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  • Essays

    The world arrived in books: Part two

    Collective Magic: session #1
    Jackie Karuti

     

    [1]When Thiga was a baby his mother took him and ran away from his father who was a gluttonous misogynist piece of shit. She managed to relocate them in another land far away from him. I think the husband was a kind of giant. Many years passed in bliss and the mother thrived as Thiga grew up to become one of the most handsome and strongest men in the village. He is described as having had many girlfriends. One day his mother took him up the hill near their hut and showed him a massive stone that was wedged firmly into the earth. The stone seemed to have been there for a very long time because its exterior was weathered greatly and had turned some parts of the rock shiny and smooth.

     

    Thiga’s mother then proceeded to ask him to move the stone and bring her what lay underneath it. Thiga loved his mother more than anything. She’d been the one constant person in his life and he’d have done anything for her. So he went, stretched, placed his hands on the stone and planted his feet firmly on the ground.  The stone did not even budge. He tried again and again and again. Nothing. Days passed with no success but still he persisted. He soon realized that as strong as he was, he was just not strong enough to move the stone. So he started training and challenging all the lads in the village to sword fights and wrestling matches. (He never challenged any women). He beat them all, grew more stronger but still he could not move the stone. When no one else was challenging him anymore, he went into the forest and fought with wild animals. First with a weapon, then without a weapon. (show me fragile masculinity). He still couldn’t move the stone. Years had passed at this point and his mother was getting older and loosing hope until one day… More…

    Essays

    The world arrived in books: Part one

    Collective Magic: session #1
    Jackie Karuti

     

    A gathering of dust announces that the process of making a new creation is underway. Gathering dust is the accumulation of filth to make magic. A sorcerer’s task. A gathering of dust is also the act of collecting this filth and discarding it elsewhere. Dust from different books mix creating a strange kind of science. Histories mesh. Facts are distorted. Futures re-imagined. Languages mix.

     

    Babel.

     

    The library is loud with the dead weight of time. The city has been passing through everyday claiming space, leaving traces and settling in. Specks of dust illuminated by the slanted afternoon light rest over the shelves but I have to be very still and focus my eyes to see this. Dust is gathered, transferred as I my body cuts across the space. My fingers are sooty.

     

    Black on your fingertips. [1] More…

    Essays

    The Murumbi collection-photo essay

    Collective Magic: session #1
    Jackie Karuti
    
    

    I’ve been spending my time for the last couple of weeks browsing through Joseph Murumbi’s library at the National Archives. Below are some selections out of the thousands of titles. As I try and figure out who this man was I’m realising he was easily Kenya’s record keeper. I don’t think young Kenyans realise how properly we were colonised and what the white man thought about us. Still thinks about us.

     

    The 60’s. Africa as a continent was gaining independence left, right, centre and there was both excitement and tension. The stench of betrayal was as heavy as the breezy wind of victory. It was a time of celebration and assassinations. (ahem…the beginnings of my yet to be published novel). Murumbi collected everything. He had books and records documenting activities in every African country. He subscribed to journals, magazines and periodicals about pan-Africanism, literature, arts and culture even wildlife. A big deal is made about his collection of artefacts but I think his books are worth a tidy sum in both intellectual and monetary value. He also has a foreign language collection. He was fluent in various languages. His own mother was a polyglot. It also makes sense seeing as he was the country’s minister of Foreign Affairs at one point. Then a Vice President. I am purposely not mentioning the state of the books because it’s quite deplorable. Also of course not everything is out there for the public to see. Most of his correspondence, letters and other the sensitive cables are locked up somewhere…in a vault possibly in the UK. Some of my best finds in the library have been:

     

    More…

    Essays

    What have you done during this emergency?

    Collective Magic: session #1
    Jackie Karuti

     

    In one of the interviews recorded inA Path Not Taken, Murumbi narrates how once during his days as the Foreign Minister he told off an Under-secretary in his office. It was regarding an incident where an old friend of Murumbi, fresh out of detention had showed up at his office looking like shit. Murumbi took it upon himself to help him including dispatching a call to the then president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, because the man had been a true patriot. When Murumbi asked his secretary to find a job for his friend, his secretary proceeded to ask the man what kind of job he could do. This infuriated Murumbi so much that he turned to his secretary and snapped, “Don’t ask this man what kind of job he can do. [1]What have you done during this emergency?”

     

    Murumbi’s statement is charged. A revolutionary call. More…

    Essays

    What else can a photograph be?

    by Jackie Karuti

     

    In a conversation with Bob Nickas for Interview magazine, Nikas comments on Wolfgang Tillmans’s work by saying that it seeks to answer the basic question, [1]What else can a photograph be? This question also describes the thoughts I had when I first encountered Tillmans’s work. Taking it as a starting point, I will first frame it by referencing work by several Kenyan artists whose approach towards working through lens-based media seeks to address this question.

     

    In his series [2]Undefined Constructions, James Muriuki observes a city whose architectural landscape is rapidly changing. Buildings under construction soar while swathed in brown tarp and multi-level scaffolding. The increase in seemingly misplaced high-rise buildings in Nairobi interrupts a skyline that is also scarred with brutalist, colonial era and Kikuyu-Gothic[3] architecture. In this regard, Muriukis work presents a reading of the city by questioning how sites of construction were determined and what purposes they might have served in the past. More…