Curator meets Missionary

1Book: A. M. Mackay, Pioneer Missionary of the Church Missionary Society to Uganda

A curated journey through East-Africa

On January the 7th 2019, not long after the Christmas holidays I embarked on an art inspired journey to East Africa accompanied by Tessa Jackson and Pauline Burmann, both friends and colleagues.

 Our route was loosely taken from that of Alexander MacKay to the kingdom of Buganda. Mackay – often called ‘MacKay of Uganda’ – was an Anglican missionary, who came from Rhynie near Huntly, my chosen home town. Around 1850, in his mid-twenties, he left Aberdeenshire via Zanzibar towards Lake Victoria. The route he took however was not new, it was the old Arab slave trade route that brought people from inner Africa to the East Coast, where they were shipped to the Middle East, mainly to serve as house servants.

 Both Tessa and Pauline are highly recognised figures in the African contemporary arts discourse. They are both happy to call themselves curators but I’m not always so sure…

In following the footsteps of Alexander MacKay I began to question my role in all of this.

2019-01-15_08-33-18

SKYPE EXCHANGES WITH A SHADOW CURATOR*

To resolve my reflections on Alexander Mackay’s journey and my own and to create some kind of resolution to this experience, I asked my current young Shadow Curator* to discuss via Skype.

*What is a shadow curator? A Shadow Curator (like the Shadow Minister in parliament) acts as an embedded critic who scrutinises what we do and thereby brings constructive alternatives to our work process. As such, shadow curating is a critical methodology: the agonistic way.


Why the fascination with a 19th century Missionary?

I would like to find out what really motivated Mackay? Was it the mission to spread Christianity solely, or were there other aspects that drove him to leave his home country to go to one of the most far away, inaccessible places on Earth? At the time, little was known of Africa. All he knew was that there was a lake in the middle of it, his father had a map in his rectory. I myself have had a life-long wanderlust, itchy feet, or Fernweh, that’s what we call it in Germany. Fernweh (farsickness) is the opposite of Heimweh (homesickness), a longing to see other places that are far from your own culture. When I first came across Alexander McKay, who was brought up in this isolated village outside Huntly, I got kind of obsessed with trying to understand him. I read his letters and diaries that were put together by his sister after his death. As a child he already ran 10km to Gartly to see a train. His sister says, because he was such a good mechanic but I think it’s because of his farsickness. I have no doubt that he was a Christian of full calibre. But I feel there was something else behind his motivation.


You sometimes entertain the idea of calling yourself an ‘Art Missionary’ – what other ‘missions’ or roles do you think you came with on this trip?

A missionary is traditionally a person that is sent to promote their religion (eg. Christianity) in a foreign country. They were the fore-bearers of colonialism – bringing our ideas, ethics and economic systems with them. Today many of us feel ashamed of this past. We like to distance ourselves from that. But I think we just come with different missions now. After the missionaries came the Anthropologists, their mission was to understand the different cultures. As curators, we cannot deny that we come with our own ideas and baggage of what is “good” art. I feel we need to be aware of this dynamic coming from any profession.


You seem to be deeply questioning the power relations that are unavoidable as a White European Curator or even just a White European traveler. Does this questioning change your approach to curation and travel?

Everybody who travels must have a mission. Some think they support the local economy, others want to see the landscape. Young people today are often going to work in places like orphanages. I don’t think they are only motivated by the cause, they are motivated primarily by the fact that they can travel to a far away place. Helping makes them feel good; it gives them a reason to do this journey. This is how McKay must have felt, I think.

I myself, I am driven by trying to experience and understand other places. Art is a good conduit for this. The art world is a like a big worldwide family. You always feel welcome. Maybe like football, there is always a common denominator, something to share. But in addition, there is this desire to assist on the one hand side and to connect on the other. Giving people opportunities is a quite colonial attitude, we cannot deny this. But genuinely trying to connect is more democratic.

My approach is to always at least try to find ways of connecting with the way local people travel, live, eat, appreciate culture. Language is important in all this. I speak a little Swahili, which is a way in. But in the end it is never enough, as you said it is unavoidable. I am white, privileged, wealthy, with loads of choices. I don’t need to travel, but I choose to do so. Many people asked us why we take the bus, when there is a plane. Many don’t have a choice. I choose to travel slowly because I want to, not because I have to. Maybe it is the Anthropologist in me that forces me.


