AFRICA

B I R G I T T A G OD L U N D

AFRICA - REVIEWS and other COMMENTS

© excerpts

 

 

Godlund's Art: Not Reality but What You Saw

David Kaiza, The East African, June 10-16, 2002

Human perspectives may be whimsical, dissembling and sometimes disastrous. But they exist and say a lot about our inner world

 

The seriousness with which she approaches her work renders trivial the adjectives that are the stock in trade of art writing. Because each painting says something important about life, it is difficult also to typecast her work… without the usual rhetoric.

 

In Godlund, you suspect that it is more the fact that we perceive the world and not that it exists, which counts…

 

It is a complex, multilayered communication but one which achieves a certain magical recognition… it matters not where we come from nor who we are but that inside, we are all really the same…

 

It is humanistic in the basic sense that it provokes questions about equality, cements the bonds among people everywhere and makes you feel stronger about yourself… Where Westerners succumb to culture shock and dismiss what they see, Godlund sees common threads in human nature. In East Africa, beads and the multiple symbolism they embody especially attract her… Without fertility, the world wouldn't go on… [likewise] sexuality…

 

It is rare to find a painter who takes you so close to your humanity. It is rare too to find work so thoroughly realised that it seems that all the important questions of form and substance, often so teething, have been answered…

 

 

Inside/Outside Africa is a collection of work done over the past 10 years...[using] all media. In nature pictures, she attempts to capture a storm or the sense that an old road is really old…[one painting] gave me a momentary fright of claustrophobia. It shows windows and walls that seem to creak with age and the sense that the world ahead is sealed… Godlund saw this on a visit to Lamu. But what she has painted is not entirely what the streets of Lamu look like in reality… not a dead-end, but that split second moment when it appeared to be so, made the deception real. And that is the strength of Godlund's art. ... "It's not really reality,"she says, "but more about what you saw."

 

 

Pictures as Therapy

Birgitta Godlund Bildforum n:o 1/2002

Uganda: working on an art therapy project with ex-child soldiers, the art educator Birgitta Godlund shares her thoughts/reflects on how traumatic experiences can be illustrated/symbolized/typified in pictures/illustrations.

 

35 degrees Celcius. Half naked babies are crawling around among huge army tents … Small groups of children are being taught in any available shade. … These children, aged nine and up, are former rebel soldiers in the guerrilla army based near the Sudanese border… [led by] the charismatic leader and father figure Kony with his ambiguous message (Islam, Christianity, Animism and ethnic cleansing, equally)... [some children] joined [the army] purely for food and company. It has been estimated that approximately 12,000 children have joined the LRA, Lords Resistance Army, from 1995. Of these, half are thought dead.

 

In the last three years over 2000 of these child soldiers have fled Kony’s regime of terror. But for what? In their own villages, even in their own families, the children are thought to be possessed by evil spirits. They are rejected… The girls, having been raped by older soldiers, are considered impure, as are their babies.

 

… Upon arrival, the children have had symbolic cleansing baths. Old clothes are burnt and the children are scrubbed thoroughly in order to be purified. Through dance and music, the traditional form of art and expression in Uganda, the children dramatize their ordeals in front of each other and the camp staff. A new life begins…

 

 

Bilder som terapi

Birgitta Godlund, Bildforum, Sweden n:o 1/2002

Från Uganda... bildterapeutiskt projekt med f d barnsoldater skickar konstpedagogen Birgitta Godlund sina reflektioner över hur traumatiska upplevelser kan gestaltas i bild. Artikelförfattaren bor sedan ett par år tilbaka i Uganda, där hon är verksam vid Makerereuniversitetets “Konstfackskola”.

 

30 grader Celsius Mellan stora baracktält kryper halvnakna bebisar omkring... Skolundervisning med små grupper i alla tillgängliga skuggor. Men de här barnen från nio år uppåt är f d rebellsoldater från en gerillaarmé med bas i gränstrakterna till Sudan... karismatiske ledaren fadersgestalten Kony och hans diffusa budskap (islam kristendom animism och etisk rensning i lika delar) ... eller helt enkelt anslutit sig för mat och gemenskap.

 

Från 1995 räknar man att c:a 12 000 barn ingått i LRA, Lords Resistance Army. Hälften ska ha omkommit. De sista tre åren räknar man att över 2000 barn flytt från Konys skräckvälde. Men till vad? I sina egna byar, av sina egna familjer anses barnen vara besatta av onda andar. De är förnekade... Flickorna som våldtagits av äldre soldater anses “orena” liksom deras bebisar...

 

Vid ankomsten har barnen gått igenom ett symboliskt reningsbad. Gamla kläder eldas upp och man tvättar och skrubbar sig ordentligt för att bli riktigt ren. Genom dans och musik, Ugandas traditionella konst- och uttrycksform dramatiserar barnen för varandra och för den lokala lägerpersonalen vad man gått igenom. Nu börjar ett nytt liv...

 

Bildspråket lär man sig parallellt med skriftspråket. (Som på svenska lågstadiet “Lära sig läsa på talets grund”) Observera man lär sig ett bildspråk: Det här är barn vars finmotorik utbildats kring machetes och kulsprutor, inte kring färgkritor, eller ens blyerts pennor... snabbt får möjlighet att avbörda sig sina skuldkänslor (Barnen har vittnat om att de tvingats bita av och äta upp näsorna och öronen av sina egna kamrater eller halshugga släktingar)

 

...för barnen är det magi att det ut ur pennan kan trilla en hel berättelse... Serieteckningar och fotografier kan bli underlag för figurer, också då de själva är huvudpersonerna. Några självporträtt görs nästan aldrig.

 

Barnen uppmuntras att rita av sig sina upplevelser... i GUSCU gräver barnen inte i sitt förflutna. De får med bildens hjälp metoder och tekniker att gå framåt.

