In front of us were people from various cities on the planet. They all, respectively, appeared on small squares on laptop monitor. Reggae song was played. It was also Tone’s birthday. All were smilingly greeting one another. We were on board for lumbung assembly 2021 through zoom meeting.
“Welcome to our assembly again,” said Ajeng. “We have Wajukuu and Britto that will host us.
“It’s great in assembly again,” Gertrude added. I don’t know if you have chance to look at our previous assembly aired at radio Alhara. It is interesting to look back, last October. We already know Wajukuuu, but also we have FAFSWAG, Project Art Works, and others with us.”
Gertrude introduced harvesters for the assembly during the day. There were Abdul Dube who works with visual harvesting, Putra Hidayatullah, and some design students from Lebanon, Palestine, and other places who were curious to learn about harvesting process and to use varous tools or medium to see how it could work differently.
“We have put concern on harvest so that it could be shared. We also have a plan for harvest publication,” added Gertrude.
Before the assembly really started, Daniella did check-in with some stretching right before Britto took over. Lipi, representing the collective based in Bangladesh, introduced some of its members.
“Today we are going to show you something. One part of our projects is revisiting. Mahboub, an artist, is going to show you a video an old visit. Why you want to see, about the chances. I am not going to talk much now. We’ll talk after the video. We have travelled to different communities who live in coastal areas. There were seven different places we visited. They are in remote areas where there’s no electricity. No toilet. Sometimes we make toilet there. It is kind of learning process for us.
Shabu, Lipi’s friend, also adds, “We’ve been travelling to most places specially to border areas. The people we work with are Rakhine people. They also have relationship with neighborhood. During our stay we worked with many local people in the community. Most artists go there to find some research materials. Sometimes they collaborate, sometimes they create works individually.
Most are site specific. We also visited some island near the place. Artists are doing some kind of performance. They also work with the community. During the project we found some distinct art from there like performance or ritual. Like this one. We call it chankranty. Each community does it differently. They play music and dance.
We’ve never seen in this form before. This is like resource material during our visits. It is not introduced to many people. Lipi says we have a plan to go there again to take more documentation. This was more spontaneous shot. This called is chitahoron. There’s a local theater group. They go to different villages to play whole night. This is a kind of folklore theater. Sometimes male performed female roles. On a new year day, they have festival. They call it water festival. They celebrate in another village. It was the first time they celebrate again water festival as we ask them to do so. We’ll try to continue asking them whether they want to continue.
We visited another border. This community mostly inhabited by indigenous people. Their life condition is very tough. It was quite surprising for us to see their culture, architecture and lifestyle. Also, the food culture was quite interesting. There’s simple food. Not much vegetable. It is hard to survive on hot areas. These are all random video footage. We had presentation. We collected material and put it together. It is not a well-designed film.
This girl you are seeing, she is blind by born. She cannot see, but she can hear. She goes to school every day. It is a very interesting film. There’s an organized wedding ceremony in their traditional way. It is more like staging event, more performative. But they are willing to join whole villages. This spontaneously involve in this ceremony. Both of them are girls, they are performing as man and woman. It is an arranged event. The whole day they performed traditional dance till the night.
This is also quite interesting place. We work with Hajung community. There’s an ethnic community there. There’s an illegal open field for tile clay. The village are taking over some people. They’re collecting some clay.
So far, we want to make a plan to revisit that place. They are not doing clay anymore. But those areas are more like becoming water body. There’s hill area belongs to India. This is quite interesting to stay. There is no electricity. There’s no place to stay. We stay in one of the houses. We stay in rice barn. We stay all in the temple. You have to report to the border guard.
There’s a lot projects done by these artists. Most artists work with children and local people with many performative works. You see the local village market where we prepare food for the community in the village. We also collect a lot of interviews. It is quite interesting to know their engagement with history of Mughal emperor.
It is very sad for us to see this part of video because he’s just passed away few days ago. He was so close to us. He is a puppet maker. He makes it with kids. Many kids are fond of him. This form is called Alpona. They use to draw for ritual with the rice and red color.
His name is niloy. He did performance with the land. One artist performs with local farmers. This is a traditional dance. It has a lovely voice but I cannot share it. We invite all the villagers. We can see another traditional art form which is also taken from mahabarata. So, this is an amazing performance. There’s no light. We put our own light for documentation. It is durga, one of the most important goddesses. There are many men acting as female characters.”
Lipi continued, “Part of the art work is to communicate with these communities. This is a big part of it. In every location, we don’t do it ourselves. We do with locals. We try to adapt and follow what locals offers.” Along with Lipi, Shabu mentioned, “some were not there anymore, but we luckily did documentation. Spaces also are changing from time to time. Other regions also face such issues.”
Gertrude: Can you tell us about stories like community’s work with the alphabet?
Lipi: We are still not sure if we can take it in short time. Within this one year, we’ll see if we can do such with the material. The original alphabet is gone. So, they are using roman alphabet. We will try our best to find something.
Gertrude: Maybe anyone has question?
While Ana shared about the food for discussion on local recipe and food sovereignty, a term Gola Ghor is introduced.