So you believe that in spite of this imbalance there is a possibility for equal exchange?

No, I don’t think so. It will never be equal, not in my lifetime at least. But even by just thinking about it, maybe we can soften the imbalance. I don’t mean the economic one, or the political one. But maybe the friendship one. Being a Mzungu*, always being curious, might not be the worst thing after all. Being aware of it is important though.

When it comes to art exchange, we need to make sure that we don’t just apply our own criteria of good/bad art. We need to give people who have not had the opportunity to go to a western art school a chance. Personally I find it fascinating to discover old crafts, and different techniques, that are not viewed through the eyes of the western curator, but through the eyes of a curious person.

*Mzungu is a Bantu language term used in the African Great Lakes region used to refer to someone with white skin and foreigners more generally

DAR ES SALAAM

Interest

  • The Makumbusho village museum showcases authentically constructed dwellings from 16 of the over 130 ethnic groups in Tanzania. Those we have seen include: Bena, Chagga, Fipa, Gogo, Haya, Hehe, Iraqw, Kwere, Makua, Mwera, Ngoni, Nyakyusa, Sukuma, Yao, Zanaki, Zaramo.
  • Tingatinga is a painting style that developed in the second half of the 20th century in the Oyster Bay area in Dar es Salaam and later spread to most East Africa. Tingatinga is one of the most widely represented forms of tourist-oriented paintings in Tanzania, Kenya and neighboring countries. The genre is named after its founder, Tanzanian painter Edward Said Tingatinga.
  • Nafasi Art Space is a platform for artistic exchange in Dar es Salaam, where contemporary visual artists and performing artists come together. It hosts over 50 artists, 37 studios, and some exhibition spaces. They offer regular programmes including training and workshops, art talks, and public events, such as film screenings, exhibitions, concerts, festivals, and public art fairs.
  • Pauline Burman researches, advises and facilitates art projects concerning Africa and its diaspora. She is Director of the Africanartsandtheory.nl platform and Chairperson of the Thami Mnyele Foundation in Amsterdam.
  • Tessa Jackson, OBE, is an independent curator and Director of International Cultural Development.

Summary

We kicked off our travels in Tanzania’s cultural capital Dar es Salaam. Here we already met the artist and film maker Rehema Chachage for breakfast. She has been in residence at the Thami Mnyele Foundation in Amsterdam, as well as undertaking a short research residency in Huntly in 2018. Rehema was a very helpful chaperone both in art as well as in practical terms, ensuring our journey kicked off to a good start.


SANAA = ART in Swahili


Reflections on a Missionary

My journey started with a taxi from Huntly to Aberdeen airport. From here it took 16 hours with stops in Amsterdam and Kilimanjaro (where most people left) to Dar. Alexander MacKay had made his way to Southampton from Aberdeenshire. It took him about half a year until he arrived in Zanzibar. What motivated him beyond the distribution of the Christian faith to leave his home for good?4

 

ZANZIBAR

Interest

  • Michenzani is a large neighbourhood in the modern part of Zanzibar City in Tanzania. The place is mostly known for the Plattenbauten, i.e., the large apartment blocks that were built here during the cold war with the aid of East Germany; still desired today.
  • Dhow Countries Music Academy is the prime and only music school in Zanzibar. Its aim is to preserve and promote music heritage of Zanzibar the “dhow region” which include countries along the shores of the Indian Ocean and the Arab Gulf such as Zanzibar, Comorros, Oman, Kuwait, Iran, U.A.E and India. Particular emphasis is being placed on teaching traditional music styles, such as taarab, kidumbak and ngoma. The DCMA sees itself as the guardians of a living cultural heritage to keep the musical heritage of Zanzibar and the “dhow region”. http://www.zanzibarmusic.org
  • The women of Hurumzi Henna Art Gallery (Henna Ladies) transform traditional henna body arts into paintings and prints. Using a centuries old tradition of adorning women’s hands and feet for celebrations such as weddings and festivals, the artists translate the patterns of the body art onto canvas creating a new and almost iconic art style through their elaborate and colourful paintings of various sizes.

Summary

Day 1
After an early rise in Dar to catch the boat – a day full of colour, spice and craft in Zanzibar took us past an art hotel, through a series of art workshops, various artist studios and a language school, via the GDR architecture of Michenzani. After a fish dinner at the beach we ended up with a N’goma concert led by Zanzibar’s drumming legend – Mzee Kheri Mohammed Kombo in the beautiful Dhow Academy.

