THIKA ROAD MAD BOYS

We are happy to invite you to take a look at Sam Hopkins´ project Thika Road mad boys_Until death do us part_Wazungu wausi (Black White Men), on Nairobi´s cyclists, shot in collaboration with John Kamicha.

The growth and expansion of Nairobi, economically, infra-structurally and culturally, has over the past few years been a subject of significant academic and media attention. One expression, and perhaps consequence, of this growth is an emerging bicycle subculture. A group of cyclists, many of whom are also artists, are building a bike scene, with a distinct set of cultures, practices and languages. Although some of the signs and symbols of this subculture are perhaps familiar to an international audience, the way they are performed in Nairobi is radically different.

Cycling in Nairobi can be dangerous and involves dodging corrupt police, traffic and thieves, generally in that order. The cyclists themselves are maverick and some almost outlaws, but largely they are middle class. This seeming contradiction is vividly expressed in the bike scene. For example groups of cyclists go on weekend bike tours, a perhaps almost conservative, European tradition. But the way this is enacted in Kenya seems more hedonistic than conservative, a kind bicycle-binge of drugs, alcohol, meat, and sleeping rough at the end of the night.

Why do these young men chose to eschew the traditional middle class values of buying a car, a house and living a safe life? Why do they identify so strongly with a subculture developed around a bike? How does the bike identity relate to other identities, such as ethnicities and gender roles? The Bike Gang is a collectively made experimental film, involving one group of bikers as chroniclers and re-enacters of their everyday life, dreams and hallucinations.

JOHN KAMICHA

John Kamicha (1976) is an artist who lives and works in Nairobi. His work explores the crossover between religion, sex, politics and entertainment (sports, music, dancing). He is more interested in the content of his work than the style and is more attracted by the extremes than by the normal. He
has strong dislikes for trends. His experimental approach spans painting, collage and video. He is a legendary and freestyle dancer.

DIETER NEUBERT

Dieter Neubert holds the chair in development sociology at the University of Bayreuth. His research areas include sociology of Africa (including social structure), sociology of violent conflicts, social change, and development policy. His regional research focus is Africa, particularly East Africa. He has also conducted research in Southeast Asia (Vietnam and Thailand).

Selected current publications:

Dieter Neubert: Die Fallen der „Rumsfeld Utopie“. Das widersprüchliche Verhältnis zwischen Mittelschichten, Zivilgesellschaft und Demokratie. . Festschrift für Reinhart Kößler. In: Hauck, Gerhard; Lenz, Ilse, Wehr, Ingrid; Wienold, Hanns (Hg.): Entwicklung, Gewalt, Gedächtnis. Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot 2015, 128-141

Antje Daniel und Dieter Neubert 2014: Middle classes and political instability in Kenya: Civil society organizations during the post-election violence of 2007/8. In: Dominique Darbon (Hg.), Les classes moyennes en Afrique. Enjeux politiques d’une catégorie incertaine. Paris : Karthala, 155-184

Dieter Neubert 2014: What is “middle class”? In search of an appropriate concept. In: Middle East – Topics & Arguments Vol. 2, 23-35

Dieter Neubert, Christine Scherer (eds.), 2014: Agency and changing world views in Africa. Berlin, Hamburg, Münster: Lit Verlag

Artur Bogner & Dieter Neubert 2013: Negotiated peace, denied justice? The case of West Nile (Northern Uganda). Africa Spectrum, 48 (3), 55-84

Antje Daniel & Dieter Neubert (eds.) 2012: Translating globalization, world society and modernity in everyday life. Theoretical reflections and empirical perspectives. Special issue. Sociologus 2012, issue 1

Andreas Neef & Dieter Neubert 2011: Stakeholder participation in agricultural research projects: a conceptual framework for reflection and decision-making. Agriculture and Human Values 28, 179-194