 

 

Paintings from a Swede's Heart

Rovianne Matovu, The New Vision, Kampala June 1, 2001

... [Birgitta Godlund is] quite a Swedish fine artist and guest lecturer at The Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts, Makerere University…

 

African decorative styles have been a great source of inspiration that allow her to play with graphic concepts. This exhibition is an interesting travelogue as well as a personal diary of her travels… Despite the outward glamour, Godlund finds travelling difficult. It is a constant adjustment to a new culture. But it also redefines her very own Swedishness…[as it calls for] self-enquiry and communication. ...

 

I can particularly identify with the identity crisis…We Ugandans should be proud of who we are, explore the richness of our cultural diversity rather than be embarassed by our roots. Instead, we often copy the West. Similarly, we cannot hide our blackness but should celebrate our beauty.

 

It is ironic that this counselling about art neo-colonialism should be taught by a Swede! ... Godlund's philosophy is to teach and encourage the artist to respond to their individuality. … The best things in life often happen from experimentation… She would like to contribute by inspiring dialogue and sharing artistic ideas. …

 

An Individualist Who Sees More Than Blue in Clear Skies

David Kaiza, The East African, June 25 - July 1, 2001

KAMPALA: “I know that if I lose my own identity out of sheer love for the exciting new milieu, it will be harder for me to integrate the new knowledge in my heart and brain." so Birgitta Godlund, Swedish artist, introduces her paintings. …

 

[She] speak[s] of the world as exciting and new… Hence, [on] the surface, Birgitta's work is loaded with ironies. But her work is not superficial, and therefore, these obvious double statements draw your attention to something deeper. Hers is a collection of personal experiences. She has traveled much of the world and looking at her work is like reading a traveller's memoirs. …

 

Since Birgitta is an individualist, her world is seen from one point of reference and the only connection to social values is that society through its norms, its dos and don'ts, exercises influence over the individual and this cannot fail to break forth once in a while. …

 

To bring out the little fears, triumphs, shames and elations felt in moments of loneliness, often creates an enduring quality. Birgitta's work is disturbing in this respect. She paints mostly in watercolours. Her brushstrokes are light and perpetually fading. The colours are bright wherever she is, although, in a quaint way, she says she uses blues when she is in Sweden, where the sky is overcast, and less of it when in the tropics, where the sky is high and blue. The lightness of her brush work serves to heighten that sense of frailty felt in personal moments. …

 

 

 

Art as a Fountain of Wisdom

Birgitta Godlund Bildiskolan Sweden n:o 4/2001

[with] a proud academic history, Makerere University was once a part of London University.Today, the university has an Art Institute with approximately 200 students spread equally over four years of study. The teaching is theoretical and encourages imitation… Birgitta Godlund conducts seminars on Creativity, Image Analysis and Communication…

 

During a week long workshop… journal… selections of her reflections that we feel will be of interest for all art teachers working to defy boundaries/working across boundaries

 

“A picture tells more than a thousand words” – an old Chinese saying. A mantra for art teachers… on average, a museum visitor will spend seven seconds looking at a piece of art. In the same time a teenager will have zapped through three or four channels, and most people will have had time to read a poetic metaphor, a relatively complicated sentence or a simple mathematical formula. How can one say that images provide knowledge, even if one generously considers the knowledge contents, although not traditionally scholarly, of popular culture?

 

Monday: Ugandans are friendly people. Laughter is in the air. Until it’s time to start analysing images. The air immediately turns tense with fear, suspicion and sweat. At this time of year the temperature gets close to 30 degrees Celcius, or even higher. Everyone wants to be seen, to get the best grades. They are expecting a recipe for the perfect picture. My problem is to halt their ambition, so to speak.

 

From my teaching at MoMA in Stockholm I know that a stiff painting is the most likely result when a person never before in their life created anything spontaneously. It is not only in Africa that parents and teachers believe that painting is a set of categorical imperatives…

 

 

Tuesday: They like the corporeality [of the workshop] Calligraphy and the language of images both have their roots in the human senses. Touch, as well as hearing and vision, are vital in the constantly happening, constantly changing, often unconscious, learning process. The verbal language is more of a conscious one-off learning event: the meaning of words change, but not as much. … Others used pen-knives to carve pictures in old carpets. …

 

Wednesday: Chinese Whispers. The participants laughed hysterically. This despite my efforts to structure the task [which was] ... to go outside of logic and common sense…

 

Thursday: yesterday, I had tried to demonstrate Paul Klee, his painting and his poetry, to the participants, but for them it had all been an illustration of West Africa. … Traditional art historians would consider this methodology a way of sneaking in through the back door, heading straight for the emotional aspects of art, or even an unnecessarily time-consuming round-about way of learning the core facts of art and artists. But creative learning takes time, as it should. …

The two functions of (languages such as) images, words and sometimes also song: as instruments, or languages to convey meaning, as well as inherently valuable in themselves.

 

Friday: …it shaped up as a good image analysis. They dared to guess, to speak of feelings. Like all good image analyses it ended in speechless silence. We had, after all, already expanded and made concrete our abstract vocabulary and imagery in the process.

 

 

Konst en källa till kunskap

Birgitta Godlund, Bildiskolan Sweden n:o 4/2001

Makerere University ligger vid ekvatorn i Ugandas huvudstad Kampala, som filial (en gång) till London University är detta ett universitet med ett stolt akademiskt förflutet. Idag hyser universitetet en Konstfackskola med ungefär 200 elever jämnt fördelade över fyra årskurser. Undervisningen är teoretisk och imitativ...

 

 

Birgitta Godlund ger seminarier i Kreativitetet, Bildanalys och Kommunikation...

Under en veckolång workshop... dagbok... utdrag ur hennes reflexioner som vi känner har allmänt intresse för de bildlärare som vill arbeta gränsöverskridande.

 

.”En bild säger mer än tusen ord” ett gammalt kinesiskt ordspråk. För bildlärare ett mantra... sju sekunder är genomsnittet tid som en museibesökare ägnar åt ett konstverk. Under sju sekunder har en tonåring zappat igenom ett par tre TV-bilder, medan man på sju sekunder hinna avläsa en poetisk metafor, en rätt komplicerad mening eller en enklare matematisk formel... Hur kan man hävda att bilder ger kunskap, även om man är generös och tillkänner populärkulturen ett [om än inte speciellt traditionellt skolmässigt] kunskapsinnehåll? ...