Day 2
I had a very welcoming meeting with the staff of the Dhow Countries Music Academy, a fascinating place – based in an old merchant house on the sea front in Stone Town – that brings together musicians from Zanzibar and all over the African continent. Music fusion is their interest and we spun ideas of how we could collaborate through exchange and learning.

From there we headed via the ‘spice route’ (I saw Vanilla, cinnamon, mango, pepper trees, ginger, cassava, papaya, cardamom, coriander, and much more) to the other side of the island to meet the representative of the Juhudi women’s cooperative of makers – influencing traditional design with modern taste. Then back on the boar to Dar, where Zanzibari families watch Goldrush on the deck.

Reflections on a Missionary

Zanzibar was the place where Alexander McKay stayed for a while to gather trading goods such as cloth and spices, but also people to start his journey to the kingdom of Buganda in interior Africa.

Did he experience the Taraab music there? Or would this have been too frivolous? I wonder whether he would have spent any time enjoying music on his journey and destination?

Unlike us who took a speed boat called Kilimanjaro, MacKay left with a dhow boat to Bagamoyo, then up the river Wami with his boat DAISY, until he realized that this would not lead anywhere – they returned to the Swahili coast and continued from there to Morongoro.


CHOMBO = INSTRUMENT in Swahili


PUGU HILLS

Interest

  • Richard Magumba is a screenwriter, cinematographer, photographer and filmmaker. He trained at the Maisha Film Lab, Kampala Uganda and the University of Dar es Salaam where he excelled in video production. His short documentary work on “aka Shegena” about an old man with a disability who happened to be the technical wiz of his neighbourhood without any formal training was listed as an 2014 International Entrant in the Focus on Ability Short Film Festival. During our visit he showed us research and early production of Liemba MV, a boat based in Kigoma on Lake Tanganyika, the oldest ship in Tanzania stemming from 1913 in German colonial times. It has recently been renovated and is still running once a week along the eastern shores of the lake.

Renée Mboya is a writer, curator and filmmaker based in Nairobi, Kenya. Her work is concerned with embodied memory and the use of autobiography in contemporary narratives to rehabilitate misrepresentations in history.

Summary

The Pugu Hill walk I organized with artist Rehema Chachage as part of a continued series of artist walks I have been conducting in many parts of the world. Some 13 artists from Dar es Salaam, Aziza Ongala our British Council officer and Kenyan curator Renee Mboya joined us on the trip. The walk was organized to pass by an early German missionary station. This was a Lutheran settlement that is still active today. The church is surrounded by a cemetery that featured graves from the Berlin missionary Greiner and his wife, as well as other people from the congregation. A lot of talk was on the freeing of the slaves from the Arab traders.

So, to get this right: the missionaries bought the captured people off them, but then did not send them back to their families. Instead they stayed with them for the rest of their lives, working in the fields of the missionary station. In the end they were put into a mass grave, which still can be seen today on this site.

Our walk featured: a small art shop with a variety of works by artists in this very remote place / a new railway track to Mwanza and Kigoma in the making by a Turkish company / a redundant Magnesia mine and factory / a peanut roasting woman / fire ants that seriously sting / a lot of heat / many conversations / laughter and sighs among artists and ourselves / and a picnic with cassava and goat meat at the end.


KANISA = CHURCH in Swahili


Reflections on a Missionary

For McKay the missionaries from other countries were enemies. In the kingdom of Buganda he writes that he preferred the Arabs then the French catholic priests. On the way through Tanganyika he must have encountered many missionary stations, maybe even this one in the Pugu Hills. How did they treat each other when passing through?

Question: what is the difference between a slave destined for domestic service in the Middle East, a forced worker in a missionary station, or a carrier of a boat and a printing press across the country for an Anglican missionary? Slavery commonly refers to a condition in which individuals are owned by others, who control where they live and at what they work. Where do the boundaries between slavery and freedom lie for a missionary? MacKay had 200 porters at any one time.

