The third edition of the DUOS Festival opened to the public on June 29, 2023, at the National Museum in Szczecin – Museum of Contemporary Art (NMS). Themed Social Ecology, the show marked the final exhibition of works in various media made by teams of Polish and Kenyan artists that operated as practical workshops for the TPAAE project. Curated by Łukasz Jastrubczak from the Art Academy (AS) in Szczecin and Marlena Chybowska-Butler of the NMS, both TPAAE partner institutions, the exhibition drew on the work of American political philosopher Murray Bookchin. His holistic and non-hierarchical approach to social organization, developed over more than 40 years, stands apart from the free-market political economies that dominate today; the effects of which are producing a host of social and environmental ills. Taking issues such as environmental degradation, income inequality, and systems of government as their inspirations, each DUOS team spent a month working with students from TPAAE partners Pwani University (PU) in Kilifi, the Technical University of Mombasa (TUM), local artisans, and community members to create their works. Those workshops took place in March, when the first iteration of the current DUOS exhibition took place.
Artists making the trip to Poland for the show at the NMS and their themes include:
graffiti artists Joseph Allan Green with his Polish duo Rafał Żarski;
installation-makers Yona Mudibo and Natalia Karczewska;
TUM student Philip Tangara and AS instructor Zorka Wollny in performance;
photographers Tommie Ominde and Igor Omulecki;
filmmakers Ruby Wanjiru and Magdalena Szymków;
Caroline Ngorobi and Justyna Celeda, who produced a musical for a DUOS community theatre;
Mike Okoth and Anna Maria Karczmarska, who provided the theatre’s costumes and scenography, the latter with contribution from Jonathan Mbinga and Mikołaj Małek.
In addition, Mbinga worked with compatriot and graphic designer Jason Baraka to make a series of collages for the festival that also are displayed at the NMS.
Also on display were works created during the DUOS Festival Kids Session, a series of instructional workshops run for educators at schools in Kilifi during TPAAE by project partner Universita di Macerata (UNIMC) in Macerata, Italy. The third Kids Session involved more than 100 students in Kilifi County, who made art in workshops aimed at providing teachers there with the skills they need to provide avenues for self-expression for their students. Given the breadth of the works, the progress of the TPAAE project – which will see degree programs created at Pwani in Fine Art and Design – and the number of organizers and representatives of partner institutions in attendance, the roster of speakers contributed to what was agreed by many as a contender for the longest opening ceremony for an exhibition in NMS history. These included NMS Chef Curator of the Contemporary Art Department Magdalena Lewoc, and Ewa Prądzyńska, her counterpart in the NMS Department of Non-European Cultures, who hailed the partnership between NMS, AS, and the TRAFO contemporary art center in Szczecin that recently joined the TPAAE project. Institutional coordinators Prof. Flawia Stara from UNIMC and Dr. Wanyenda Chilimo from TUM also delivered remarks, as did curator Jastrubczak. The TPAAE main coordinator, Prof. Aleksandra Łukaszewicz from AS, lauded the exhibition as an opportunity for artists from different cultural backgrounds and training backgrounds to create unique works. Percussionist AS, an instrumental group directed by Rafał Krzanowski and Antonina Kadur, provided musical accompaniment to the proceedings. Members, including Agnieszka Michowska, Wojciech Kaźmierczak, Mikołaj Rozpędek, and Charity Faith Akinyi, performed a pair of selections: “The African Sketches” by J. Kent Williams and a composition by Akinyi entitled “Karachuonyo”. The opening headed an events calendar that features guided tours of the exhibition, hosted by curators Chybowska-Butler and Jastrubczak, and in which participating artists describe their treatment of Social Ecology themes and working methods. Whist the Kenyan contingent will return home in mid-July, the DUOS Festival exhibition runs until September 24, 2023.