Privileged London streets in snow.

These photos were taken in West London, above Hyde Park. Money that built this city was pilfered from various other countries, as we know. But it looks so innocent and serene today.

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Art Highlights of 2016

To shape the future, we must understand the past, to make changes in the present.

1. Dennis Muraguri creates visual art that makes the viewer think. Post-colonialism, neo-colonialism, capitalism, urban studies are all themes discussed in his work.

Dennis Muraguri’s exhibition at Circle. I would highly recommend reading this interview (page 9 of the exhibition catalog) with artist Jackie Karuti  I wish I could purchase the installation, ‘Dream in Alien’ Dennis Muraguri 2016, made from plastic toys.

Dennis Muraguri

‘Dream in Alien’ Dennis Muraguri 2016, plastic toys.  Photo:      Maral Bolouri / @maral_bolouri Instagram

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Detail: ‘Dream in Alien’ Dennis Muraguri 2016, plastic toys/ Photo: Evans Gichuki  @darity100/ Instagram

It’s joyous and funny.

But I also want to know what the artist considers about the significance of these little found toys. – pondering consumerism, capitalism, Disney- type hyper-real? … and what does alien mean?

Jackie the Third (Jackie III) In The Case of Books an ongoing performance work is based around the communal ritual of dusting, cleaning and arranging library books. A key part of the performance is around the conversations that happen on the anatomy of knowledge, place of books, relevance of libraries, and the myths and rituals within participating individuals and the organisation or institution. Please see here.

  •  Installation at The Goethe Institute Nairobi in a solo show titled Where Books Go To Die
  • These images below are screenshots of that installation from videos by Mark Kiarie and David Githonga

Cyrus Ng’anga Kabiru –  TED Fellow 

  • These sculptures are situated in the bounderies of performance, wearable sculpture and commodity objects
  • Artist Cyrus Kabiru constructs narratives through photography, sculpture and rumour – each set of glasses has its own story – its own title.
  • Collaborations with: TED, Tuska Beer, Guinness, Milan Fashion week, and curators in London, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bilbao, Barcelona, Nairobi and Kampala. Kabiru’s recognisable unique work has been re-produced on the internet, it is not an exaggeration to say, millions of times.
  •  What is rarely described, but is actually the most fascinating part of these artworks, are the titles of each of these glasses. Each of these has a unique narrative, yet are rarely referenced on Instagram, news stories or video interviews.
    • The series on prisons; ‘Haiti’ (the most overcrowded prison in the world); ‘Madiba’ (concerning Mandela’s detention on Robben Island); ‘Manyishi Wundanyi’, (where Kabiru’s grandfather was imprisoned as a Mau Mau ‘rebel fighter’, now re-termed ‘freedom fighter’, as part of the recognition that Kenya, as a nation, has for the Mau Mau uprising during colonial times;
    • the series on African leaders; title such as Mugabe, or The Dictator;
    • Individual titles such as: Texas Windows, 2009; Yellow Fever, Chinese Train.

     

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Dennis Muraguri –  Handmade woodcut prints, acrylic paintings, mixed-media installations. PLS SEE TEXT BELOW FROM 2013 NEWSPAPER ARTICLE by Zihan Kassam

  • Socially engaged, urban subject of the Matatu that naturally brings up questions around power, street performance, economics…the list is endless.

(Photo credit Audience member viewing the installation during the exhibition ‘Matatu Games’ Wachira Mwangi)