 

Måndag: Uganda är ett vänligt samhälle. Det är mycket skratt i luften. Ända till vi ska börja bildanalysen.

Luften mättas av rädsla, misstänksamhet och svett. (Så här års närmar sig temperaturen också 30 grader. Eller mer!) Alla vill synas, få bäst betyg. Man väntar sig Receptet till den perfekta bilden.Mitt problem är kan man säga att hejda ambitionen. Från Verkstan ( Moderna Museet, Stockholm) vet jag hur krampartat resultatet kan bli om man aldrig i hela sitt liv skapat spontant. För det är inte bara i Afrika som föräldrar och lärare tror att målning är som kategoriska imperativ...

 

Tisdag... kroppsligheten. Kalligrafi, bildspråk har sina rötter i kroppslighet. Känsel, liksom hörsel och syn är ständigt pågående, ständigt skiftande - oftast omedveten - inlärning. Det verbala språket...medveten ”engångsinlärning”: Ords betydelse skiftar, men inte lika mycket... karvade med pennknivar i gamla golvmattor....

 

Onsdag...Viskleken. Deltagarna vek sig av skratt. Ändå hade jag strukturerat uppgiften... gå vid sidan om logik och förnuft...

 

Torsdag: Gårdagen var mitt sätt att visa på Klee, hans måleri och hans poesi men för deltagarna var det Västafrika... som traditionell konsthistorie-undervisning är det ingång från bakdörrarna eller en tidsödande omväg. Men kreativ inlärning tar tid och ska ta tid.... Bildens, Ordets, ibland också Sångens två parallella funktioner. Instrument OCH egenvärde...

 

Fredag: ... en bra bildanalys. De vågade gissa, tala om känslor. Som alla bra bildanalyser mynnade den ut i ordlöshet. Vi har alla ändå utökat, konkretiserat också vårt abstrakta ord- och bildförråd under vägen.

 

 

Artists Launch Month of Culture

Charles Opolot The New Vision, Kampala, December 1, 2000

…these works portray Birgitta as an artist who has exploited various themes of love, peace and environmental bliss and got deeply inspired by her immediate and ever changing, but affectionate surroundings... This is a provocative exhibition that is going to be climaxed interaction between words and action, emotion and passion as well as colour and form…

 

 

Art, Poetry Meet in Rainbow’s End

Simwogerere Kyazze, The Sunday Monitor, Kampala January 07, 2000

Much of the run-up to the near year was called "Poetry Month" at Tulifanya Gallery, where Birgitta Godlund exhibited sketches of her work, some of which made up the book, Rainbow's End…

 

[The book aims to] weave a sense of moroseness, beauty, bitterness and joy of life. Rainbow's End then takes an interesting turn with Godlund's sketches… She and [the author] Mehram Yaar were inspired by the rich African oral tradition…

 

[The book is] basically like a two-way glass through which one can of appreciate verse through pictures and/or appreciate art through poetry. …

 

 

Rainbow’s End

Reviewer: Simwogerere Kyazze

Godlund also collaborated with her book sellers, Aristoc Booklex, to erect a Poetry Column on Kampala road on which some 160 verses were written in one of the more surprising events of her workshop.

 

Verses range from lamentations on love; through talk on Ebola and the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo… Poetry is a fairly obscure way of expressing oneself, and often, it's structured by the rules of verse, form and stanza that were so perfected by the fathers of it, like Shakespeare and Pope… it's also an expression of an individual's feelings about something, it can be a crude mirror of that person's heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Month of Art

Evelyn Kiapi Matsamura, The Monitor, Kampala December 1, 2000

…achieved after a joint effort by The Uganda German Cultural Society, Tulifanya Gallery and Aristoc Bookshop… collaborating to present unique artistic events to run throughout the month of December. … young Ugandan artists have been invited to participate in a creative multimedia workshop – Lwanga Barbara, Katete Jude, Nakisauze Sarah, Nsubuga Eira, Ssenkaba Samson, Dennis Kakooza, Henry Mzili Mujunga, Kigozi David And Kogozi Ernest... run by Birgitta Godlund from Sweden assisted by Matthias Korner from Germany. ... Revered Ugandan international artist, Geoffrey Mukasa, will also be facilitating.

 

 

 

Artists Launch Month of Culture

Charles Opolot, The New Vision, Kampala December 1, 2000

The Workshop, which hopefully will be an annual event is meant to bridge the glaring gap between the intellectual and aesthetical values… academic and non-academic art… another objective of the workshop is to encourage artists in their individual and personal efforts of expressions and to create an awareness of contemporary Ugandan art and culture. And the other crucial aspect of the workshop is to promote the use of non-expensive materials and show possible ways of printing non-expensive books. The workshop explores the use of junk materials, writing poetry, composition of nonsense verses and paintings, music inspiration and discussing the messages of art. …

 

…the climax of poetry adventurism [will be] when the man or woman on the street will have a rare opportunity to write his or her own lines of poetry. For those who ever thought of writing poetry or painting landscapes, the moment has come and Aristoc is the place to be.

 

 

On the Art of Getting a Place in the Sun

Birgitta Godlund, Bildiskolan, Sweden n:o 4/2000

Uganda is a small country in East Africa. More than half of the population lives in great poverty. The wealth that once existed was brutally destroyed by Idi Amin and his henchmen. Since 1986, great efforts have been made to rebuild the country.

 

Birgitta Godlund has great experience as an art educator. Previously employed in the studios at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm, she is now, since 1999, a guest lecturer at the Art Institute of the University in Kampala, Uganda.