MORONGORO

Interest

  • Mandazi, also known as the dabo or Dahir, is a form of fried bread that originated on the Swahili Coast. It is one of the principal dishes in the cuisine of the Swahili people who inhabit the African Great Lakes.
  • David Kitururu, Chairman of Nafasi Art Space/Dar es Salaam; Director of KWETO African arts centre/ Morongoro: napactz@yahoo.com

Summary

We started with trying to get an Uber taxi from our Daisy guest house in Dar; but it did not show up. Somehow we managed to get to the bus stop, still in the pitch dark. I get a Mandazi and happily off we go. I sit next to a man called Stefan (same name as my brother and my former boy friend), he did not speak English, I try and test my long forgotten, rudimentary Kiswahili on him.

David Kitururu is awaiting for us at the bus station in Morongoro. We check in and meet Godfrey Mngereza, the vice chancellor of the Tanzanian arts council before we are invited to the newly created KWETO Africa centre next door.

A treat awaits us with traditional dance, mime, drumming, acrobatics – followed by a discussion with the artists. Key questions are how to promote themselves, social media, how to get attention in Europe. We are thanked and praised and we thank and praise.

David drives us around Morongoro and its green Uluguru hills, a perfect place to arrange a couple of days outing to bring the artists together for a walk one day. Samosas at the hotel.

Reflections on a Missionary

Today our MacKay inspired tour really started. I wonder how he started in the morning, with his printing press, his boat (the Daisy) and his many porters. I just have my old rucksack and my MacKay ‘Pioneer Missionary of the Church Missionary Society to Uganda’ book as my bible.

The journey to Morongoro took us about 4 hours. I wonder whether he did any detours or sightseeing on his mission? Did he like walking?


SAFARI = TRAVEL in Swahili


12

DODOMA

Interest

  • The Uganda Martyrs were a group of 23 Anglican and 22 Catholic converts to Christianity in the historical kingdom of Buganda, now part of Uganda, who were executed between 31 January 1885 and 27 January 1887. They were killed on orders of Mwanga II, the Kabaka (King) of Buganda. The deaths took place at a time when there was a three-way religious struggle for political influence at the Buganda royal court. The episode also occurred against the backdrop of the “Scramble for Africa” – the invasion, occupation, division, colonization and annexation of African territory by European powers. A few years after, the English Church Missionary Society used the deaths to enlist wider public support for the British acquisition of Uganda for the Empire. The Catholic Church beatified the 22 Catholic martyrs of its faith in 1920 and canonized them in 1964.
  • Salym Kitumbika, a self-trained shop painting artist and carpenter who I would love to invite to carry out a residency with a view of regenerating our town centre with its many, many empty shops.
  • Dodoma University – a wonderful modernist style place with ample space and a terrific team in the Arts and Humanities Department. They don’t have a gallery but liked the idea of the introducing a Town Collection to Dodoma

Summary

Day 1
Breakfast with cassava, sweet potato and fried banana. We continue our journey on the Hope Safari bus to Dodoma, the political capital of Tanzania. Here we take a tour round the town on a tuktuk (bajajee). We tick off all the sights of the town, including the cathedral sized Catholic church, where there is a service with mass singing. One of the features are the Ugandan martyrs mosaics. I buy a virgin Mary inspired Kanga. Highlight was a stop at the metal market, where we had traditional coffee for 4p!

I am fascinated by the shop paintings – hairdressers, butchers, mechanics. In the evening we meet Salym Kitumbika, an artist from an African mural tradition. I spin an idea, back home we have so many empty shops. We researched them all and identified what was in them in living history. Would it not be nice to have Salym joining us to paint these artefacts, foodsels and other goodies to remind people of the retail history of their town?14

Day 2
Dodoma surprises against its reputation. It is calm and bright and so is its University. Built by Chinese architects in a modernist, almost Corbusierian style it is an oasis of light and learning. We meet first the Director, then the staff of the Arts and Humanities Department. Here they teach fashion, design, painting, film. While the spaces are marvellous, the facilities are limited. Students do not get internet access and the library is limited. There is a great interest in partnering up and ideas are being formed on how to best do that.

Staff and artists say they need a gallery. There is a lot of space at Dodoma University, why is there no gallery? They have no money they say.15

During the visit I explained our town collection in Huntly. To do this I took the Dodoma map from the Lonely Planet book and showed all the places that could have a collection piece: the train station, the grocery shop, the hair dresser, the school and so on. For the first time I saw that the town collection is transferable, it can live in other places. I have since tried this out in Bolzano in Italy. To develop a town collection with them in Dodoma would be my dream… I am thinking of a skills swap – Salym could come to us and we could come to them to enhance each others towns.

