Clinton has spent one month in Kenya, East Africa, collecting stories. This has been his fourth time in the country and it is, perhaps, the time in which he has learnt the most about the place. We should all travel and experience that which is outside the realms of our own homely existence as it expands the mind, encourages growth and is the fundamental creator of new connections.
Clinton started out to record stories from various people. There were no preselected people and it was open to anyone who wanted to partake in giving Clinton a story. The artist retraced all of his own previous steps through Kenya to ensure reconnecting with his friends in the country. He also met many new people and forged many new friendships with people from all walks of life throughout this period. Stories were collected from children, young adults and older persons; most of the stories have a unique flavour attached to them and virtually no story is the same.
There were very few days throughout September where Clinton did not capture a story from someone. The country is big and there are approximately 47.5 million people living in it. Clinton has recorded 88 stories in total – which would not even be considered to be a blip on the Kenyan population radar. However, one thing that is certain is that the artist has learnt more, in a short period of time, about the people, the society, and Kenya today than he could have expected. There were stories that were told that almost reduced Clinton to tears and there were stories recalled that made him laugh out loud. Life has not been easy for many throughout the Kenyan nation although there remains a certain strength and resilience amongst the people. Every day people are faced with harsh challenges that need overcoming. Every day people have to ‘hustle’ as they call it. Some of this feeling and emotion is what Clinton hopes to capture as he creates new work around each of these stories.
The very first story came from an artist called Mosoti Kepha. It was an account of how his artistic direction changed resulting in him becoming a sculptor. From that first story, Clinton knew that he was going to enjoy recording them even though it was completely uncertain what sort of stories would come his way. People trusted in Clinton as he put a camera in front of them. Each story has been documented on film and as notes in his sketchbook.
It remained very important to tell people that the story could be any story that they wanted to share. Some people hesitated, some people refused and some people gave very freely. The story was to be any story and by that Clinton meant that it could have been a personal, ancestral or fictional story. The artist wanted the story to come from that person, from inside their own mind and being. There were no restrictions to the length of the story or the subject of the story and this was the most vital aspect of the collecting that Clinton tried to convey to the teller. The story had to come from that person; the story had to be something that they wanted to share. There was no direction given to any of the stories and what emerged was a viewpoint on the incredible, diverse culture. It was an exercise, for Clinton, in seeing what people were willing to share and people did not disappoint. As the month progressed and when stories were recalled, they touched on places and on topics that gave Clinton a unique insight into the length and breadth of the country.
There were stories about witchdoctors, killer bees, hares, hyenas, big feet, journeys, friendships, family, abuse, corruption, uncertainty and strength, to name but a few. Some of the stories were short and some of the stories were long. Some of the stories were very emotional. Clinton initially had the idea of creating a single artwork or a small sequence of artworks in relation to each story. When he starts to create a visual around them they will start as drawings before they become a coloured artwork. Out of the 88 stories there are only two stories that Clinton will create a small sequence of works in relation to. Those two stories took Clinton on an emotional journey of his own and they were laden with moments of suspense or shock. Interestingly, as each story was told, Clinton was already visualising an artwork and within his sketchbook he continued to make sketches around some of these stories.
This is a way that Clinton has not worked before. He has never collected stories from others and he has never thought about making artworks in relation to those people’s personal stories. What is clear though, is that the collecting of these stories has, potentially, opened up a new way of seeing for the artist. His interests lie within the human being and how we can cohabit, coexist and think. It is with great intrigue that Clinton delves into a Kenyan society which is a society that he has spent much time in before. This period of time in Kenya has allowed the artist to get in underneath its skin, and to explore a darker or lighter and more interesting time that reaches outside of his own immediate involvement with a place and space.
What is to stop the artist delving into other societies or even his own society at home. There is, perhaps, a greater viewpoint on contemporary life that can be explored.
Clinton will begin creating work around these stories later in the year.
Clinton currently has an exhibition, ‘Inhabiting; Coexisting’, on in Down Arts Centre for the remainder of October 2016.
Clinton will exhibit with Ards Arts Centre in March 2017.