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Teaching and Touring with TPAAE Researchers from Szczecin in Kenya

Prof. Aleksandra Lukasiewicz (AL) from the Academy of Art in Szczecin and Marlena Chybowska-Butler (MCB) of the National Museum in Szczecin participated in a host of activities during their fall secondments to Kenya and the region. Individually, they conducted field studies and made progress on project deliverables. Together, they met with collectors, viewed exhibitions and explored possibilities for cooperation with Kenyan artists and institutions.

AL led a seminar at partner institution Kenyatta University for fourth-year BA students in the Department of Fine Art. Her twice-weekly seminars examined theories of European art and culture in a survey that reaches from the Middle Ages to modern times. The series is part of a course given by Dr. George Vikiru and students will be assessed in December, including on topics covered in AL’s seminars.

The TPAAE coordinator also used her time in Nairobi to gain a better handle on the city’s art scene, visiting the GoDown Art and Center Circle Art Gallery, as well as the artmaking space operated by the Kuona Arts Trust. The TPAAE project leader also made progress on a film project within TPAAE that documents the slave trading that took place centuries ago on the Kenyan coast, collecting maps and other items from the National Museums of Kenya that will help to illustrate the film. AL and MCB attended a mixer on 11 November to celebrate Polish Independence Day hosted by the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland, Mr. Jacek Bazański, who is providing honorary patronage to the film.

They participated in meetings with collector E. Mutuma Marangu, whose focus is rock and stone sculpture and whose collection is is one of the subjects of TPAAE research reports. The pair also visited the Nairobi Contemporary Art Institute, where an exhibition by artists from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in the last half of the last century offered insights into themes and trends shaping artworks today. They also met individually with artist Kaloki Nyami at his studio in a Nairobi neighborhood where the participant in the Kenya Pavilion show at the Biennale di Venzeia is converting nearby homes into spaces for a planned artist-in-residence program.

The Szczecin contingent attended an exhibition of art made using advanced computer technology, in which six artists created environments that visitors entered through virtual reality headsets. Called Darubini, the project shown in the basement of a shopping mall, incorporated storytelling and sets that partially replicated what viewers experienced in the created environments. Along with showcasing artistic talent, the month-long exhibition provided a window into the programming companies and talents that are transforming both culture production and the world of work in Kenya.

An allied event, called the Circle of Movement, brought together performing artists in the same space, which has been given over to cultural actors by the family that owns the shopping mall. Music, dance storytelling, spoken-word and multi-media elements created by artists who were given a week to make new work for the show by organizers TICAH—Trust for Indigenous Culture and Heath, an NGO from the US that also operates a residency program. The works offered a window both into collectives in Nairobi and the fusion of traditional and modern dance.
MCB also visited the studio of Robin Mbere, a sculptor whose work is part of The Mutuma Marangu Sculpture and Art Collection. As part of the research on stone and rock sculpture, she journeyed upcountry to Kisii, a quarry town that is a center of sculpture-making in Kenya.

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