that has an important history in African societies and one that should be better valued. Some institutions are pushing to make these art forms more visible on the kenyan art scene. Storytelling can now be found in different places in town, at poetry and open mic events organised by Kwani? or PEN, or in festivals that occur from time to time (Sigana, Jukwaani, WaPi, etc.).
Jacob participates in some of those events, but his main base – like a large part of the art community – is Wasanii, the bar above National Theatre in the Kenya Cultural Centre. Despite the sarcasm triggered by the ‘National‘ nature of the centre, the KCC has grown into a thriving hub for artists who meet there on a daily basis to exchange ideas and projects. Polopiatch!!
Before we perceive its actual centrality in the practice of the city for most nairobians, Tom Mboya Street often appears like a frontier that divides the town in two culturally distinct landscapes. It marks the end of the corporate business district and the beginning of the lower commercial part of town. It’s the line beyond which one ceases to see CCTVs, businessmen using two cellphones and enters the frantic Nairobi whereby hooting matatus, shouting hawkers, witchdoctors and varieties of sheng are heard. The divide has produced negative myths that encompass social groups, cultural practices and entire chunks of urban space.
Crossing Tom Mboya is a true straddler. Masese indeed speaks the language of both sides with fluent authority and his life, music and poetry synthesises those conflicting identities. On his shoulder lies one of his sweet babies, an obokano that resonates from the iron sheets of the slums to the leafy Nairobi. The city he depicts sometimes on the most prestigious scenes in town is a land where hardship, violence and injustice is daily bread. From his rural childhood he has kept popular folk references which he utilises to inform, narrate and soothe urban life.
“Monday morning I went to town,
I went to town to search for a job,
I met the police. Bakamboria gijana gijana,
Wewe nani, jina lago nani, unatoga wapi, unaenda wapi, can you produce your ID, toa tribers licence na logboog yago ya gutembea usigu. Ati you’re innocent? Innocent kitu gani ? [...] Can you buy your freedom ?“
GrandMasese – Monday Morning