 

A huge marabou stork takes off clumsily after having devoured the leftovers from our picknick in the gardens of MTSIFA - Margret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Art – at Makerere University, Kampala… I have just finished a seminar for a group of teachers on creative thinking and dialogue-based pedagogy (???), and we are now discussing the possibility of conducting similar seminars for the students. … The obstacles are simple in a(n economically) poor country: It is much cheaper to refer to so-called facts and show models, ie pieces of art, to copy… I often feel critical towards the injustice and inequality between the sexes and the lack of democracy…

 

Om konsten att få en plats i solen

Birgitta Godlund, Bildiskolan, Sweden n:o 4/2000

Uganda ar ett litet land i Östafrika. Mer an hälften av befolkningen lever under stor fattigdom. Har fanns tidigare ett välstånd som brutalt slogs ner av Idi Amin och hans anhängare. Sedan 1986 pågår ett intensivt arbete med att återuppbygga landet.

 

Birgitta Godlund har lång erfarenhet som konstpedagog. Senast från Verkstan vid Moderna museet i Stockholm. Sedan 1999 är hon gästföreläsare på "Konstfack" vid Universitetet i Kampala, Uganda...

 

En stor maraboustork lyfter tungt från marken, efter att ha kalasat på resterna från vår matsäckslunch i skulpturparken på MTSIFA - Margret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine art - vid Makereruniversitet i Kampala... jag har precis avslutat ett seminarium i kreativt tänkande och dialogpedagogik för en grupp lärare och nu diskuterar vi möjligheten att genomföra seminarier i tillämpad form för studenterna... fattigt land är problematiken "enkel": Det är mycket billigare att påbjuda så kallade fakta och visa modeller (konstverk) för kopiering... Jag kan stundtals vara kritisk till orättvisorna, ojämlikheterna mellan könen och bristen på demokrati....

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Multi-faceted Show

Margaretta wa Gacheru, The Daily Nation, Nairobi May 10, 1996

....[She has managed] to get into Kenyan people's cultures via their oral traditions, religions, proverbs and philosophies. … Inside/Outside Africa, reflects her incessant desire to delve beyond the superficialities…

 

...to understand the inner landscapes of Kenyan people's psyches and cultures, and then, to interpret them using a mixture of media on canvas, paper, wood and even on glass. …[Her] paintings portray the more essential issues of African life...

 

Like rain (Thank God for the Rain), circumcision (Let us all rejoice), childbirth (May God Preserve You) and the newborn's invisible connection with its ancestors - spirits whom she calls "living dead" which are often seen in this show shaped in subtle shadows and vaguely human forms. …

 

Given that her evocative imagery is mostly semi-abstract, it may not instantly disclose what a work like Towards Another Horizon has to do with indigenous cultures' concept of death or how a work like The Earth Trembles reflects the traditional Kikuyu view on earthquakes, or even how a haunting portrait of a woman draped in white relates to Generations of Collective Wisdom…

 

Her archeological work may also explain why a number of her works like Toast to Eternal Life, For the Sake of Rain and even her one three-dimensional work in this show, Vessels of Life convey a certain fascination for spherical pot-like forms... pots are also involved in countless indigenous rituals and ceremonial rites… so inevitably came into Birgitta's show, especially as she saw similar rites in Indonesia and elsewhere.

 

 

Spiritualism in Art Work

John Kamau, The People, Nairobi May 10-16, 1996

…inspired by John S. Mbiti's African Religions and Philosophies, Birgitta's works provoke the inner self and rekindle spiritual albeit mystic visions.

 

… there is a pensive scenario that is captured especially from the supernatural powers that haunt us from within and without. … And this sojourn into African beliefs and oral narratives is interpreted… For instance, Birgitta's In the Shade of the Sycamore is illustrative in that it provokes our imaginations about the sacred fig tree where the sacrifices were delivered to the gods.

 

… [She goes] out of her way to capture the spirits in dark colours (and red!). But how do you tame spirits in colour? The answer lies somewhere in All for One - One for All where villagers gathered stones, sticks and ropes (no guns please!) to tame the spirits. … Looking at We are All Assigned, which is based on the traditional assumption among some tribes that once a member of the family dies he assumes a shadowy body… Somebody commented that it’s like coming out of a nightmare and seeing images that cannot reveal themselves in full…

 

---the theme expounded here is of a mystic world where answers were never directed to the problem at hand…We are further treated to chameleon as the messenger of God, rain as a manifestation of his wonders, the sun and moon as his eyes and ears...

Writer; Artist Team Launches Book of Illustrated Poems

Cherop Wilson, The East African, June 3-9, 1996

If you are concerned about the environment and disarmament, if you care about the country and your fellow people, or if you simply relish the unique, then you will probably enjoy Rainbow's End, an art and poetry book launched at the French Cultural Centre, in Nairobi recently… The book took two years to finish because the idea was to find sponsors or partners who could use poetry and art in book form to promote business instead of using a calendar, for example… Rainbow's End sold like it was going out of fashion on the opening night of the exhibition of Godlund's art, which ran alongside the launching of the book… In order to rap into the deeper meanings of Yaar's somewhat unconventional work, the poetry should be read aloud but also needs to be visualised…

 

The French Cultural Centre is organising the launch/exhibition of a unique little Art/Poetry book, "Rainbow's End", by artist Birgitta Godlund and Kenyan writer Mehram Yaar.

 

 

 

 

The forty-eight page book, published by Kenaway Productions/East African Educational Publishers, is a novelty for Kenya, handwritten colourful text and pictures intertwine over the pages. The style of this poet is a unique international blend in its down to earth spirituality… stimulated by African oral traditions.

 

The artist… has transformed the poet's language games into a jigsaw puzzle of subtle watercolours making this book a delightful and entertaining introduction to poetry reading in general, suitable for all generations...

 

It deals with a young hero's travels around the world in search for a meaning in life. His quest finally takes him to Africa, the paradise on earth where the rainbow ends...

