Recipes for Autonomy | Syowia Kyambi

To begin, watch the video introduction by Syowia Kyambi

Untethered Magic
A radio clip created by Sauti Msituni, Kibe Wangunyu and Dennis Kiberu.

The show aims to address how the collective ‘Untethered Magic’ was formed and the start of Sauti Msituni as an alternative radio. Chemi_Ali the Kushite and Diberu Live invite you to a discussion addressing sustainability and autonomy.

Transcription available here.

What the hELL she doin

“What the hELL she doin’!” is a collective of four female-identifying artists from across the African continent and its Diasporas. Common to our respective practices are touchstones, which include but are not limited to: the body and what gets embodied, remembering and dismembering, standing and leaving, invisible creolization, and labor as geography.

We have created an advice booklet drawing from our perspectives and lived experiences as Women of Colour working in the art industry.

Read and download the booklet here.

(In)Formal Frisson: Another Conversation

The following is part of an ongoing conservation, casually named (In)Formal Frisson, between Syowia Kyambi, Kijo Agacuand, and Sibonelo Gumede.

They first met each other in January of 2020 in Kenya during the weeklong De/Archive East Africa research residency, organized by CAD+SR and hosted by Untethered Magic, an event series held at the home Kyambi built herself just outside of Nairobi National Park. Later that July, the group rejoined the center for its annual Commonplaces and Entanglements residency with a special focus on imagining the futurity of Blackness in the midst of continued global anti-blackness.

From their individual positions connecting them to Southern Africa, the three saw a potential for further thinking together about themes of architecture, embodiment, and movement in time. For this specific conversation, they chose to anchor some of their thoughts in sites that already figure in their respective practices: the Nyayo House in Nairobi, Kenya (Kyambi); the Livingstone-Stanley monument in Mugere, Burundi (Agacu); the nature of South African public spaces that carry the vestiges of apartheid (Gumede). The conversation comes back to ideas of borders and opacity, as theorized by thinkers Achille Mbembe and Edouard Glissant respectively. 

Read the full conversation here.

 A bench that is situated at the Dalton hostel, Durban, Sibonelo Gumede, 2020

Special Thanks to:
Kibe Wangunyu 
Kiberu Dennis
Kijo Agacu
Sibonelo Gumede
Usha Seejarim
Immy Mali
Sonia E. Barrett
Ciaran Nash
Shi @ Shi’s Salon
Alessandra Cianetti 
Xavier De Sousa
Anahi Saravia Herrera

This commission is a part of the performingborders 2021 programme, supported by Arts Council England.

Syowia Kyambi (b. Nairobi) is an interdisciplinary artist and curator who works across photography, video, drawing, sound, sculpture and performance installation. She holds an MFA from Transart Institute (2020) and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2002). She is based in Nairobi and is of Kenyan/German origin. In Kyambi’s artistic practice history collapses into the contemporary through the interventions of mischievous and disruptive interlocutory agents who interrogate the legacy of hurt inflicted by colonial projects that still frame the wider political conjuncture of now. The work is complex, messy and uneasy. It requires its viewers and participants to bear witness to an embodiment of collective experiences, and the constant search for links between the now and the morphed now that is encapsulated in her work asks important questions about what is remembered, what is archived, and how we see the world anew. Rooted in her practice is a deep connection with the land, the earth and the idea of home. By working to eloquently blend the disparate concepts and elements she contends with through her process while avoiding excessive constraints or directing of the viewer, her audiences and participants watch and experience these ingredients react, interact and metamorphose.

Along with exhibiting her works throughout Europe, Africa and the United States, (in museums and galleries in Senegal, Belgium, Finland, Kenya, Mali, Sweden, Germany, Zimbabwe, France, Norway, United Kingdom, Mexico, South Africa, North America and Ireland.) Kyambi has received a number of awards and short-listings including the FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Awards (2016) and the UNESCO Prize for the Promotion of the Arts Award (2004). Artist residencies include PRAKSIS, Norway (2019), CAD+SR Italy & Mexico (2018), HIAP, Finland (2018), IASPIS, Sweden (2013), and Delfina Foundation, UK (2016). In her curatorial work, she has collaborated with Ostrale Centre for Contemporary Art Biennale, Dresden, Germany (2019, 2016) and Goethe-Institute, Kenya (2012, 2010) as well as working with collectives and individual artists in East Africa. Her work is held in a number of private and public collections including the Robert Devereux Collection, London, the Kouvola Art Museum Collection, Finland, the National Museum of Kenya and the Sindika Dokolo Foundation.

