Mombasa diary

31 Jan

For a week in October I was lucky enough to be in the south eastern city of Mombasa in Kenya. Having been working in Nairobi on a research project regarding lung health (see previous posts) I was familiar with Kenya. Mombasa however is very different from Nairobi. For one, it is very hot and not a dry heat, a heavy, humid, tropical heat that I typically don’t enjoy. In Mombasa however, I was loving it. Besides a teenage trip to Mexico, I had not been in a tropical climate like this and was in love with my surroundings that were teeming with life. Colourful lizards, monkeys, bats, crabs and camels were all around and twitching in the background, sometimes seen, sometimes not. I was part of the communication package of a research project on heritage and resilience in South Sudan. We worked in a nice air conditioned room on various parts of project. Evenings became a ritual of drawing by the beach and inevitably being harassed by trinket sellers for whom I was easy pray, packing my bag full of their wares and probably over paying for them all. I realised that I could happily live by the beach. It brings a tremendous sense of calm and doing this reportage drawing with a clear head and time on my hands was a genuine luxury. After doing one drawing of a trinket seller I had just encountered named Abdul, I met an older German woman named Margaret who loved my drawing and proceeded to tell me all about her life. I kept running into her and she kept effusively telling me how much she loved the drawing. I eventually gave it to her and you can see her below with my drawing back home with her in Germany. She had also run into Abdul herself and was then especially happy with the drawing as, according to her, it looked just like him.

Enjoy the drawing below. For me these drawings bring back so much more than just snapshots or memories. They are containers filled with lives that I may have drawn but I don’t control. They are also not fixed. They are living out these small dramas somewhere in some space. If the drawings don’t somehow connect to a seen and witnessed thing or person they do not work. They reflect the amount of information I was able to preserve, within my own limitations of skill or memory, on the page in marks and lines and smudges. Drawing is a conjuring up, a construction which is built on instinct and foolish confidence. When it works it has captured that same crackle of life that was witnessed, some remnant of life passing, not frozen or preserved but captured and held in the dreamscape of a piece of paper.

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