We are off into exciting lands and into the beautiful world of colour! Our goal is to find inspiring spaces & investigate the importance of these environments to the people and communities that use them. Here are the people, places, stories and colours from our trip so far. Words by Megan King, photography by Megan King & Ricky Lee Gordon
Kigali’s first large scale mural comes to life, with a cause
Getting the artwork up onto the 16 meter building had all the makings of a good comedy. At our first encounter with the wall we were introduced to the shoddy looking and swerving scaffolding that, besides the safety implication, took us as far as the skirt of our intore warrior. After scouring much of the city, the team eventually came across the lesser-spotted cherry picker that would extend its long neck and bucket to the top of the wall. For added fun, the driver came with his foot a in cast.
The comedy was certainly a feel-good. Working with the Vuka artists was pure delight. At first appearing difficult to read, the locals are some of the kindest and most charming people we’ve ever had the opportunity to take residence with. The mural that colours the Rwandan bio-medical center is an expression of their collective talent. The top of the mural reads ‘My Lovely Rwanda, together we will stand up and fight against the stigma of Aids.’ I hope this is only the beginning of more positive public art in Kigali.
Kigali’s Panama Bar was transformed into a palooza of dance, performance, live painting, and art making; all accompanied by the perfect taco. The celebration was part-exhibition and part-fundraiser for the Kurema, Kurema, Kwiga project, an invitation through which people share stories of living positively using self and collective expression.
The exhibition showcased work made by the Vuka artists during a series of workshops that explored creating a new discourse around the Aids stigma. Positive and empowering messages packed into innovative and up-cycled creations, entire figures came to life using plastic bottles and other waste materials. A silent auction, stencil-making and graffiti boards were also on display.
We were invited by the wonderful people from the Kurema project to be a part of the first large-scale mural in Kigali, to be painted in honour of World Aids Day coming up on the 1st of December. Specifically, the project will aim to address the issues around the stigma of those living with or affected by HIV at a personal and community level. The first part of our mission is to work with the local artists of Ivuka to co-create a design that will help represent this message. The message needs to be clear and culturally relevant. In the workshop, the artists taught us about traditional intore warriors and dancers of Rwanda and other symbols of strength and community.
Rwanda is a very complex yet deeply beautiful country. The country is still healing from its devastating history that destroyed an entire people. Many people, especially woman and children, were infected with the virus during the months of terror. Many more are still living with it today. Kurema aims to give these people a voice, to explore platforms of expression through art and stories of ‘living positively.’ Above all, Kurema aims to educate people by creating an open discussion around discrimination and stigma. The country is still healing, but I am humbled at how far they have come to reconcile. My experience here so far has been gentle, original and moving.
We’ve arrived in the land of a thousand hills and the Vuka Artsstudio in Kigali will be our new home for the next week. Open studio spaces look over lush green hills, and there is constant life with the Rwandan dance troupe singing and drumming.The walls are draped with magnificent art and sculptures made from waste materials. The studio has played an important role in developing a platform for local art, and for many artists, an opportunity to create a positive life for themselves.
We’ll be here for the next two weeks working with 16 local artists in residency at the studio and participating in the Kurema, Kureba, Kwiga public arts project.
After the succession of so much organised public art, we took to the road for 5 days to see the natural masterpieces of the land. Starting from the red and sweating disneyland of Phoenix Arizona, we took the road leading north, weaving past the impressive rocks of Sedona and up to the quiet north rim of the Grand Canyon. The immensity of the canyon is hypotising. Standing in centuries old grandeur and wonder, as if heaven had extended its immortal limbs to the earth.
We watched the landscape transform from rocky red desert to black and blue peaks and finally the green and silver glaciers of Yosemite National Park in California. The vastness and solitude of the open road inspires a kind of introspection that is missing from the everyday stream of the city. Nature is in constant motion as we drive under the purple bruised blankets in the sky and watch for hours as the clouds dance between drama and playfulness. When driving such vast open spaces, what is seen as inside and outside become much more intertwined than the usual distinction allows.
Our cross-country adventure took us through 3 states. Nevada was a desert scene of coloured space, it held the marks of where Native Americans used to dwell and the remnants of another, perhaps more prosperous way of life, faintly scattered like a dream. I loved the alien paraphernalia and warnings all along the extra-terrestrial highway. The journey continued past Bryce Canyon in Utah and finally ended with a camp-out in California’s Yosemite National Park.
