Coping with yourself
Syowia Kyambi is a multimedia artist. She made an installation and performance entitled ‘Fracture I’ in which she uses the female body as a tool to express her message. Rose is the main character in Kyambi’s story, a woman who is steeped in doubt. She no longer knows where she belongs and is unable to cope with herself either within the context of the rural tradition or urban modernity.
Kyambi’s performance starts with a figure in a sisal costume covered with beads. The sisal refers to colonial times in which the sisal factories were owned by colonisers as well as to a traditional weaving technique. The beads refer to trade. The figure destroys pots & vases full of blood causing the blood to flow freely. It represents the destruction of culture and traditional life in Kenya but also self-destruction.
“It’s a vicious character. It’s not in a human state of mind. The being interacts with the audience; intimidating them and looking for people to engage with who will allow themselves to be drawn in and become equally aggressive. The vases are a representation of a culture, of a practice, of people who get destroyed.” The figure evolves into the character Rose, someone from a rural area in upcountry Kenya moving into the city where she tries to deal with city life and capitalism.
Living the perfect life
Rose has the mind-set of a successful consumer and tries to lead the perfect modern life with a two-storey house, a husband, two children a job and a car. During the performance Rose gets ready for her day but she keeps failing to cope. She falls down repeatedly and mourns the past and tries to reassemble the broken pots and vases. She stumbles over the remains of her past destruction and finally faces the losses of the past and gives up the role she has created for herself. Kyambi explains: “Acknowledging that destruction is a very important step in the reparation process. If you understand your history, than you understand the present day relationships and circumstances better.”
Finally Rose becomes the artist who suspends the sisal costume in front of a mirror and the mirror then reflects the audiences and integrates them into her performance. Kyambi: “The work is layered and has more than one purpose. It has more than one narrative, because the things that influence me come from many sources. People can connect to my work in different ways. It can be read as a woman who is confined but people can also relate to the colonial history. Both stories are totally relevant.”