Hanging by a thread - Dhahabu Ngumbao Dadu

19 Sep 2012 – 29 Sep 2012

Event times

Thu - Sat 1-6pm

C4RD - Centre for Recent Drawing

London, United Kingdom


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“Originally I started working with Dhahabu just on 18" squares of calico and a running stitch all kept under the bed in a tin trunk away from rats, etc. It all started very simply just with the thought of a practical size and only stipulation being to keep the pattern inside a thumb print distance from the edge of the cloth. From the start I realised that she had a very good sense of space and natural design". - Kirsten Heckterman, Curator. As drawing these works are finely poised between an exploratory line, depiction and formal pleasure, as part of a practice that builds from the manipulation of the material linear qualities of thread, building counterpoints between palette and a distinctive use of space. Dhahabu's lack of access to, and influence by the saturating imagery of digital life that informs much contemporary visual work makes evident her imaginative and embodied capacity for subtle and complex composition as a function of studio process and invention. Please join us for for this exhibition during opening hours or by appointment 19 - 29 September 2012; Centre for Recent Drawing is open Thursday 1 - 6pm at 2 - 4 Highbury Station Road, Highbury Islington, London. C4RD is a Registered UK Charity 1123530, and would particularly like to acknowledge the particular support for this exhibition of Postcard Teas, and generally that of ARTUPDATE.COM/ and our anonymous supporters. "Dhahabu's tribe is Giriama and she lives north of Mombasa just inland from the coast - about 10 kms away. Her family wouldn't have had enough money to educate her; perhaps only for the boys. She has never had access to newspapers or television. She lives without electricity and running water - an incredibly simple clan based life around a family homestead. Her home is surrounded by palm trees and mango trees for shade and round about are hand cultivated fields and scrubland. A few cars pass by on tracks, most people walk or have bicycles and for speed call up motorbikes - mobile phones being a life changing phenomenon. Giriamas generally only adorn themselves with small strings of glass beads and now plastic bangles and beads are mixed in too and used to have a style of dress involving grass skirts and later strips of old cloth skirts which enhanced a larger bottom for beauty. Unlike the Maasai and other tribes further inland who are much more decorated and adorned and still use many more abstract designs to decorate their gourds and clothing with beaded designs. Giriamas now really just wear very brightly patterned cloths wrapped around them called Kangas (which means guinea fowl in Swahili) - the design originally being quite small and dot like and was hand block printed though it is all now screen printed and mainly in India but still designed in East Africa. Under this most now wear western style clothes and use the kangas/leso like aprons and shawls/baby carriers. Dhahabu's only decoration in her house which has whitewashed walls inside are plastic wreaths of flowers and a few religious pictures (she recently converted to Christianity and goes to church regularly), a zebra print curtain and a large rectangle of black painted on one wall where a local carpenter writes out english and maths on his way to work to help her learn English, although she is still completely unable to read or write. Even asking her to do a signature/mark is as yet unforthcoming. I have never tried to influence her by drawing any patterns or showing her any books - there are no libraries, museums or internet available to her. After about 2 year introduced her to a few more stitches and took over english embroidery threads as colours available are so basic. Then a couple of years ago took out some 19th embroideries, crewel work types and showed her how to make the stitches but have always encouraged her to use her own designs and only to look at the samplers for stitch type reference, also took her some hand dyed velvets and linens as nicer cloth to work on." -Kirsten Hecktermann, Curator

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