She is a visually stark opposite of her former self. Under a half cover of blankets and bed sheets made visible by the golden sunlight peeping through the window, Ife Piankhi looks on, seemingly numb.
After a few minutes, she attempts a dull smile. With a tinge of pain, she attempts to raise her hand to gesture in an exchange of courtesies. Her hands can no longer hold firmly so they are as wobbly as her shaky and somewhat stammering voice.
Her caretaker, and friend, Kaya Sanaa Mwakalobo stays close by, to help her off the bed and into the seat, and then outside. It is visibly a discomforting situation and a phase where she is not fully in control of her limbs.
On the morning of Friday 28th December 2018, Ife Piankhi was admitted to hospital in Uganda after a suspected stroke and bleeding on the brain. This is a very serious situation and condition. Hospital services in Uganda are NOT free so Ife and her family will need assistance with meeting those fees to make sure Ife gets the best care possible. The medical costs for Ife in the hospital have been set by the hospital at £12,000. This is an enormous amount of money that the family will not be able to achieve in such a short space of time. Every penny raised will go direct to the family in Uganda. Your generosity will be very much appreciated and blessed. ￼
I arrived in Cape town on the 13th September unaware it was winter. I had to find my own way from the airport because our cars were not due to arrive for another month. I can understand why people don’t see South Africa as a part of Africa because by the look of Cape town you could be in any European city. With its skyscrapers and tarmac roads it seems too developed.
But this is Africa and this is where my journey begins. For the next 200 days I will be living with 12 people I don’t know. Apart from our online attempts at conversation and planning we are complete strangers. It was a challenging decision to be a part of the team. Six months away from home, no salary but an opportunity to see a continent which I love very much. Everyone I spoke to (bar one who is a mother and understands the pressures of being a single parent) thinks its a journey of a lifetime and one they wish they could take. So here I am after consulting with my children and significant other. I am the only Black African woman on the team and also the oldest. Its a young group the youngest being 21.
Last week I ran a two day workshop with 15 women for the Voicing Entebbe project. Initiated by Ugandan artist Christine Ayo (www.christineayo.com) who fundraised to build a monument in rememberance of the 23 women brutally murdered in Entebbe last year. No suspects have been apprehended and its significant has been reduced to political partisan bickering. Christine’s plan was to build a monument in the mayors garden in Entebbe. She’d been talking to the mayor for months via email and he was totally supportive of the initiative. Unfortunately, now it seems the monument needs security clearance in order to go ahead. Even with this decision we decided to go ahead because she had approached me to develop a piece of performance which would accompany the opening of the monument.
I have just finished reading Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin.
‘It was a costume ball- such functions mostly were because people at that time liked costumes. they liked them almost as much as they liked uniforms. Both served the same end: to avoid being who you were. You could pretend to be someone else. You could become bigger and more powerful or more alluring and mysterious, just by putting on exotic clothes, well there was something to it.’
Inspired me to write: Thoughts on the Panther
Ife Piankhi, Artist in Residence:
Ife Piankhi is currently an artist in residence at 32° East | Ugandan Arts Trust. Working as a performance artist, singer, poet, and creative facilitator for over 30 years, Ife has recently ventured into a creative practice where her craft has taken visual form through a textured, multi-media approach to paper mache and collage work, and the creation of bright and colorful mandalas. The material and spiritual elements embedded within Ife’s work create a semiotic grammar and visual language with symbols and metaphors that unfolds into a space for peace, calm, and healing.
As part of KLA Art Labs I was involved with 2 workshops. 1 dealing with deepening our observation skills and a collaboration with performance artist Mo Seira about engaging with performance art in public spaces.
Sometimes we resisted being directed, but it seems humans seek to be told what to do. We are comfortable with that. Making our own artistic discoveries is hard it seems. People have lost their agency and wait to be given permission by someone to do something, anything.
We entered the local chapati restaurant (The Comfort Zone) located in Kansanga. Alongside customers, chapati makers, waitresses, and various small children is a welder working with machinery. The tent has open sides and a blue roof, is very noisy and congested. Eventually the sound reduces but i don’t know if anyone noticed. People come and go and change positions. As part of the lab we are exploring how the general public engages with Art in public spaces.
Earlier this year I was a participant on the East African Soul Train, traveling from Nairobi to Mombasa on the Lunatic Line. We were encouraged to collaborate with fellow artists in the confines of a moving train and create something that was reflective of our personal experiences. The theme of the residency which lasted a week was Kovu Safarini – My Scar.
It was challenging, inspiring and the beginning of me questioning how I as a poet you explore my work in different mediums other than performance and workshoping.
Slowly the ink flows to the nib.
A few shakes in the air and it begins to write.
I am chronicling the Age of Trump.
As it begins, who knows where it will end.
But he’s given us a heads up.
To make America great again, by any means necessary.
Is this once again a case of the chickens coming home to roost?
What goes around, comes around and America has some
Superpower karma coming its way.
So what to do?
In this age of Kali Yuga, destruction is the order of the day.
But there is always a rebirth,