According to Native American legend, the enormous glaciers of El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall that stand directly opposite, are the incarnates of a husband and wife that could not stop fighting and degrading each other. This displeased the gods and spirits, who decided to freeze them into stone so that they would face each other and forever only be able to look at the other. The gods and their humour!
So subtle are the poetic creations of Know Hope, though the power of his black and white figures and their stitched red hearts is unmistakable, as are the truths he contains in one beautiful sentence.
Know hope tells us that he tries to document the human condition, the collective struggles, and searches for the common denominator in different contexts. On our environment he says ‘we are inseparable. A lot of times I think that people don’t realise how much of a significant part they are in composing the reality.’ Also his favourite colour is blue- with all its shades and layers like the Blues.
When speaking about the importance of creativity as human necessity, he believes that ‘it is one of the last free and immediate things we can do. It’s very organic… very intuitive.’
Pictured above is the wall he did as part of Living Walls in Atlanta, and the others were done on the streets of Cape Town and JHB during a visit to South Africa earlier this year. See more of his moving creations at this is limbo, and a great video about his recent experiences in London, The Abstract and the Very Real.
Atlanta, another wild experience of the vast American cross-section, home to Martin Luther King Jr and gangsta rap. Amid being thrown into a 3-day rap conference and getting injured because of limbs that fall asleep, 20 artists from around the world gathered to create in the public space for Living Walls.
About the project, ’Along with changing the urban landscape, the Living Walls conference set out to highlight a number of problems facing the city. Living Walls did not just showcase art, but also built a platform for much needed dialogue in the city.’
Art shown above by Freddy Sam, Jaz, Elian, 2501, Axel Void (photos not my own), 3TTTman and JR.
'Mural painting provided a support structure for these young men and women to refine their artistic skills, empowering them to take an active role in beautifying their own neighborhoods. The murals they created instantly added color, beauty, and life to an old, industrial city struggling with decades of economic distress and population loss. The results of the program were nothing less than magical. From the beginning, Golden witnessed how mural-making changed lives and how the murals themselves began to mend the aesthetic fabric of the city.'
When I Grow Up I want to become a Marine Biologist
I never cease to be in awe of the magnificent creatures on this planet, and those that live in the oceans are the most extraordinary of all. Despite zoo-like implications, a trip to the Atlanta aquarium was a vision of serenity. The glory and elegance of the whale sharks tail as it glides through the water, the perfection and grace of movement. And when the jellyfish swims, it reminds me of all the layers of a woman’s skirt dancing at midnight.
Our oceans are an eternal wonder. So lets everybody be conscious about how we each individually affect natural eco-systems. For starters, avoid buying fish and eating at restaurants that serve farmed fish or endangered species. Just ask.
We sat down for an intimate conversation with our friend, purveyor of the stars, RASTA FAR I and all round creator, Remed.
On how he wishes his work to affect people: ‘As when I listen to music I love, I feel like singing or dancing. After seeing an amazing piece of art, right after feeling it, I feel like doing it also. And that’s what I hope I can spread through my work… An invitation to create. He tells us that the general environment society and ‘civilization’ has created opposes this, ‘it’s an invitation not to create.’
I’ll never forget when Remed came to South Africa and in a few hours, transformed a lady’s cold, decaying house into a smile in the slums of Woodstock. See his magic here.
Not much goes on in the city of Rochester besides diners and Christianity. A group of creative and strange humans gathered together in July for Wall Therapy, ‘a public community-level intervention using mural art as a vehicle to address our collective need for inspiration.’
Work included above from DALeast, LNY, Freddy Sam, eversiempre and the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
New York is also home to language artist and sign painter Steven Powers. He tells us about the geography of New York and the right angles that make up the city’s architecture which he thinks causes a lot of stress in peoples lives.
About his creations, Steve says he makes art that reflects the ‘the joys and pains and tribulations of my life, and when you make things personal you make them universal and in turn with examining the universal and trying to make it personal.’
On the importance of creativity:
'Creativity is what's kept me alive. I like drink and I like drugs. But I like persuing something creative better. If I didn't have something better than that I would probably just be ok with those things and a TV set. So really, creativity allows me to explore really what it means to be alive.'
Sure, I don’t understand why a jar of collected fingernails has made its way into New York’s Museum of Modern Art and same goes for the pretentious silk-screen print of a circle that leaves me ever sceptical about the quality and economy of the art world.
Still no one can fault the magic of Henri Rosseau’s naive and dreamy creations. The MoMA also houses van Gogh’s classic Starry Night, and a collection of Monet’s sublime Water Lilies. What a privilege to see these originals!