Muraguri tells us about his fascination with matatu culture. He sees the positive, comical side. He describes the manamba (conductor) hanging off the matatu or dancing in the street as the matatu keeps moving only to jump back on the bus just in time to speed off. “It is street art,” he shares, “It’s unorchestrated, unchoreographed street theatre. You ask yourself why one matatu gets a passenger and another doesn’t, even if they charge less. It’s because they know how to flirt to get the attention. It’s all part of the business.” Muraguri discusses matatu laws; laws that are happily ignored. As he engages the guests, they sit together cozily surrounded by two mixed media-sculptures; two vibrant woodcut prints depicting matatus in all their crooked glory; three partially painted-over photographs of a red matatu with the word ‘Neocolonised’ sprayed across the back, and a giant painting that is mostly black and white with some bright colours for dramatic effect. The painting ‘Matatu 4 Governor’ portrays the manamba hanging out of a matatu, one arm raised high as if vying for presidency. The vehicle is decorated with a jumble of popular iconography which includes an image of Kenyatta International Conference Centre and State House. Your eye is drawn to the mandatory yellow band that is legally required of them. It must state starting point and the destination. Bold text along the bottom reads, “Manyanga. Music. Mischief & Mayhem.'” Alluding to the rigged elections Kenya is famous for, there is a big ballot box with a voting slip painted on the bottom right of the painting. “It’s all kind of self-explanatory,” says Muraguri. With a ‘Matatu 4 Governor’ slogan across the top it’s hard to miss the point; the matatu driver epitomizes Kenya in all its wonder and dysfunction. Muraguri’s art is meant to be provocative and humorous but it’s also highly intuitive. He portrays matatu men as relentless artists (decorate their vehicles despite the laws) and voyeurs (always on the road and know where the city is headed). He addresses the decay of Kenyan society and the tragedy of sleaze that permeates this town. A good conversation with Muraguri reveals that he is still cheeky but it’s definitely the good kind of mischief. The kind that makes us question the world around us, rather than just staying stagnant.

Text credit: http://allafrica.com/stories/201305291323.html Zihan Kassam

Video featuring Muraguri, (artist featured at 7min30).

(Curator/Participating Artist)

HTAP’s Hackney Wicked exhibition used dialogue and play to investigate community formation. Co curated by Marsha Bradfield, Alison Barnes, Miriam Kings, Lucy Tomlins, and David Woosnam. Featuring six different maps and set out like a fête, visitors moved from stall to stall, informing and directing the maps with their own marks. As a research and collection centre, it enabled experimentation with a sense of place to uncover micro stories and patterns; investigating community formation through dialogue and play Over 150 visitors attended this event during the five hours the doors were open.

Pattern making for beginners proposed creative cartographies as a way of imagining new forms of social cohesion: a day-long event at the Hackney Wicked festival to exhibit and further HTAP’s ongoing research into community formation.

The SIX MAPS….

1.  ‘The Postcode Map’ (aka Starburst/Mother map): As an introduction to participation, the viewer enters the exhibition to find the Post code map. ‘Estimate your home postcode in relation to Hackney Wick (exhibition location) and link the two’.

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The Postcode Map’ situated at the entrance of the exhibition & introduced the idea of viewer participation.

2. ‘Experience, desire and the nonsensical’  A Board game  A table-top version of the Hackney map where revealing sculptural patterns are formed out of individual experiences, desire and fantasy rooted within Hackney.

Place the counters where you feel most appropriate.

Included: favourite place for a pint, favourite cafe, somewhere you wish to conserve, somewhere beautiful, somewhere you wished to destroy, (bulldozer symbol), a place where you’ve experienced crime, a ladder to the moon, and ‘where you would put Richard Branson’. The board game became a hub of the exhibition, people  sharing stories about their experiences of Hackney reminiscent of a campfire situation.

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‘Experience, desire and the nonsensical’ Lucy Tomlins, 2009

3. ‘Typecast’ Share your opinions and descriptions of Hackney and help create a landscape of text. Alison Barnes

4. ‘Objects and Keepsakes’ Displayed on an old shelving unit, visitors picked up the object to see its story explained on the attached luggage label. Objects were collected from the extended HTAP community, many of whom could not be there on the day. 31 people donated an object of meaning, displayed for visitors to pick up and examine.

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‘Objects’ Miriam Kings (left of image- displayed on an old shelving unit

Communities that donated objects included the Turkish-Cypriot Community Centre, African Caribbean Reunion, and the Pub on the Park.

5.  ‘Secrets’ Unburden yourself on the Hackney map of secrets

This map was covered by a confessional style cloth. The visitor would write their secret on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope and post it into a box. Then they would mark on the map with a red cross where that secret happened in the borough of Hackney.

