Lamu

In December 2014/15 and August 2016, I was invited to Lamu, to work at the Lamu Art Project, a Studio Facility and residence owned by Nicholas Logsdail. Artists are invited to work within the context of other international and Kenyan artists there.

Lamu Town is a small town on Lamu Island which is part of the Lamu archipelago in Kenya. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Lamu Town is Kenya’s oldest continually inhabited town, one of the first Swahili settlements on the eastern coast of Africa and was once the centre of the slave trade. There are no cars on Lamu Island- people get from place to place by foot, donkey or dhow. Despite it being predominantly Muslim, the architecture, culture, dress, music and language are indicative of African, Arab, Persian, Indian, Asian and European influences that define the Swahili Culture of East Africa. However, tourism, which many people are dependent on, has suffered immensely over the past few years due to the political climate- most of which has been exaggerated by the media. And now, there is a great deal of discussion about the controversial decision by the Kenyan government to build a port with the Chinese- the largest port in East Africa. Referred to as LAPSSET (Lamu Southern Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor), the project includes highways and pipelines across the region, much of which will lead to Lamu. In addition, the archipelago is envisioned to host a large airport, oil pipeline, oil refinery, railway and resort city.

I found the cultural similarities between Lamu and Bahrain striking, despite massive differences in levels of infrastructure and development. The continued use the traditional dhow, basket weaving, carved wooden doors, call to prayer, subtle scent of jasmine in the air- all hauntingly beautiful and nostalgic, but a nostalgia based on second- hand accounts and memories experienced through old mediums of documentation in Bahrain: stories, imagery and relics from the past. Daily walks through the narrow alleyways toward the seafront, with an awareness of what the ‘future’ will entail, was like experiencing the present ‘in limbo’.

I stayed at the residence of Nicholas Logsdail, founder of Lisson Gallery.  I consider The Lamu Project and ongoing documentation of my memories of time spent there.

To the Seafront,Video Projection on Dhow Sail. 2015

To the Seafront projects a visual collage of video footage and interspersed still shots of parts of the old town, onto an old dhow sail that she purchased from a local fisherman in Lamu. She showcases part of a collection of imagery and footage that was selected and documented on her Instagram account. Constantly posting imagery over the duration of my trip was my outlet and means of communication with her ‘world’ in Bahrain.

In August 2016,  I began a series of pencil and graphite drawings and sketches based on my memories and the sentiment of my second trip to Lamu.

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Utakula…..If You Can