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.
The practice of Yoga can be very rewarding. I have experienced increased energy, concentration and flexibility. I’ve also been able to relieve my anxiety and develop a deeper sense of well being.
I think its important to learn to love, appreciate and listen to ones body. Too often we are not in tune with our bodies until we become sick then we begin to notice what is going on!
With the practice of yoga you become more sensitive to your body and learn to respond.
Based on my own practice and the teaching of others, I’ve realized its really important to take time with ones body, to nurture it, to respect it. Learning to slow down is important to personal development. It give us the opportunity to reflect and rejuvenate especially as we live highly stressful lives.