I am stationed in Lagos, Nigeria for about 7 more months for The Fulbright Fellowship for Sculpture. For my project I will be collaborating with students and faculty from The University of Lagos on the diasporic Kentifrica Project.
In addition to working on the Fulbright I am also seeking inspiration from this bustling and complex geography to inform my next bodies of lifelong studio work. These bodies of work are brewing and will be inspired by my personal experiences navigating the geography of West Africa for the first time as a Kentifrican-African-American woman. Thus far on my journies in Lagos my lifelong fascination with the head as a platform for site specific sculpture has been activated. My whole life I have been obsessed with the way that use that Black/African people use their heads as sites for communication, carrying items, getting attention and just being plain badass. I am in awe at the way Lagosians use their heads as sites for transport. I am in awe at the balancing that I have witnessed these past few weeks. My favorite feat was a man riding on the back of an Okada (motorbike) with two full body mannequins on his head! I wish I could have snapped a picture of that, but I am very careful about photographing here and many Lagosians do not like it. (Of course I wouldn't either and have been the victim of people's exotic travel fantasy pics without my permission! Not taking invasive pictures also relates to my moral ethics I developed while working with and researching the histories of West African colonial photographs for The Uninvited Series so I am extra catious.)
Being here in the hustle and bustle of Lagos I am focusing in on the head as a site for the transport of prized commodities such as food, tools and building materials. I have seen feats beyond my imagination and learned that kids are taught early at home how to balance things on their head. I have seen huge platters, rugs, building equippment, sewing machines and you name it on top of people's heads. My horrible American posture makes anything I place on top of my head go careening to the ground. I am working up the nerve to start practicing carrying items on my head and perhaps incorporating the process into video performances. I already have visions of photographs as well. Due to the nature of my Kentifrican Project being diasporic I am also thinking about converting the musuem to be transportable on my head instead of a suitcase or table and I am envisioning traveling with it and taking it to market places!
This head as a site for site specific sculpture as a conceptual idea for my practice came about in 2009 when I attended my MFA interview for CalArts. Darcy Huebler, Shirley Tse and Micheal Ned Holte were on the panel to interview me. Micheal Ned Holte made an observation about work that changed my life and supported my intense desire to sudy at CalArts. When viewing my portfolio that showcased photography, headdresses and drawings he said, " Kenyatta, you make site specific sculpture in which the site is your head." In that moment everything clicked. My mother's obsession with hair, my own obssession with hair and head adornment/headdresses, my obsession with drawing only the head and my obsession with creating intimidating sculptural components that traveled on my head out into public spaces. Up until that point I didn't have the language to describe what I was truy interested in concerning my artisitic relationship to engaging the head as a concept within African/African-American culture.
I have always been intrigued by the Yoruban concept of Ori (The Orisha of the Head) in which people are thought to have a body, a soul and a third entity that guides one's thoughts and path to success or trouble. The head is seen as sacred. Since I have been in Nigeria I have been researching and learning more about this concept from Yoruban locals. I also have begun experimenting with creating altars for my head and engaging with my head as a site for performance, landscapes and still lifes more explicitly. I see all of these ideas colliding together in an interesting way but first I have to practice balancing. Wish me luck! lol
Repurposing Mark Making: Sketchbook
June 18, 2015
Chromophobia: My Evolution With Painting
April 4, 2015
Site Specific Sculpture
December 12, 2015
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!