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.