A new body of work specially produced for the Future Africa: Visions in Time exhibition.

Rose’s Relocation is a new body of work produced for the Future Africa: Visions in Time exhibition. In this work, Rose, the character I built for a previous work, Fracture (i) who is struggling with coping in her environment has moved to a small town in France. The collages portray her in this town with superimposed images of her memories of her mother’s home. A series of five works are presented in a golden frame reminiscent of what a middle class Kenyan household would frame images of their family members. As much as living overseas often is seen as a great accomplishment, it also presents a great burden and feelings of isolation and loss for many.

In Kenya and specifically the capital city, Nairobi, there is a narrow viewpoint of what it is to be successful. Generally success is measured with materialism that stems from western capitalistic ideals. This current construction includes a past value system based a communal identity, the result often creating violent and vulnerable circumstances.

Syowia uses her history to explain what is coming. Her works reference colonialism, as well as a reference to transformation and the contemporary situation. It navigates the society – the idea of what you should be or what you shouldn’t be, how you present yourself, how people assume you’re this or that. Syowia uses the camera to document objects that have personal symbolism, focusing and recording the fine details. This is the core of her photographic process. These photographs in turn are reconstructed and incorporated into her final installation and performance works and most recently in the digital collage, Rose’s Relocation.

In Kenya’s contemporary society the photography is a readily accepted material that spans across most economic and social sectors. It is accepted because people connect with what they can easily access. Photographs are part and parcel of the atmosphere of urban and rural homes; they are in calendars, family albums and displayed as framed pictures and art. Photographs penetrate home life; they are a portal into a past time and ultimately create feelings of nostalgia. Syowia reawakens this photographic connection with her use of black and white photographs within the installation work Fracture (i) {Kouvola Art Museum, 2011, WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels, Konsthalle Lund, 49 Nord 6 Est FRAC Lorraine, Metz, 2015}

Part of this work characterises a contemporary woman named ‘Rose’, who wants to make it in the capital city. She comes from Kirinyaga, a rural town near Embu . Within the installation/performance of Fracture (i) is a slide projection of photographs referencing Rose’s memories of her mother’s home and it’s surroundings. Rose is a typical consumer model for measuring success. Capitalism has created this person that you find often in cities and around the world. A person struggling to keep up appearances, obtain the latest gadgets and grapples with contemporary and traditional value systems.

In Fracture (i), Rose dresses up for work, is barely able to greet people, repeatedly falls down, and stumbles upon the remains of broken bloodied ceramic vessels. She mourns the loss of her culture and her identity and attempts to place the vessels into some sort of order, propping them upright and grouping them. At the end of the performance she faces the agony of her past, forsakes the role she built for herself and accepts the feelings of sorrow and agony. Through this process she is able to rediscover her life.

The new work Rose’s Relocation takes the character a step further. Rose has now not only moved from being lower class to middle class, she is living the dream of being overseas. Yet here too as in Fracture (i) she navigates her new European small town environment and is facing the pressures of materialism, family expectations and knowing her identity.

1 Embu is a town located approximately 120 kilometres (75 mi) northeast of Nairobi towards Mount Kenya.


    Photographic Collage printed on matt photo paper

  • SIZE

    140cm by 38cm (5 frames of 28cm by 38cm each)

  • DATE

    Iwalewahaus, Future Africa: Visions in Time, Bayreuth