Nairobi Contemporary Art Institute, Nairobi, Kenya
23 Mar 2023 - 30 Jun 2023
NCAI announces the opening of Kaspale, a solo exhibition by Syowia Kyambi (b. 1979, Nairobi). Drawn from the ongoing Kaspale project, the works in the exhibition include photography, video, sculpture, multimedia installation, and performance created between 2019 and 2023. The exhibition runs until 30th June 2023.
Kaspale is a trickster character created by Kyambi to intervene in situations where the burden of often violent histories has rendered them difficult to articulate and engage with. This body of work, which began in 2018 with research into the history of the Amani Research Station in Usambara, Tanzania and the archives of the MARKK Museum, Hamburg, has expanded into a series of encounters and interventions in which Kaspale shuttles back and forth in time and space, appearing in real and imagined spaces, always with a mind to speak and act where speech and action are otherwise curtailed.
The exhibition brings the audience into Kaspale’s ever-growing universe to witness as Kaspale intervenes in recent Kenyan history, appearing in photographic archives of East Africa’s colonial past, and entering the spaces which bear the legacy of the colonial project. Beyond this, Kyambi introduces Kaspale’s kin, and transports viewers to Kaspale’s place of origin. Kaspale’s multiform, multidimensional nature is an invitation to question ideas about time, memory, origins, and kinship.
Through Kaspale, Kyambi undertakes a commentary, at times satirical, of the legacies of colonisation, histories of state-sanctioned violence, individual and collective memory, and how these together inform one’s sense of self. Golden-mouthed, with red ochre limbs, and donning a Kaunda suit, Kaspale appears to hold space for truth-telling.