 

Mehram Yaar has played a significant role in Kenya's literary scene in the last twenty-five years as a free lance art critic, a short story writer, a poet…

 

This truly educative art exhibition, where every page is exposed together with all the artist's preparatory sketches ... demonstrates the complexity in illustrating poetry. Questionnaires and information will guide the public to his/her own interpretation of the poems and encourage everybody to indulge in his/her own poetry illustrating. …

 

The artist is available to give a guided tour of the exhibition to school parties …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Art and Poetry Merged

Margaretta wa Gacheru, Daily Nation, Nairobi June 7, 1996

...But Birgitta didn't just "illustrate" his poem in the conventional sense of the word... On the contrary, his rather esoteric writing became more of a well-spring from which she derived a seemingly endless array of images, ideas and unquenchable energy which was on display all last week…

 

 

[This is a] show that reveals only a fraction of the prodigious artistic output that Birgitta produced while experimenting with Mehram's poetry, her FCC show includes everything from charcoal and ink drawings to oil paintings and etchings to mixed media collages and ultimately, water colours like the ones that appear in her and Mehram's book… It exposes an amazing evolutionary process as the artist's perspective on both the poetry and the book idea metamorphosed over time… In fact, having her first university degree in literature (not fine art), it was Birgitta's literary interest that inclined her to explore ways to effectively expose the writer's lyrical wit as well as some of the more subtle philosophical implications of his verse through her art… She let her imagination go wild as she warmed up to her subject.

 

 

British Council Launches New Literary Forum

Margaretta wa Gacheru, The Sunday Nation, June 11, 1995

…young writers are likely to come out in droves, as they did a year ago when Yaar (and painter Birgitta Godlund) sparked an idea which led to the launching of another literary forum at the French Cultural Centre…

 

So successful was last year's poetry festival that the FCC is just about to publish an anthology of selected poems from the forum… The festival also elicited a sort of artistic explosion resulting in a cultural cross-fertilisation between poetry and various branches of the arts! ...

 

Reverberations from that arts explosion are still being felt today as young thespians from the Nairobi Theatre Academy are also getting involved in the poetry festival "aftermath"… [they will] dramatise three of the published poems… The launching of Jeune Poesie Kenyane, the bi-lingual anthology… [shows that] poetry isn't the only literary form that young writers are eager to express themselves in.

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Competition About to Kick Off

Margareta wa Gacheru, The Daily Nation, Nairobi March 15, 1996

Poetry Alive 96 is just about to kick off with a countrywide poetry competition…

 

Poetry 94 was a cultural watershed for local artists: Not only did it inspire artists but it also brought poets and artists together… An interdisciplinary and cross-catalytic approach to poetry and the arts will be revived during Poetry Alive 96, to be best illustrated perhaps in the form of a book launch being held in late April, just shortly before the poetry fete in mid-May…

 

The book [is] entitled Rainbow's End, by poet Merham Yaar with painter Birgitta Godlund… The Swedish art teacher says: "It's also meant to be educative. It's the educational aspect of both the painting and the poetry that appealed to Kenway Publisher, Henry Chakava, who hasn't published many poetry books since he first joined Heinemann Books back in the late 1970s.

 

Birgitta whose week-long 'Poetry and Painting Workshop' held during Festival 94 was one of the most innovative and inspiring aspects of the festivities…

 

 

When Designers "Went Wild"

Margaretta wa Gacheru, The Daily Nation, Nairobi October 20, 1995

...Just look at what artists do when you give them a free license to behave as they like - the only caveat being that they "do it" with a stool! ...

 

The recent Art Unseated auction at the Village Market showed just how easily artists can "go wild and wacky" ...

 

Sixty artists illustrated so much imaginative charm and awesome individuality in the works they prepared for the Art Unseated auction-cum-exhibition that simple wooden stools metamorphosed into everything...

 

Birgitta Godlund (with Floating) … got caught up creating conceptual works which fascinated… Meant to "unseat" (or demystify) the concept of art as something alien or other than a basic function of everyday life...,

 

The auction was a tremendous success. … it got local and expat artists involved in a joint effort … [and] also broke down barriers and dissolved distances.

 

 

Unseated Stools

John Kamau, The People, Nairobi September 22, 1995

...[The organizers] gave artists a plain wooden stool and asked them to transform it into a work of art. …The results of the artistic venture are bold sculptures, paintings, intriguing pieces and challenging themes which are put together with visual imagery. Some of the artists put on their stools designs of fountains, aquariums, caves, chess boards, while others outdid themselves to come up with very charming designs…

 

But beside the charm was a serious inner message that the artists were sending out. For instance, Swedish born Birgitta Godlund is overwhelmed by cultural dynamism and this was one of her ways out. She explained how meeting people of different cultures has changed her way of thinking and design. She has thus put all the many material cultures into one whole and let it float in the air - perhaps an expression of the cultural dynamism that is today's world. The title of her stool design is Floating.

 

...The idea of giving artists a similar object and a free hand to design what they want is challenging. In fact Art Unseated is a case study of how artists are different in tastes, preference, predilection, and approach… There were many artists and almost all the names you have heard on the Kenyan scene...

 

 

 

Nairobi Artworld Undergoing Change

The Sunday Times, Nairobi March 27, 1994

...There are some truly committed artists coming this way and who, with their artistic know¬how, are set to revolutionise Kenya's contemporary art…[among them] a well-known Swedish painter Birgitta Godlund … a moving creative spirit ...

 

 

Museum Festival Blazes New Trail

The Kenya Times, Nairobi March 13, 1995

Kenya Museum Society’s arts festival, the first of its kind in this part of the world, travelled a long way from art-go-round in the 80s to Nairobi Arts Festival, meandering its way into the 90s to settle for a popular jamboree of all kinds of art craft, live entertainment and what not. It has become a yearly tryst for friends and lovers, art connoisseurs and bargain hunters and many afrophiles… the festival manages to assemble a veritable feast of visual art, exhibiting exciting new works of hundreds of artists, both local and expatriates. The common recurring theme is Kenya's intrinsic beauty which literally and artistically oozes out of these freshly painted works... This year, as in the past, all time favourites like Jak Katarikawe, Ancent Soi, Theresa Musoke, Fred Oduya, Sane Wadu, Jony Waite, Mary Collis, Rose Mary N'karuga, Lukama N'gazu, Birigitta Godlund, Geraldine Roberts, Francis Kahuri and Elijah Ogira were there with their hallmark works which speak volumes about their devotion and consistency in art…

 

 

Participating artists:

Shine Tani, Steve Njenga, Lucki Mutebi, Francis Kahuri, Dinesh Ravenkar, Wakanyote, Christopher Oyecha, Kamal Shah, Wamalwa Maube, Meek Gichugu, Giles Barot, Birgitta Godlund

 

 

Jeune poésie Kenyane

Suite à l'atelier "POESIE 94", conduit par Birgitta Godlund et Mehram Yaar le Centre Culturel Français a publié un recueil de poésie kenyane contemporaine illustré par des graffitis et des dessins tirés du panneau collectif réalisé en juin 94 par des artistes kenyans.

