“What Cultural Fabric?” is part of a project that started in Mexico City in 2009, which is still a work in progress. The piece looks at what cultural fabric Kenyan society has or is developing, if any. Researching Mexican history and its development of cultural identity and philosophy led me to ask why the representation of Kenyan culture is a Maasai shuka (blanket), why a whole country’s identity is represented and re-represented by the cloth of only one tribe out of more than forty-two.
My work starts from a very personal source, my mother’s shirt. The images are close-ups of this shirt. The shirt becomes a fabric and could easily be mistaken for a gunia (Hessian cloth). The guniastill permeates class and tribal divides. It symbolizes growth, referencing agriculture, construction and interior decorating industries among others. This series of photographs has developed further after being part of an installation I recently exhibited titled Fracture (i) (2008 – ongoing). These photographs have become a vehicle to ask several questions about identity and history: what is the meaning of this metaphor, this idea, of society having a cultural fabric? What are we building? What has already been built? By whom and what for?