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“Siri Hutobolewa Gizani” by Msingi Sasis

“Siri Hutobolewa Gizani” by Msingi Sasis

With an Introduction by Moses Serubiri

I have been visiting Nairobi for almost 3 years now, and I have not yet been able to see it with the imagination of Msingi Sasis’ photography lens. My casual attempts to journal my trips to downtown Nairobi have often left me feeling incompetent as an author. Language seems quite unable to capture the energy and experience of downtown Nairobi.

Yet various stories of Nairobi have been visualized; the urban zeitgeist captured in the visual language of artists: in the street photography of Msingi Sasis; and in the social commentary of Michael Soi. The bigger picture is that Nairobi is an African megapolis that represented the best of African modernity during the Independence of African states. The question of a language that describes; that speaks to the Nai experience, is one that concerns Msingi, who’s visceral knowledge of the city is marveling: ‘I carry Nairobi’s consciousness,’ he recently told writer Isaac Otidi Amuke.

Working with Jalada’s language issue, I asked Msingi if he would be interested in working on an experiment that I had in mind that attempts to show the relationship between image and text. We went back and forth with ideas about which text, and how could it translate or belong within an image, until Msingi decided to work specifically from his design background. This design-oriented series that grew from this conversation between Msingi and I is one that embodies Nairobi’s signage, particularly on shops and on matatus and buses. The series, then, does the work of making familiar a complex chorus of icons and typographies spread through the city.

Msingi 1

Msingi 2

Msingi 3

Msingi 4

Msingi 5

Msingi 6

Msingi 7

Msingi 8

Msingi 9

Msingi 10

Msingi 11

Msingi 12

Msingi 13

All Images Courtesy of Msingi Sasis

Msingi Sasis (@MsingiSasis ) one of Kenya’s most successful bloggers and East Africa’s leading street photographer with extensive experience. He is also a much sought after candid photographer. He runs two blogs that blend street photography and creative nonfiction; Nairobi Noir and On the Nairobi Streets. His work has been featured on the BBC World Service, The Atlantic’s City Labs, UP Magazine among other international and local media.

Serubiri Moses (@SerubiriM) has edited the catalogue for the Kampala cobtemporary art biennial, KLA ART 014, curated panel discussions on language and art history, and written essays for various international academic and popular journals.

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