 

Sélection des poèmes:

CCF, Birgitta Godlund, Ciugu Mwagiru, Njuguna Wakanyote, Mehram Yaar, Anna Yardeni

Conception, coordination et traductions:

Gilles Barot

Réalisation graphique:

Kulgraphics, Nairobi

lllustrations:

Peintures murales realisées lors de deux ateliers dirigés

par Birgltta Godlund et Mehram Yaar en mai 1994

dans le cadre du Festival 'Art-Poesie 1994',

avec

Joseph Cartoon, Meek Gichugu, Rakeeb Hassan, Francis Kahuri, Shade Kamau, Martin Kamuyu, Sebastian Makelele, Wamalwa Maube, Patrick Mazola, James Mbain, Philip Muchiri,

Lucky Mutebl, Steve Njenga, Christpher Oywecha, Dlnesh Rivankar, Kamal Shah, Shine Tani,

Njuguna Wakanyote, James Waweru Wambul, Birgitta Godlund.

Photographies:

David Blumenkranz

Fabrication:

Primex Printers Ltd., Nairobi

Réalisation:

Centre Culturel Français Nairobi, avril 1995

 

 

It's Been a Vibrant Week for the Arts

Ciugu Mwagiru, The Nation, Nairobi May 29, 1994

…euphoria marked the opening of the Kenya Poetry '94 festival at the French Cultural Centre on Wednesday. The poetry festival, preparations for which have been going on for about two months, aims at attaining a fusion of colour, sound and image through which poets, musicians and painters complement each other

 

… actors have been involved in this rare experiment with poetry¬inspired art in which different genres enrich each other, while individual creative artists assist their colleagues working with different forms so that the final product is the seed of different imaginative efforts working in harmony…

 

It brought together teachers and students as well as veteran writers and the relatively unknown ones... [in a] spirit of camaraderie that permeated the festival. … the enthusiasm will continue…

 

The judging criteria were extremely rigorous, and were based on those of the Commonwealth Prize… [Some of the poems were] designed for recitation and dramatisation, and are consequently very lively… [some focus on] mainly political themes, addressing the place of women in society, the promise of African youth as well as the betrayal of the masses by political leaders, that is the Pan-African dream…

 

[Poets are] optimistic that the future holds a lot of promise for the continent…"we will rise and build a nation if only we persevere" … [The festival will] prove a morale booster for up-and-coming poets…

 

 

Artists Plan Cultural Revival by Launching of Poetry '94 Festival

Ciugu Mwagiru, The Nation, Nairobi March 20, 1994

They were all there: artists, dramatists, poets and teachers of all races, creeds and ages. Their objective was to brainstorm and come up with a blue¬print about how a cultural revival could be organised...,

 

while the artists were represented by well-known personalities like Shine Tani, Brush Wadu, Shake Makelele and Birgitta Godlund from Sweden… creative people involved with different genres had been brought together, and many ideas were mooted about how a strong creative link could be created between varied forms of expression with a view to ensuring that each form nurtured and supplemented the other… The experience was enriched by the infusion of music… A symposium would be held soon to review the present state of poetry in Kenya, East Africa and the continent as a whole…

 

 

Free Flow Dominates Poetry Painting Show

Margaretta wa Gacheru, The Daily Nation, Nairobi June 10, 1994

…a myriad of works which were inspired by poetry and specifically by the Poetry Festival at the French Cultural Centre … visual artists involved in the fete was all the wiser since poetry reading is rather ephemeral…

 

The French Cultural Centre plans to publish an anthology, it is ultimately the visual works (all inspired by poems) which will frankly leave a more vivid and vibrant impression of what actually took place throughout the fete…

 

Poetry inspires the artists to perform but also to paint, sculpt and generally "go overboard" artistically, filling a minimum of two floors of FCC with everything from poetic pillows, poetic paths and an installation of a poet's cafe… to junk sculpture and paintings of all sizes, techniques and styles...

 

The artists, specially selected by FCC included Wakonyote Njuguna, Dinesh Rivankar, Christopher Oywecha, Kamal Shah, Lucki Mutebi, Shine Tani, Steve Njenga, Birgitta Godlund, Francis Kahuri, Wamalwa Viaube, Meek Gichugu …"Free Flows" (as Birgitta described them) were among the most fascinating in the entire show…

 

The artists encountered no constraints or restrictive boundaries or rules to which they had to adhere… instead…painting over, around and through one another's works "Rather like what they did during the creativity workshop," said Birgitta who had actually co¬ordinated the first collective painting.

 

[A mural, which] ... seems to carry the main message of the Poetry/Art Festival - which for me aims to inspire us all to come out of our insular cocoons and express all our latent creative energy that is ours - using positive, affirmative, artistic means of doing so - like poetry and paint and spare parts transformed - forgetting the negative flotsam and jetsam of ordinary material life altogether.

