PERFORMANCE AND INSTALLATION (ATO MALINDA) / IMAGE (BARBARA MINISHI) / SUPPORTED BY GOETHE INSTITUT NAIROBI
LOOKING AT AFRICA; LOOKING AT ART; LOOKING AT AFRICA (Curated solo show of Ato Malinda)
A figure, clothed in a loose-fitting printed suit, traverses the gallery space, moving repeatedly between a large mound of red soil on one side and a pile of rubble on the other. Arranged in a large circle and connecting the soil and the rubble is a circle of effigies, figures made from sticks, strings and a rock. Three of these effigies are clothed in the same print material as the suit of the performer, whose repetitive motions go on and on.
The title 'Looking at Art; Looking at Africa; Looking at Art’ suggests that ‘Africa', 'Art' and ‘Looking’ are significant references.. In fact, if we deconstruct the title what it seems to be saying is that what we are looking at (the performance) is Art, which has as its theme the way Africa looks at Art. Hence the artist's intentions become even clearer.
What is interesting here is the inclusion of 'looking', the role of the spectator, the viewer, in the title. This implicates us, as viewers, in the work itself, and seems to imply that without us, the work would be incomplete. In fact the construction of the title implies that we, as viewers, are also in fact, performers. The work is not what we are looking at, we are part of the work, we are 'performing' the viewer.
If the first part of the title implicates us as performers in this performance, then the final part implies that we are also, to some extent, the very subject of this performance. The roles of viewer and viewed, performer and audience, subject and object become blurred and we are left, slightly disorientated, in a contemplative thought-space, with a sense that something very exciting is happening that we cannot entirely define.