“Gola Ghor is like lumbung. It has the same process like lumbung. In that room they make it large, a kind of pottery with bamboo weaving. In the outside, they put the mud. To protect the outer sides from weather. These are almost similar shape people are using in various countries.
Gertrude: You also want to work with lumbung members on the kitchen, no?
Lipi: Our last meeting in production team, we plan to make it professional like restaurant or to give it to a company that can run. Our initial plan was for a hundred days. We are asking hundred immigrants for one months. We are from Bangladesh; in South Asia our food is closely related. We are inviting all lumbung members if they want to cook in the kitchen. They can let us know. We can look for immigrants from Kassel. Every day, the kitchen offers one food from each country. We’d like it if everyone after all these days how many countries can be included from Kassel. That’s one thing we plan. The title is Pak Ghor. It is a sanskret word meaning to meet in a place, to gather for a family. To share food, tea, gossiping. It’s quite distinct memorial project. We came from traditional family. Most of us has this similar kind of feelings, memory. In urban life this is almost over.
Shimul: I think about the Pak Ghor, almost more or less similar. It is common place where family members meet and discuss. At the same time, it is a cooking place, meeting place, hangout place. People sit in straw mat and serving foods.
This idea is kind of recalling Pak Ghor in Kassel, kind of ways to memorize. Conceptually it is a kind of feeling we want to share and with immigrants in Kassel. If someone is interested in doing performance or anything.
As the presentation ended, Gertrude took over. “Thanks a lot, Britto.” Next turn is for Wajukuu to introduce and present ideas and plans.
Ngugi Wameru, a young man started the story:
Welcome to Nairobi! Thank you for the presentation. We hope to learn more from the collective. It is very interesting if we can get the video. I wouldn’t take my time. I will just welcome everyone to our presentation.
In Wajukuu, we are going talk about its history by using its images. Also, bringing some small videos with summaries project we are doing. So, just with the small presentation.”
Wajukuu a community-based organization. This used to be another organization to do our art. While you are there you are able to start our social program. This is the genesis of kid’s club. We are more into their lives, their feelings to express. As we teach them, we are also learning. It was not a big group in the beginning. Gradually it grew bigger. We have a collective responsibility by doing social program. We also started scholarship program. Scholarship beneficiary. The images take you back to history. We learn that whatever we’re learning we must share. Our dream is to have future where every dream will be valued.
On video Wajukuu Art Project: dozens of children are drawing wearing orange T-Shirt. People are working in traditional market to share the project. Some drawings are on the wall; spreading message about Covid 19. Some drainages are in the slum. Kids are growing outside. The flood is on the river bank. People live there and when it rain they cannot move out.
Freshia: We have various activities. Sometimes the kids use art to express themselves, sometimes it is for their future skills. In addition, we ran a library. We no longer have the library. We have mobile library. We aired documentary to the community. This is to have solution for different issues facing the community.
Ngungi: We intend to do more technical things. There’s a lot of youth facing different challenges. Dropping out of schools. Growing in single parents. Most of them fall into bad companies. If you choose wrong direction, you might end up in the wrong side. It can be early pregnancy if girls are with the irresponsible guys. It can be drug in the case of boys. There’s crime and drug abuse. In Mukuru the population is huge. Illegal illicit chang’a. This is the program we are doing for kids with physical challenges. To encourage them. Last year we did a pilot project with youth, a mentorship. We intend to do more technical things this year. The idea is to do fashion and design. We can help them become, for example, artists.
Kym: We’re going to talk about art and culture, as we are artists. Artists are the backbone of Wajukuu. We have different artists focus on different issues. Some are individual discovery, some are collective. Some are paintings by Shabu. The activities are art workshop to improve to be professional through exchange programs. The neighborhood take part in activities. Art festival we do with community is to celebrate our diverse culture. There are acrobat, dances, showing their talents. Groups are doing different things. The festival become a platform to come together. As professional artists, we do exhibition. We participate in biennale.
We are thinking of everything we are doing and how we want to present it and connect it with documenta fifteen. We are finding our ways. We can reflect it in our networks. It could be something in publication forms. Someone can get this knowledge. It’s just a summary. It’s not much in details. Maybe later we are going to share our reflections on what we are going to do.
Fret: Can you tell a bit about fashion and design?
Wajuuku: Design is close to as we are living near industry. The fashion we talk is more like a way of creating, a way of expressing something. We expect this to take place in our festival, as a way to remind our society.
Tone: When you talk to the kids and member community about lumbung and your participation in documenta, how’s their reaction?
To us being part of lumbung and documenta is something to be remembered by community. There are many artists in Kenya, but not for the community. For us we remain in community because we believe that art belong to where community is. We have talks with youth. In our programs, we use local fashion designers, local tailors. We are still preparing the place where we start our program. You know, we have lost our space, this is our challenge. So are preparing for it.
Tone: I talk with A Team. About how financial issues affect our activities and space due to pandemic. I hope we could talk further.
Gertrude: After assembly we could have further discussions biweekly or even weekly on this is very important issue.
I think we are coming to the end of time.
Thank you very much! We are not many here. But we are happy to meet you. Thank you for those who are interested in the presentations.