SAM HOPKINS

Sam Hopkins is an artist whose work responds to the specific social and political context within which he is living, exploring and re-imagining elements of daily life. As his practice is triggered by a context, it exhibits a broad spectrum of both media and content. Much of his work orbits around issues of public space and the negotiation of participatory practice. Critical to this engagement is a keen attentiveness to the ways in which media produce realities, as opposed to simply transmitting them.
Sam grew up between Kenya and England and studied Art in England, Cuba and Germany, returning to Nairobi in 2006. He has participated in a broad spectrum of local and international exhibitions, is currently a PhD research candidate at the University of the Arts London (UAL) and works as a Kulturstiftung des Bundes Fellow at the Iwalewahaus Bayreuth. He was recently named one of the 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2014 by Foreign Policy (FP) Magazine.

Exhibitions and Festivals (Selection)

2014: Once Upon A Time, Makerere Art Gallery (UG)
          Dakar Biennale, Dakar (SEN)
2013: Mashup the Archive (curatorial), Iwalewa Haus, Bayreuth (GER)
          Africa, Uebersee Museum, Bremen (GER)
          Once Upon A Time, Goethe Institut Johannesburg (SA)
2012: Nairobi; A State of Mind, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz (A)
          Truth is Concrete; Steirischer Herbst, Graz (A)
          Dead Insects in my Parents Pool, Roots Contemporary, Brussels (BEL)
2011: Conversations in Silence, Goethe Institut Nairobi (KEN)
          Ueberlebenskunst, HKW, Berlin (GER)
          ‘Not in the Title’ (Solo Show), Iwalewa Haus, Bayreuth (GER)
          The Urban Culture of Global Prayers, NGBK, Berlin (GER)
2010: Afropolis,Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Cologne (GER)
          Mwangalio Tofauti, Nairobi Museum (KEN)
          Qui Vive II Moscow International Biennale (RUS)
          Sketches (Solo Show), Goethe Institut Nairobi (KEN)
          Afropolis (Nairobi) Goethe Institut Nairobi (KEN)
          Stereotypes, Mombasa Law Courts (KEN)

SYOWIA KYAMBI

Miriam Syowia Kyambi (b.1979) is a multi-media artist of Kenyan and German heritage based in Nairobi, Kenya. Her work combines performance with impermanent and permanent mediums including clay, sisal, paint and photography. Much of her work dissects and brings to question perception and memory. She examines how the contemporary human experience is influenced by constructed history, past and present violence, colonialism, family and sexuality.

Often the result is an orchestration that engages the viewer in a dynamic process that leaves behind a powerful visual impression.

Syowia graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, USA (2002) where she resided for five years before returning to Kenya in 2003.

She has been the recipient of several prestigious awards and grants including 2nd place in the UNESCO Award for the Promotion of the Arts; the Art in Global Health Grant from the Welcome Trust Fund in United Kingdom; a grant from Mexico’s External Ministry of Affairs; and commissions by the Kenya Institute of Administration, the National Museums of Kenya and the Art 4 Action Foundation in Kenya. Her work has been shown in Belgium, Finland, Kenya, Mali, Mexico, South Africa, and the United States of America.

by Nabila Alibhai

JAMES MURIUKI

James Muriuki is a Nairobi based art practitioner who has primarily used photography and lens-based media in his work. His practice constantly revolves around the transition of society through specific objects that are often the extension of personal and communal bearings. His works explore the confluence of inter-dependent happenings in an ever-changing social landscape. He uses forms such as architecture and constructions as visual elements and metaphorical symbols that are an illustration of human capacity, desire and aspirations.

He is also interested in experimenting with and investigating the potential of images, specifically photography and motion, video, sound as mediums and processes of making art and ultimately as a knowledge reservoirs and transmission channels.

James’ work has been exhibited and collected in many countries and included in several publications. He has collaborated with artists, attended residencies and workshops in several countries as well as being a grants recipient. He has curated several exhibitions individually and collaboratively in Nairobi and abroad.

March 2015