Kibe Wangunyu is a self-taught Kenyan commercial photographer, cinematographer and digital artist whose work focuses on themes of human psychology, philosophy and day to day human interaction in relationship to culture, identity, and Kenyan colonial and pre-colonial history. @simonkibbz

Dennis Kiberu is a radio presenter, PR practitioner, music producer, disc jockey and photographer originating from and based in Nairobi, Kenya. He has studied Journalism and minored in Film at the Multimedia University of Kenya, with a focus on broadcast media and photography. Kiberu is a co-founder of Untethered Magic dealing with project and administrative management, where he and Kibe Wangunyu run Sauti Msituni Radio, a diverse online radio station that seeks to explore the underground & alternative music scene within the African continent. @denniskibbz

Usha Seejarim is best known for her reinterpretation of ordinary and domestic objects. Making use of common materials such as safety pins, wooden pegs, irons and brooms, her work has a distinctly Dadaist influence. Her compositions result from repetitive acts of mark making alluding to themes related to time, chance, space and displacement. Usha Seejarim was born in 1974 in Bethal, South Africa. Seejarim received a B-Tech Degree in Fine Art from the University of Johannesburg in 1999 and a Master’s Degree in Fine Art at the University of The Witwatersrand (WITS) in 2008, both in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she currently lives and works. @ushaseejarim

Sonia Barret Of German Jamaican Parentage brought up in England, China and Cyprus, Sonia Elizabeth Barrett is a graduate of St Andrews University graduating with an MA in literature and the Transart Institute with an MFA in Studio Practice. Sonia is a MacDowell fellow and recipient of the Boss Harlan Foundation stipend and has been recognised by the Premio Ora prize, NY Art Slant showcase for sculpture and the Neo Art Prize. She has exhibited by the Museum for the Sea Italy, the National Gallery of Jamaica, and the Heinrich Böll Institute Germany. Her work has been shown at a number of galleries including the OCCCA California, the NGBK Berlin, The Format Contemporary in Milan and the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery Philadelphia the Museum of Derby and the British Library. Her works have been published in the International Review of African American Art, Black History 365 Journal, Kunstforum International, the Contemporary & Platform, ELSE Journal and Protocollum. In 2017 she initiated AIPCC in Bavaria, a peripheral space centering and facilitating peripheral arts practitioners. @soniaelizabethbarret

Anderu Immaculate Mali a.k.a Immy Mali. Immy from Arua, lives and works in Kampala Uganda. Using a variety of media including, text, video, sound, sculpture, installation, animation, her work attempts to unpack the complexities and entanglements of memory and existence in a neo/postcolonial Uganda. Notions of presence and absence, personal memories of childhood growing up in Uganda juxtaposed with current personal and collective
experiences of existence in shifting spaces also influence her work. Her ongoing project Letters to my childhood (2017-present) accords her the duality to engage with her past and present simultaneously. In 2013, she obtained a Bachelors degree in Industrial and Fine Arts from Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine arts, Makerere University, Kampala. She is an alumnus of the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam, Netherlands
(2018-2019). Mali has participated in exhibitions, residencies and workshops in various countries including Kenya, Netherlands, India, Ethiopia, Denmark, Germany, USA, South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, and Uganda. Her work has been published in art magazines including the Africa arts journal 2019.

Kijo Agacu is a Burundian American artist based in New York City. She holds a degree in architecture and is finishing her MFA in sculpture at Bard College in New York.

Sibonelo Gumede is a South African urbanist and researcher who is interested in the intersection of citizenship and city making processes in post-colonial urban environments. He holds a Masters in Development Studies from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal and he is currently pursuing a MPhil in Southern Urbanism at the University of Cape Town. @hlangananigumede

Featured image credits: Syowia Kyambi