contact zones nrb

Art Series

Publications play a major role for artists in regard to gaining attention from globally operating curators and other decision makers in the art world. Apart from professional journals, exhibition visits and personal networks - which are difficult for an African artist to access - books are indispensable. Books are acquirable, permanent and portable, and therefore one of the most important sources of information. This counts especially for scenes which are distant from the power centre of the art world. For example the one in Kenya where art is mostly accessible for small circles and falls into oblivion very quickly. A solid knowledge about the art scene in Kenya actually doesn’t cross the border. So far there are nearly no publications on Kenyan artists, there are no archives about the scene and no specialised texts about their protagonists. Both lead to the fact, that the global art scene doesn’t pay attention to the Kenyan scene.

The Art Series of Contact Zones NRB shall help filling this niche by introducing individual Kenyan artists to a professional audience, serving as an archive for the works of artists, and providing the first high-quality texts about artists and their work from renowned local and international authors.

Ink & Pixels, The Wild and Wondrous Tale of Kenyan Comics

192 pages, English
Edited by Franziska Lukas
Nairobi 2017
ISBN: 978-9966-07-9-4
Kenya: 1000 KSh

The exhibition Ink & Pixels: The Wild and Wondrous Tale of Kenyan Comics was initiated by the Goethe-Institut Kenya and curated by Chief Nyamweya and Msanii Kimani wa Wanjiru. The exhibition was first shown at the Goethe-Institut Kenya in 2015 and started touring in Germany in 2016.
The exhibition attempted to give an overview of a scene of comic artists in Kenya whose opportunities to present their work to a wider audience are rare. It constitutes the first of its kind for the Kenyan comic scene. Previous exhibitions and projects tended to focus on political caricatures and editorials. At the same time, there are almost no publishers to issue comic books or graphic novels. The comic artists in Kenya therefore often work in an off-zone and publish mainly online or independently. Based on this observations a catalogue was published that represents an attempt to collect some of the landmark works by Kenyan comic artists. It pays tribute to the trailblazers and celebrates the young generation of artists. The publication features several essays on the Kenyan comic scene written by Kimani wa Wanjiru.
Featured artists: Alfred Muchilwa, Bella Kilonzo, Celeste, Chief Nyamweya, Dan Muli, Eric Ngammau Gammz, Eric Zoe Muthoga, Gado, Joe Barasa, Kham, Maddo, Maurice Odede, Moritz Muthui, Movin Were, Point Blank Evumbi, Shujaaz, Vic Ndula


Just A Band Makes A Book

144 pages, English
Edited by Mukami Kuria
Nairobi 2016
ISBN: 978-9966-071-18-7
Kenya: 1200 KSh

Volume 17 presents the work of Nairobi based visual arts collective
Just A Band. More conventionally known as a musical band, their exploration of artistic terrain has seen them create experimental work that speak to multiple publics. The book documents their evolution from a band and the presentation of their art through music videos and video installations from Nairobi to New York. It has involved constituting and sharing of an archive of Just A Band, thus presenting an exercise in tracing the production of artistic identity of the individuals within the collective and of the collective as a whole. Through the creation of an unorthodox space that straddles multiple worlds, Just A Band has undoubtedly maintained the ability to speak to multiple audiences. The book features preparatory sketches, animations, behind-the-scenes photos, installation shots and video stills. The reader is taken into the world of Just A Band, with insight into experiments that remain unreleased, photos from the band’s tour and a deeply personal and reflective collection of letters in the afterword.
The texts include an essay by Jepchumba, and an
interview by Wanjeri Gakuru.

Maasai Mbili

152 pages, English, Sheng
Edited by Sam Hopkins
Nairobi 2015
ISBN 978-9966-071-05-7
Kenya: 1000 KSh

Volume 16 of the Contact Zones NRB series feature the work of the artist’s collective Maasai Mbili (M2). Founded in the early 2000s by Otieno Kota and Otieno Gomba, the collective now consists of 5 permanent members, several long-term partners, many, many associates and almost infinite friends. The artistic practice of the collective is rooted in sign-painting and street art but can express itself in forms ranging from video, to performance, to music, to dance. Hence, whilst there is a specific skill and craft at the heart of the collective; popular painting, there is a parallel dedication to both a conceptually-refined approach, and a sociopolitical perspective. From the Daily Kibera series of Kevo Stero, to the Vote for Mai Self paintings of Otieno Gomba, to the appropriated election posters of the late Ashif and the fictitious political rapper Million Bob of Tola, the broad spectrum of works that the collective produces is bound together by an insight and criticality on contemporary social and political issues, rendered in a popular, ironic and intelligent language.
The book includes essays by Thom Ogonga, Gor Soudan, Alex Nikolic, Mbuthia Maina, Hans Bernhard and an interview by Sam Hopkins.