 

 

 

Shine Tane with a T-shirt that was turned into a wonderful canvas during the Poetry/Art 94 Festival that began like the proverbial mustard seed. So small but once planted in fertile soil, grew and grew into a huge tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Inspires Great Do at FCCC

Margaretta wa Gacheru, The Daily Nation, Nairobi May 20, 1994

The essence of poetry is inspiration and the idea of a poetry festival has inspired a flurry of enthusiastic activity at the French Cultural Centre… Not only... poets... have rallied round the festival ideas. …

 

Working all last week in a creativity workshop co-ordinated by the gifted Swedish painter Birgitta Godlund, the group has indulged in all sorts of artistic experiments, marrying poetry with a wide mix of media - powdered paint, acrylics, homemade charcoal - to everything from cardboard, plastic, plywood panels and a single sheet of paper 10 metres long…

 

[They collected] assorted "junk"…[and] created paintings, collages and sculptures with everything from old auto air filters, fan belts and worn out treadless tires to rusty wires, tin can and old holey trousers and torn shirts. … inspired artistic invention and imaginative experimentation were lessons [taught] …

 

during the week long session sponsored by FCC… mainly music, poetry, books and informal talks [were utilised] to encourage the 11 to explore new avenues of artistic innovation and potential. … Birgitta also knows the value of sharing basic elements of art with her students. "I want them to feel they can effectively analyse their own art as well as that of others from now on." …

 

Her approach was warmly received by all, some of whom like Shine Tani, Philip Muchiri, Elijah Ogira and Rakeb Hassan are relatively known within the local art scene, while others like Lucky Mutebi, Amutebi, James Mbai Njuguna, Cartoon Joseph, Shade Kamau, Mazola wa Mwashigadi, Martin Kamuvu, Sebastian Makelele and James Waweru Wambui are still ripening on the vine. Yet there's little doubt that all benefited tremendously from exposure to the open ended ideas…

 

[Encouraged to try] translating music by the likes of Bob Marley, Kanda Bongoman and Richard Strauss into colours, forms and lines… the young artists quickly caught on to the free expression she was clearly encouraging: Makelele creating life-size junk sculptures with rubber tire, chain, calabash and cardboard; Mazola using oil filters, old newspapers and wires to create junk sculptures of his own; Shine Toni and Mutebi both using old trousers as 'canvas' on which to blend colours impressionistically while Rakeeb Hassan made his own balaphone using old sticks, wires and calabashes of assorted sizes and shapes.

 

… the most exhilerating part of the week was when Birgitta got out the 10 metre blank paper, glue and powdered paint and told the group to fill it with images inspired by the poetry of Jared Angira. …

Different Outlook

Okumba Miruka, The Daily Nation, Nairobi March 1, 1993

 

When we think of theatre, we think of stage action. And when we think of visual art we think of paintings, sculptures and like stuff. We hardly ever think of the decor in theatre as a body of art on its own… [However, this] is the new thinking in Theatre Workshop Productions (TWP) in their forthcoming production of Derek Walcott's Dream of Monkey Mountain…

 

...the set being made is unique, being an interpretation of Walcott's fantasy in the play, a fantasy which puts the play in the realm of poetry as much as it is in theatre. Furthermore, it is a set designed by an international team of artists namely Birgitta Godlund from Sweden, Gad Ayal from Kenya, Michael Yigesaw from Eritrea and Kadri Humal from Estonia…

 

...uses mosquito netting, sisal ropes and brown paper as material for the set. While the nets are meant to represent the misty layers of the play’s dream and the swirling clouds that envelope the mountain, the ropes serve to symbolise the veins and sinews that knot our bodies together as well as the jungle lianas choking the mountain… This is backgrounded by the stiff paper for the volcanic sides of the mountain built to cascade from the top to the bottom of the auditorium and encapsulate the audience in a theatre-in-the-round-mood.

 

 

 

Ndoto Thrills

Thamthila, The Standard, Nairobi March 3, 1993

…notable events of the month have included the rather spectacular production of Derek Walcott's Dream on Monkey Mountain... Of the various productions seen lately, Dream on Monkey Mountain was one of the most impressive... Monkey Mountain achieves a fusion of dream and reality which is quite rare... It will remain a memorable moment of 1993… [and is] one of the best and most flexible sets we have ever seen.

 

Simple Charcoal Burner's Dream

Eva Ndavu, The Daily Nation, Nairobi March 10, 1993

…Contrary to the whims of some writers who create dreams for romantic and ethereal presentation on the stage, Derek Walcott wrote about a nightmare dream. … Like all unsuccessful or unattainable dreams, is full of destructive images but it is so rich with symbolism and imagery that the entertainment value of the play is immeasurable. Discussion of the play's meaning could go on at a great length and will be held at the British Council auditorium tonight for aII those interested...

 

The play is about the dream of a simple charcoal burner… in a world where white does not reign supreme and where the charcoal burner Makak is a hero, a miracle worker and a healer. His partner, Moustique, is a crippled charlatan who does much to advance the action of the play. Makak's dream concerns his own rise to fame and power, a fantasy which comes alive on the stage and is encouraged by bountiful song and dance. The white-masked woman becomes not only the object of his desires and fantasies but also the victim of his torment and rage.

 

As a dream the play flashes from one symbol to another with poetic rhythm and pace… The story takes place somewhere on a West Indian island, still dominated by its colonial heritage. Characters are constantly looking across the waters to Mother Africa from whence they derive inspiration as well as a feeling of loss. The two-act play has eight clearly defined scenes which emerge from a magnificently imaginative set design which capitalises on the spider imagery, the tropical domain, the mystery of universal suffering… The two characters are not unlike the two derelicts in Waiting for Godot…

 

 

 

Monkey Mountain Worth your While

Mwangi Githahu, The Kenya Times, March 1993

The much hyped (in these columns too) play, Dream on Monkey Mountain…

 

All who saw it will agree that it was one of the must elaborately designed productions we have seen in Nairobi for a long time. The four set designers, Birgitta Godlund, Gad Aval, Michael Yigesaw and Kadri Humal, outdid themselves and came up with a stage design that almost diverts the audience’s attention from the play itself…

 

The play dealt with ... the black man's approach to religion… In one scene we see women dressed as nuns accompanied by their men… It also deals with the topics of race, tradition and the black diaspora.…

 

 

 

The British Council Newsletter March 1993

ARTISTS' FORUM

We are pleased to conclude the third part of our comprehensive sponsorship of Derek Walcott's modern classic "Dream on Monkey Mountain" with an open question and answer forum, in the British Council auditorium, with the Director, Designers, Musicians, Actors and Production team of the play…

 

The forum is intended to examine in detail the process of staging a major production, the problems encountered and solutions found, the dynamics behind creating a real ensemble, as well as being an opportunity for other artists to share their experiences and difficulties regarding sponsorship, venue, casting, licensing, marketing, etc…

 

This is the first of a regular monthly series we are inaugurating when the British Council are offering their facilities to artists in general… The participants are invited to exchange ideas, initiate new work, examine specific areas of theory and practice, hold workshops…

 

Thinking of Ordinary man

John Kariuki, The Standard, Nairobi DATUM

---What does an art exhibition have to do with drama? "Everything" says visiting British director Roger Chamberlain. … Dream on Monkey Mountain, a play by Nobel Prize-winning Jamaican playwright Derek Walcott …

 

art fans at the British Council exhibition will be assessing creative skills of the design, a team Chamberlain describes as truly international...

