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Ushaha fitswa (Hidden Treasure)

installation (metallic sculpture, aquarium) 

Aneta Grzeszykowska + Shaila Resia Agha


Thomas Kimtai, Franckline Ochieng, Lewis Auka

A heroine for Kenyans and for women, Mekatilili wa Menza was a Girama grandmother who struck a blow for the independence of her people and lands at the turn of the 20th century. As one of the country’s first conservationists, Mekatilil lived in harmony with the wild and fought for her indigenous religion, based on respect for Kenya’s ancient forests, to be protected. Activist Shaila Resia Agha and sculptor Aneta Grzeszykowska propose to honor Mekatilili’s spirit of resilience by installing a monumental sculpture on the floor of the Indian Ocean, just at the entrance to Kilifi Creek. The object is intended to restore a coral reef threatened by climate change and to boost tourism by attracting divers. The sculpture, in the shape of a mask and made of metal, will be sunk in November 2022.

Shaila Resia Agha

Shaila has never thought of herself as an artist. Her passion for nature and conservation first pulled her in to this space. As a young lady in the environmental club, she lobbied the school to buy large plastic garbage bins and got the entire club to draw endangered species on them. It was only years later when she met her friend on the street and she introduced her as Shaila, an amazing artist, that she realized that she too, was a creative, that she creates works of art, albeit statements to evoke thought and emotion. She ventured off into the corporate world for most of her early career, and although agro-forestry remained in her list of hobbies, consuming African literature, history, and folklore were her favorite pastimes. When 2020 struck its vicious deadly blow, she decided to pack her bags and head to the one place that gave her most joy, the coast. She settled in Kilifi where she begun researching into indigenous trees, which led her down a rabbit hole deep into folklore and mysticism. In Dec 2020, only 8 months after relocating to the azure creek that is Kilifi, she curated a cultural installation on the magical waters. Here she told the story of Mekatilili wa Menza, the warrior, the Gohu, the mother of the rebellion. Through storytelling, dance, music, and costume, the Mijikenda people were united and 9 dhows, representing the 9 tribes, sailed down in unison celebrating our lives and how far we have come. The event was a huge success, many were educated, entertained, and even encouraged to step into the blue waters. She feels the spirit of Mekatilili running through her veins and is ready to stand up for the voiceless and fight for what is right.

Aneta Grzeszykowska

Born in 1974, lives and works in Warsaw. The primary mediums in which Aneta Grzeszykowska works are photography, film and sculpture. However she treats all of them instrumentally – as the tools for the realization of advanced artistic and ontological exercises. The key strategies employed by the artist are: manipulation of film and photographic mediums, and thus also of the viewer.
Grzeszykowska use photography emphasizing the performative dimension of the artist’s activities and her feminist way of perceiving image and art. In various ways Grzeszykowska takes apart her own image and manipulates the vision of her body, ultimately reaching towards a sculptural substitute. In this way she approaches the radical and jarring assertion that self-creation is merely another, imperfect means of dealing with the mortal nature of the body.

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