In the evening we meet with a large group of musicians in the Mapinduzi Club. They too like to find ways of how to get more exposure. We talk into the night on how to get better equipment and how to promote themselves better. There are no women in the group.

Reflections on a Missionary

MacKay was persecuted in Uganda after King Mutesa died. He fled to Tanzania to take refuge. He was the first who introduced Christianity to Uganda. Today the East African region is highly Christian, on Martyr Day over a million people descent on Kampala to worship him and his doings. The area has been struck by ongoing poverty ever since – I wonder how he would evaluate his doings today?
MacKay had already spent over a year travelling till he got here to Dodoma. I don’t know what he ate, and where he slept. I know he set up camp and had a tent. And at some point he talked about a wild boar and foul eggs, when he was near Mpapwa. Did he cook himself? Little is revealed in his letters of this kind of daily trivia. I also don’t know how he communicated with the local people and his porters. Did he learn their language? Swahili at the time did only exist on the coast, only after independence it was introduced as a lingua franca

When MacKay was here, Dodoma was just a village. I don’t think he would have ever thought this is going to be the capital of a modern country with a University, embassies and ministries.

Dodoma seein from University

MSANII = ARTIST in Swahili


MWANZA

Interest

  • Pikilily is an organisation dedicated to delivering motorcycle ambulance services, safe motorcycle training and female empowerment across Tanzania.
  • Kitenge is an East African cotton fabric printed in various colours and designs with distinctive borders, used especially for women’s clothing. The kanga is a colourful fabric similar to kitenge, but lighter. It is a piece of printed cotton fabric, about 1.5 m by 1 m, often with a border along all four sides (called pindo in Swahili), and a central part (mji) which differs in design from the borders. They are sold in pairs, which can then be cut and hemmed to be used as a set. Important is that there are always sayings attributed to the kanga. Today they are mainly religious.
  • Shúkà is the Maasai word for checkered sheets traditionally worn wrapped around the body. They replaced their animal-skin, calf hides and sheep skin, with commercial cotton cloth. Today they are mainly made from acrylic, probably in China.

Summary

Day 1
A day on the bus, which started with Chapati in the dark and ended with a fine Chili con Carne meal on a Mwanza veranda. A young man accuses the vendor, that she serves the Musungu first. My bus companion was a clock merchant from Mwanza who helped me spruce up my Swahili. The other company was an endless series of pop videos depicting slim women. At every stop, Kintiku, Sigida, Shinyanga … the vendors spot us first. They shout Musungu! I call Mafricano!19

Day 2
This was our day off, with late breakfast at the very lovely family of Claire, who has set up her life here with her husband and baby Benjamin. Today I buy a beautiful kitenge, I think my lovely co-travellers think I am obsessed with African cloth. They are right. I already bought 5 on this trip.

Reflections on a Missionary

During his long walk through East Africa, McKay passed through the lands of the Maasai pastoralists. His main trading good was cloth, for which he received food, labour and shelter in return. I don’t know what kind of cloth, but could it be the tartan from his homeland? Is this why the Maasai are wearing tartan till today? This would be worth further investigation.

At a pace of 4k per hour, getting from Dodoma to Mwanza would have taken McKay 22 days (no Sunday worshipping) on foot. It took us 12 hours, from 6am to 6pm. As far as I know, McKay was the only Musungu on the trek. How did this feel? For him and for the people who met him? And for those ‘non-slaves’ who accompanied him on his trek, carrying the Daisy and the cast iron printing press.

I get the feeling that McKay spent some time here in Mwanza. This lovely city on the shore of the lake has a good and inviting feel. From here he embarked with his boat, the Daisy, to the kingdom of Buganda, 340km across the lake. I watched the kerosene lights of the fishermen going on at night, one by one until it looked like a distant city. How did they fish in those days?

It is said that MacKay died in exile in Nyanza, Tanzania on the eastern shores of Lake Victoria of Malaria. I could not find Nyanza on any map. McKay was 40 years old.


NGUO = CLOTH in Swahili


SUKUMA

Interest

Summary

Our visit to Sukuma started with a tour round the village museum, which is dedicated to the preservation and display of artefacts of the Sukuma – Tanzania’s largest tribe. We were lucky and  tucked onto a group of East African military representatives to see the fascinating mix between Sukuma architecture, missionary history and shaman memorabilia. The visit ended with a specially laid on performance of Sukuma traditional dance with python snakes.