 

With Birgitta Godlund from Sweden, Gadi Ayal a Kenyan, Michael Yegizaw from Eritrea, and Estonian Kadri Humal, Chamberlain can claim to have brought the world together - with some justification...

 

 

Showcase that Came and Went

Mehram Yaar, The Mail, Nairobi March 10, 1993

The long-awaited Nairobi Arts Festival '93… which is an annual fixture of the Kenya Museum Society... curator Birgitta Godlund.

 

… The festival has become a showcase window for Kenya's contemporary art. Nairobi, due to its cosmopolitan air hosts hundreds of artists of very many nationalities.

 

This arts jamboree will thus be like a mirror reflecting all the shades and trends in the world… [and can be] viewed as a who's who in Kenya's art. ...one can conjure up any artist's name and find it there…

 

Happily this year, there was a touch of professionalism, not only in selecting the works, but also in the paintings which were very well displayed. There was some kind of linkage and continuity. The painstaking efforts were quite noticeable - even the way the paintings were properly spaced and beautifully punctuated with sculptures. … the paintings were the strongest and perhaps the best. They had wit and variety, zest and spark.

 

The festival was represented by artists F. Alba, Marlies Beth, W. Brush, M. Collis, J. Diang'a, Moira Earnshaw… Louise Heller… Grace Kabem, F. Kahuri, A. Kalckstein, Rosemary Karuga, J. Katarikawe, B. Kaigwa, Nadia Kissileva, Rosal Lee, N'gazu, J. B. Mainga, F. Mbugus, Kivuthi Mbuno; Z. Mbutha, Tress Miller, S. Mumia,K.Msangi,TheresaMusoke, Expedito Mwehe, Kioko Mwitiki, J. Njau, Philda Ragland Njau, F. Oduya, E. Ogira, L. Ominde, J. Oswago, A.Omuholoh, Betty Press, Geraldine Robarts… Simpiri, Kamal Shah, A. Soi Sukuro, Svetlana Swinimer, C. Sekano, Shine Tani… Mbutha, Yegizaw Michael, Kamal Shah, John B. Mainga and many others…

 

However, the display time was too short… [It should] provide enough time for the ardent art lovers to visit the festival more than once. Other activities, such as singing and dancing, could wait for the grand gala opening, justifying the high charge on the opening night. Lady Wood, who made a detailed opening speech at the festival, talked at length about yet another festival, the Kenya Festival of Africa, scheduled to open in Johannesburg in September…

 

 

The Big Show

Jill Donisthorpe, The Standard, Nairobi March 2, 1993

…Held in the Museum grounds, the festival consists of two parts - a serious one which aims to display and sell the work of Kenya's leading artists, and light-hearted, popular crafts show with live entertainment…

 

The guest of honour will be Lady Wood, widow of Sir Michael Wood, founder of the Flying Doctor's Service. Lady Wood is herself a designer. In 1947 she established her factory, making ceramic necklaces by hand for export… On the following two days there will be a crafts show in the grounds…

 

... Stalls will display crafts of all kinds and there will be plenty for children to do… [like] clay modelling, colouring, candle making, dried flower arranging... bead stringing and mural painting, as well as having their faces painted. There will be a conjurer, a juggler and a marionette show…

 

Publishers of children's books will give slide shows illustrating traditional African tales while two music teachers will encourage children to learn traditional musical instruments… For adults, there will be demonstrations of batik making, tapestry, tie-and-dye and weaving...

 

Artist Holds Exhibition

Wakanyote N, The Standard, Nairobi January 3,1993

... Godlund is an artistic child of two worlds having been been trained as a pop artist as well as in the classical tradition. The artist's handling of the conflict is a novel way of having her cake and eating it. The oils on board and paper are flawless format executions…

 

But Godlund is not content... [She] cages them in boxes of glass on display windows, windows mind you not frames. And on these windows, she proceeds to cast a spell on the contents using strange patterns all over the inside of the glass...

 

At times patterns are labeled as in Selling Pots, where the outline of a pot is repeated to the extent you hear echoes of "buy my pots". In other pieces the patterning, serves like some geometric ‘griding’ system... the patterns serve a truly magic purpose through the tension created by their out-of-this-world assembling.

 

 

A Bright Reflection of Rural Lifestyles

Okumba Miruka, The Sunday Nation, Nairobi December 20, 1992

... at the French Cultural Centre… is a poet who has never written a poem. Instead, she has painted them, if we still believe that ambiguity with a perspective is still one of the qualities of good poetry. Her artistic perspectives are reflections on life...

 

---[her motifs are] anonymous people who are human because they are superstitious and are mired in the daily struggle to make a living and interact with others. Tension is evident here.

 

--In two titleless pieces, the artist uses panels of wood joined together but with visible cracks. On this are imposed other boards hence creating a sense of discontinuity on the painting… because this enables her to create even more perspectives, the multiplicity of which is a landmark in all her works.

 

… the door motif is a permanent one in the work… the door is a symbol of possibility, openness and reflection. The kind of reflection is even physical. Using glass back grounded by figures on board or canvas, Birgitta creates a medium in which the viewer sees himself in the art and therefore becomes part of it. But the glass has another function: on it are sketched figures visually aligned to make the images on the board either recede into the background or pop out to meet the viewer. ...