6. ‘Rumour as Repetition: A Conceptual Study’: Listen and repeat 

An oral and written survey: Posturing as pseudo science and/or live art, this performative exchange involves (1) soliciting anecdotal reflections on hearing/spreading rumours; (2) presenting an example rumour (Hackney related); (3) collecting and classifying rumours.

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Marsha_Bradfield Rumour as Repetition: A Conceptual Study

The work from this one-day interactive event was re-presented in the exhibition: ‘in/flux’.  

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Hackney WIcked Festival

Before you step foot into the Kuona gallery (an exhibition space willing to take the risk on edgy exhibitions) you will likely know the theme of the exhibition, from the leaflets and posters advertising the show. ‘Enjoy Responsibly’  is a universally a well-recognised phrase.

Coincidentally, in the past weeks the Kenyan press has shown impounding of 385 different brands of apparently illegal, sub-standard liquor. This is due to a number of people having died at the mercy of these sometimes 70% proof spirits.  Many favourite spirits banned, and public figures ‘Chiefs / Assistant Chiefs’ exposed and sacked for profiting on these brews.

Curated by Thom Ogonga this show also includes established artists such as Peterson Kamwathi who shows a video, Anthony Okello, and Kamicha.  As well as newer to the scene artist Maral Bolouri, who investigates cultural values and cross-cultural differences.

The art work It is John Kamicha’s work that successfully interrogate the title in all its pain and complexity.

Although I do like Anthony Okello’s rather wonderful green men and women diagram piece, Radioactive Chain seems to be saying:

  • Surely this is about a collective responsibility? Find solutions in working together as society not blaming individuals

In the depiction of Boys wa mkali – ‘The bad boys’ we see a playful but serious pun on the boys who drink alcohol for breakfast. Spirit bottle labels are folded into milk carton shaped triangles, implying that instead of Chai for breakfast, alcohol is on the menu. These Boys wa mkali cut out in sculpture with warped almost bird like face features, are conjoined together by an orange river of warmth.

Anthony Okello, ‘Radioactive Chain’ Paper cutout
Anthony Okello, ‘Radioactive Chain’ Paper cutout
Anthony Okello, ‘Radioactive Chain’ Paper cutout
Anthony Okello, ‘Radioactive Chain’ Paper cutout

 

Detail: Maral Bolouri ‘Untitled’ Photocopy transfer, Pen, Watercolour, Paper
Detail: Maral Bolouri ‘Untitled’ Photocopy transfer, Pen, Watercolour, Paper
Detail: Maral Bolouri ‘Untitled’ Photocopy transfer, Pen, Watercolour, Paper
Detail: Maral Bolouri ‘Untitled’ Photocopy transfer, Pen, Watercolour, Paper
John Kamicha ‘Boys wa makali’ Mixed Media / Ply Wood
John Kamicha ‘Boys wa makali’ Mixed Media / Ply Wood
John Kamicha ‘Boys wa makali’ Mixed Media / Ply Wood
John Kamicha ‘Boys wa makali’ Mixed Media / Ply Wood

Their legs consist of collage of found images on DVD, reminiscent of religious paintings by masters of The Renaissance. The artist referencing ideology of our culture, making popular DVD characters into possible religious figures.

John Kamicha ‘Boys wa Makali’ Mixed Media / Ply Wood
Detail: John Kamicha ‘Boys wa Makali’ Mixed Media / Ply Wood

In Instead of the war on Poverty we got the war on Alcohol features painful looking colourful staples in a visually beautiful pattern joining Lesso materials together. Possibly a metaphor for Kenyan multiple identities. The mask head is a reflexive comment on the tradition of African culture, and reminds the viewer of their assumption of ‘african art’ by modernising it with some specs.

 Detail: John Kamicha ‘Instead of War on Poverty, They Got War on Alcohol’
Detail: John Kamicha ‘Instead of War on Poverty, They Got War on Alcohol’