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Throngs and Raising Dust: The Crowded Canvas

Updated: Apr 16

When I was a child father would take us in his Datsun car on trips to visit friends and relatives. Mother dressed us in clothes with touches of purple (as we were a royal family), especially if we were going to our village Oguta to participate in ceremonies and traditional festivities. We chatted while listening to the music coming from the cassette player. On the way, Dad would call out the names of all the villages on the drive to Oguta- the trick was to read the signposts. Traveling became a thing for me. The journey became a happy memory connected to the unity of family and love. But the destinations are also important. My paintings' color choices came from Oguta- from the memories of dark blue/browns, the flowing lake, the red sunset, yellow ochre dust, and crowds. On important occasions and festivals, the raffia-clad sometimes masked masquerades came out to entertain. We chanted songs of praise about the masquerades’ exploits as they chased us. I learned the joy of movement and dance and the sporadic ways in which these masquerades charged up their audience. The more eccentric masqueraders had a bigger crowd. Those performances became times of healing, balms that soften an otherwise drab existence. The lines in those spaces splinter. I relive those moments in my work. The crowds are always there in the paintings, thronging my stretched canvas, overwhelming the space. We shared the joy of those moments. Crowded spaces mean that bodies are cut off and rejoin visually. I am a participant staring over people's shoulders, seeing with the audience. It is a shared experience. The record of things/events is about points of view, memories, and learning.

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