This was followed by a round table discussion with locally based artists from various genre. One of the discussions that come up again and again is how they make a living. The economies range from design – often for health or technology educational projects; music, instruments production; painting for tourists.22

Reflections on a Missionary

Alexander McKay was called by the locals the Lubare, which translates best into a ‘wizard’. As a missionary he did not like this; he despised the Lugandan’s witchcraft and traditions. I wonder whether he would have watched one of the snake men’s dance then? Are we allowed to call it art nowadays?


MCHAWA = WIZARD in Swahili


24

NAIROBI

Interest

  • Kibera (Nubian: Forestor Jungle) is the largest slum in Nairobi, and the largest urban slum in Africa. The 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census reports Kibera’s population as 170,070, contrary to previous estimates of one or two million people. Other sources suggest the total Kibera population may be 500,000 to well over 1,000,000 depending on which slums are included in defining Kibera.
  • Maasai Mbili Artists’ Collective began in 2001 by Otieno Gomba and Otieno Kota. The studio now comprises about a dozen main members, students, interns and visiting residence artists. The artists make and exhibit contemporary art, public art, children art programmes, music production and performance, street fashion, immersive and interactive multimedia programmes and animations. Maasai Mbili has become an important link between the Kibera community and the outside world through projects, workshops, exhibitions. Their artists have travelled the world and their work even further.
  • Brush Tu Art studio is an artist collective comprising 10 members, based in Nairobi’s Buruburu estate. Established in mid-2013, the main objective was to harness the artistic potential of the member artists and utilize their prowess to deliver collaborative works of art on expansive surface areas and non-conventional media. Brush Tu art studio aims to be a major contributor in the elevation of the profile of Kenyan art.
  • Circle Art Gallery promotes contemporary art from Eastern Africa. Its intention is to create a strong and sustainable art market for East African artists. Through group/solo exhibitions, as well as participation in international art fairs, the gallery has increased visibility for established and emerging artists, both internationally and at home.
  • Founded in 2012, the Nest Collective has created works in film, music, fashion, visual arts. The Nest Collective also founded HEVA—Africa’s first creative business fund of its kind—to strengthen the livelihoods of East Africa’s creative entrepreneurs.
  • Mau Mau Collective is a movement that uses the arts for social commentary towards the goal of uniting African creatives to pool their social resources for a flourishing continent: fine art, graffiti, film, and the performing arts.
  • Muthoni Gachanja Likimani (born 1926) is a Kenyan activist and writer. Her best known books: What a man wants and Passbook Number F. 47927: Women and Mau Mau in Kenya, its title a reference to her identity number during the Mau Mau struggle.

Summary

Day 1
Our day was dominated by travelling from Mwanza to Nairobi. Infused however by the sights and smells of the early morning fish market, filled daily by fishermen’s night time harvest from Lake Victoria.

Most tragically a few days earlier, there was a terrorist attack in Nairobi. We were put up in a high security hotel called the Fair View. A paradise for a breakfast-lover like me. I have never felt so indulged and pampered in my life.25

Day 2
A full day visiting artist studios, galleries and art organisations across the city: Kuona Arts Trust, Mau-Mau Collective, Brush Tu collective, Maasai Mbili (amazing spirit) collective where I bought a jeans destined for a charity shop, but now upgraded through considered recycling.

Day 3
Another full day: Banana Hill gallery, Circle Art Gallery, NEST cooperative (amazing concept), Annem Witti, Art Educator at Kenyatta University; Muthoni Likimani, the 93 year old feminist writer and sponsor of Kuona Arts trust. Farewell dinner in Westlands with British Council friends and some of the artists we met this week.


