Inside the Library

C& Reading Room, Nairobi

Take a look into libraries and book collections holding certain rarer and often forgotten publications which are nonetheless essential to the discourse. This time, V for 5 introduces five books from our C& Reading Room in Nairobi.

C& Office and Reading Room, Nairobi. Photo: C&

C& Office and Reading Room, Nairobi. Photo: C&

By V for 5

In the bustle of Westlands, among the horns of buses, and rush of cars, is the gentle C& reading room and office. The book collection has some material speaking to contemporary art and curatorial practices, some reference books about older-generation Kenyan artists, booklets from recent exhibitions in Nairobi, critical theory, and a few fiction and poetry books. Rose Jepkorir, C&’s project coordinator, refers to the space as a reading room. Reading is what the handful of black chairs encourage you to do, since borrowing books is a delicate procedure that’s built on trust.

The intimacy of the space encourages a gentle eavesdropping on others. Swift silent bonds can form alongside curious conversations and impermanent impressions. It is not that few people know about the library, but that a few regulars frequent it for reading, writing, and conversing. The sight of these regulars creates a gentle sense of community. Even those who are frequently seen, are yet to interact with every book in the library. They have the luxury of coming to know each book through time and through the different seasons of their life.

Best is Man’s Breath Quality by Sara Magenheimer (2017)

I am uncertain if this book is an experimental film which has been converted into print as part of its experimentation. If it is a film, then its characters are identified through typography and colored pages. One of the characters is a jellyfish imparting wisdom to us. The blurry images look like screenshots from home videos, which a narration in italics then describes. The most rewarding way to read this book is to find its patterns and follow them.


the africanist aesthetic in global hip-hop by Halifu Osumare (2007)

A comprehensive study of the globalization of hip hop. Osumare traces hip hop from its African origins into countries that are lesser known for their involvement in the genre and aesthetic. Her dive into the capitalist creation of the Black body in hip hop satisfies curiosities about the visual aesthetics of rap. A truly interesting book that beatmakers and rappers should read.


Vitu Vya Sanaa by Adam Yawe (2021)

Myth is created in this reimagining of matatu speakers. The everyday Kenyan object is re-seen and revisited by an artistic eye. Adam Yawe creates images of several models of the speaker. Each speaker’s uniqueness reflects the individuality of how it is secured to the interior of a matatu. His interest in the microcosmic provides a refreshing way to view the ordinary.


Just a Band by Contact Zones NRB (2016)

A trail of Just a Band’s movements from their inception in 2008 until 2015. This could be an art textbook one day – as part of the exam, students would have to answer how the internet contributed to Just a Band’s success. The perfect read to accompany the new music the band has just released.


good woman: poems and a memoir 1969-1980 by Lucille Clifton

Poetry is an archive in this collection. Lucille Clifton evokes her ancestors as she remembers her past and finds sweet comfort in the healthy patch of grass she has found in her heart. In this grass is her family, her faith, her light, her grace and her words.




V for 5 is a writer and sound artist from Nairobi. Her work is rooted in ecology. She imagines worlds where humans never left the forest.



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