Miriam Syowia Kyambi

164 pages, English
Edited by Franziska Lukas
Nairobi 2014
ISBN 978-9966-071-04-0
Kenya: 1000 KSh

Volume 13 presents the work of multimedia artist Miriam Syowia Kyambi of Kenyan and German heritage based in Nairobi, Kenya. Kyambi has generated a substantial corpus of work that combines performance with sculpture, installation, paint, photography, and video. The book documents her works from 2007 to 2014, composed of solo, cooperative and curatorial works.
Much of Kyambi’s work dissects and brings to question notions of perception and memory. She examines how the contemporary human experience is influenced by constructed history, past and present violence, colonialism, family, and sexuality. By allowing performance and installation to become one entity the result of her work is often an orchestration that engages the viewer in a dynamic process in which Kyambi’s own presence provides a critical dimension. She is using performance to either begin something or initiate a shift that leads to the body acting as trigger point. The energy generated through this is something unique that cannot be found in objects and therefore leaves behind a powerful visual impression.
The accompanying texts include an essay by the founder of Peltz Gallery at the University of London Annie E. Coombes and an interview by the strategic planner Nabila Alibhai. The texts are in English.

Ananias Léki Dago - mabati

104 pages, English
Edited by Johannes Hossfeld and Franziska Lukas
Nairobi 2013
ISBN: 978-9966-1553-4-4
Kenya: KSH 1000

Volume 6 of the Contact Zones Series is presenting the work of photographer Ananias Léki Dago. Born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, he is one of the most prominent photographers of contemporary African art. Travelling has become an essential source of his work: the Caribbean, the Middle East and also various parts of Europe and Africa. This book is the result of a residency by him with the Goethe-Institut Kenya in Nairobi in 2011.
Ananias Léki Dago chose to work on mabati, Kiswahili for the lightweight building material made of corrugated iron, which is ubiquitous in Nairobi. This series of black/white photographs is a portrayal of Nairobi’s cityscape and its different worlds. As Simon Njami points it out, “it’s one of Léki Dago’s secrets. He does not attack his subjects head on, he is rather interested in the details, as if he were constructing a puzzle that he would bring back for us to reassemble. He works through subtle nuances, through fragments of a larger whole.”
The additional essays by curator and writer Simon Njami as well as writer and Kwani? editor Billy Kahora comment on Ananias Léki Dago’s portrait of Nairobi.

Mwangalio Tofauti - Nine Photographers from Kenya
Jacob Barua, Jim Chuchu, Sam Hopkins, Antony Kaminju, Miriam Syowia Kyambi, Barbara Minishi (with Cyrus Kabiru), James Muriuki, Boniface Mwangi, Wambui Mwangi
With an essay by Keguro Macharia

260 pages, English
Edited by Johannes Hossfeld
Nairobi 2012
ISBN: 978-9966-1553-3-7
Kenya: KSH 1500
Published in conjunction with the National Museums of Kenya

Volume 5 gives an overview of a scene of photographers in Kenya who use the medium both for visual art practice and sociopolitical documentary photography. Historically, art in Kenya has been dominated by the media of painting and sculpture. Photography has been oriented mainly towards photojournalism, fashion, advertising and the ubiquitous publicity of NGO/Aid/Development organizations, which has had a considerable influence on the politics of images and visual discourse in Kenya. Exhibitions and projects have tended to be mainly message-driven. Nevertheless, apart from this dominant trope, photographers have still carried forward their own agendas, designs and projects, albeit on a rather underground, informal, and less visible level. This book represents an attempt to collect some of those works by photographers who are currently working alongside the dominant Kenyan photography discourse. It is a collection of what is going on in the independent photography scene in Nairobi at the end of the first decade of the new millennium.
Although the works exhibited are as heterogeneous in form and content as the artists are, a certain family resemblance was intended. What all these projects have in common is a strong nexus of content with a consciousness of formal aspects and a reflection on the gaze and the medium of photography. Hence the title Mwangalio Tofauti, meaning in Kiswahili “a different way of looking.”

The essay by the literary and cultural critic Keguro Macharia introduces the works and unfolds their layers of meanings, but also the possible interactions, associations, and interferences between them as they converse in the space of the exhibition and the book.