UBER = UBER in Swahili (local advertising)


THE SUMMARY OF THE SUMMARIES 

The learning I gained:

  • A much deeper understanding of the complexities and opportunities of the arts in general and individual artists in particular in Tanzania, Zanzibar and Nairobi.
  • The discrepancy between artists outwith the capitals and those who are better served in the centers.
  • That connectivity is a big issue due to log travel distances and more importantly limited internet access. This also leads to limited materials, such as we have seen among the artists in Dodoma and Sukuma.
  • The role of female artists, who are largely absent in our meetings, especially outside the major cities.
  • The desire for galleries and art centres – and need for questioning other opportunities (e.g. offering town is the venue model).
  • The need for more writing opportunities about East African Art and by East African writers.
  • The desire for temporary teaching staff, especially at Dhow Academy and Dodoma University (Arts and Humanities Department).
  • The need for cross generational work. Many artists are older than funding thresholds allow.
  • There are other fascinating artists groups out there, such as the Henna Ladies in Zanzibar, but cultural, family and language constraints would make future collaboration difficult.
  • Socially engaged art is largely a missing concept apart from a few exceptions in the cities (i. e. Nairobi); while it would bring a lot of opportunities to places with limited resources
27Massai Mbili residence

Some Ideas on Reflection

Since coming back to Scotland I have been considering some of the ideas that have emerged during the journey, for which I have started making follow up contact:

  • Developing an exchange programme between Dhow Countries Music Academy and our own traditional musicians in the North East of Scotland – some of the highest international caliber (e.g. Paul Anderson, Iona Fyfe, Ela Orleans) on the world folk scene. This could be linked to some of the Scottish festivals in particular the SOUND festival and Counterflows and the Celtic Connections in Glasgow.
  • Town/City regeneration exchange: Bringing one artist (traditional sign painter) from Dodoma as well as one of the academics who are engaged in writing/curating to Huntly for a residency to look at new ideas of regeneration of our town (one of our key priorities). In return it would be wonderful to work with the University of Dodoma staff to develop a town collection as we have it in Huntly. This would be a truly genuine exchange with multiple tangible outcomes for artists, communities and art/academic institutions.
  • Making them join by a member of Massai Mbili, who have a great take on mural painting in political settings.
  • Lastly, I would love to work with NEST at some point in the future.
  • One question was how to overcome potential group dynamics difficulties. Maybe the chosen set of lead artists/academics could benefit from bringing in other artists into the team, such as from the Massai Mbili group. They could also benefit from undertaking a more regionally based residency first – e.g. at Kuona Arts trust in Nairobi or Nafasi in Dar es Salaam.
  • To then develop links with existing Scottish festivals, such as Glasgow International, Edinburgh Arts Festival and Look Again Festival in Aberdeen.

It would be very interesting for us, to arrange for a networking trip for Scotland based curators and artist-curators to visit East Africa. Myself and my colleagues would love to facilitate or contribute to this. I have also talked to Creative Scotland about this idea.

Likewise it would be fascinating to arrange for an exchange tour of artists, curators and academics that we met to come to Scotland and get a tour at both city and rural venues – maybe during one of the key visual arts festivals.

Many of the artists we met out of the cities had no or little exposure to the international or even national art world. But there are gems to be discovered. This is something we at Deveron Projects have considerable experience with. This requires a certain amount of risk taking, like everything especially in socially engaged arts. But it also enables the partnership to come up with something entirely new and unexpected through a creative mix of expertise, skills, abilities and friendships.

The trip was fascinating and facetted. But we did pack a lot in. While this was our intention, not the least to follow the missionary inspired route – some of the visits were rather short. Ideally I would now undertake a follow up trip to some of the potential key partners.

Lastly, visa regulations for artists travelling to the UK have become very difficult to handle in recent years, with many rejections become a regular feature. Any power that British Council can bring to facilitate, support this or lobby would be highly appreciated. Deveron Projects, with other partners is launching an event at Edinburgh Festival this summer to bring this situation to the wider public.28

THANKS

British Council for the funding and the dedicated support of its workers. Especially Rocca Gutteridge, Aziza Ogala, Jill Coates, Rasheeda Nalumoso, Atiya Sumar April Kamunde, Sandra Chege, Jenny White.

My co-travelers Tessa Jackson and Pauline Burmann.

Claire, Khalid and wee Benjamin for their hospitality in Mwanza.

Rehema Chachage for organizing the artist walk in the Pugu Hills and the many artists and other folks we met on our way. The world needs more artists and not more art.

Nick my husband, and my team at Deveron Projects for letting me go and keeping the ships in Huntly afloat. 

All the many artists, academics and curators that gave us their time and learn from their work and creativity.29MacKay Tartan / Massai Rug


ASANTE = THANK YOU in Swahili


 

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This entry was published on July 12, 2019 at 3:57 pm. It’s filed under Away and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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