This book is published in conjunction with the National Museums of Kenya. It is based on an exhibition at the Nairobi Gallery, which was curated by the Goethe-Institut Kenya in 2010. The texts are in English.

Ato Malinda

128 pages, English/French
Edited by Ato Malinda and Johannes Hossfeld
Nairobi 2011
ISBN: 978-9966-1553-2-0
Kenya: KSH 1000

Volume 4 is dedicated to the work of Ato Malinda who lives and works in Nairobi. Malinda has created a significant corpus of work which stands almost alone in the art world of East Africa. She is a performance artist, also working with the media of video, photography, installation and painting. Her work is concept based and informed by postcolonial and postmodern theory. It gravitates around the topics of colonial history, gender, memory and power, amongst others. She has developed her approach in Nairobi and also during several residencies abroad; including the Instituto Buona Bista in Curaçao, Doual'art in Cameroun and at The Palm Oil Factory of the Lisson Gallery in Kenya. This book documents her major works, giving them accessibility beyond their ephemeral form of performance, installation and projection.

The accompanying texts include essays by writer and curator, Simon Njami, the director of Doual'Art, Didier Schaub, the art historian, Nancy Hoffmann, and the artist and theorist, Nathalie Mba Bikoro.
The texts are in English and French.

Peterson Kamwathi (Sold out)

124 pages, English
Edited by Johannes Hossfeld and Ulf Vierke
Nairobi 2011
ISBN: 978-3-86984-273-8
Out of stock
Published in conjunction with Iwalewa-Haus and Verlag für Moderne Kunst, Germany
Distributed internationally via Verlag für Moderne Kunst

Volume 3 documents the work of Peterson Kamwathi, an artist based in Kiambu, Kenya. Kamwathi has created a substantial corpus of work that has established him as one of the most radical and aesthetically interesting artists in East Africa; developing his own style over a relatively short period with impressive coherence. Kamwathi's works are highly conceptual, created over long spans of time on distinct topics, and executed with technical mastery in his chosen medium: drawing. The themes, formatted in series, are social, political and cultural, emanating from the Kenyan context that he is working within. In 2009, he displayed a work that cemented his already widespread reputation, stunning a Kenyan audience; Sitting Allowance is a fiercely dark comment on the deep political crisis that engulfed Kenya in 2008.

The book documents his works from 2006 to 2011, from sketches and small scale drawings to the huge format drawings of his main series. As almost all of Kamwathi's works have been sold to European galleries and buyers, this book serves as a visual archive of his work in the local and global context. The representations are accompanied by three texts. Writer and journalist, David Kaiza, explores the different phases of Kamwathi's work, interpreting their underlying themes and situating them in a sociopolitical context within Kenya. In an interview with Tom Odhiambo, who teaches in the Department of Literature at the University of Nairobi, Kamwathi presents an autobiographical account. And an essay by Johannes Hossfeld and Ulf Vierke contextualizes Kamwathi in the history of art in Kenya.

The book is published in conjunction with Iwalewa-Haus and Verlag für moderne Kunst, Germany. The texts are in English.


Sam Hopkins

128 pages, English
Edited by Sam Hopkins and Johannes Hossfeld
Nairobi 2011
ISBN: 978-9966-1553-1-3
Kenya: KSH 1000

Volume 2 presents the work of visual artist Sam Hopkins, who lives and works in Nairobi. Hopkins, who has been educated in Kenya, Cuba, at the Bauhaus University in Weimar and in Edinburgh, is a crucial representative of a certain young, transnational art scene in Nairobi. The scene is oriented towards, and part of, global networks; but at the same time its work is strictly rooted in the context that these artists work within, namely Kenya, and especially Nairobi.

In the tradition of "relational art", many of Hopkins' interventions are participatory or collaborative. For instance he has worked jointly with artist groups such as Slum-TV, Urban Mirror and Maasai Mbili. He uses different media such as public art, photography, video, installations, and texts. Often playful, surprising and ironic, his works depict the many worlds and perspectives that Nairobi is made up of - from the advertisements of witchdoctors revealing the wishes of Nairobi citizens to the life of pets in the most unlikely of places, like Kibera; from the wish machines of street photography to the diamonds formed by omnipresent shattered glass on Nairobi's streets; from a satirical take on the rhetoric of the NGO industry to the self-representation of a community in Mathare.

The work in the book is accompanied by two interviews by John Kamau, as well as interviews by Lucrezia Cippitelli, Alexander Nikolic and Lukas Pusch; and texts by Alice W. Kingoina, Rand Pearson, Katharina Greven, Maida Gruden and Franziska Lukas.
The texts are in English.