© Kibe Wangunyu

Kaspale’s Playground

Syowia Kyambi (KE)
Wed 5 Oct ’22 - Thu 6 Oct ’22
Performance with installation about the recent history of Kenya
Wed 5 Oct ’22
Thu 6 Oct ’22

Women display their ultimate means of struggle: they strip themselves naked on the street and show their bodies to the established power, the police, that runs away. 

In this theatrical installation with costumes, video and performance Syowia Kyambi takes the audience to a world of resistance and protest, where women display their ultimate means of struggle: stripping themselves naked on the street and showing their nude bodies to the established power, the police that runs away for women who show their naked bodies in protest are a curse to them.

Kaspale's Playground is a theatrical performance with installation about Kenya's recent history. Performer and artist Syowia Kiambi plays Kaspale, a playful impostor who goes to Nyayo House in Nairobi, the place where political opponents during the presidency of Daniel arap Moi were held captive in the 1980s and 1990s. Kaspale is tearing down this building to pay tribute to the mothers' protest of 1992, when mothers in a desperate attempt to free their sons from Nyayo House stripped naked in public in Nairobi's Uhuru Park. 

Work by Syowia Kyambi is currently also on display in the Kenyan pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

Part of
Afrovibes 2022

About the artist

Syowia Kyambi is a Kenyan multimedia artist and performer. She works in the fields of photography, video, sculpture and performance installations. She has received several awards for her work, including the Art in Global Health Grant from the Wellcome Trust Fund in the United Kingdom, the FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Awards and the UNESCO Prize for the Promotion of the Arts Award. She has worked as a curator with the Ostrale Center for Contemporary Art Biennale in Dresden (2019) and the Goethe Institute in Kenya (2012). Her (installation) work is included in collections including the Robert Devereux Collection in London, Kouvola Art Museum Collection in Finland, National Museum of Kenya and Sindika Dokolo Foundation. Her installations and performances have been seen in museums and public spaces in Belgium, Finland, Kenya, Mali, Sweden, Germany, Zimbabwe, France, South Africa and the U.S.A.

In much of her performative work, Syowia Kyambi dissects issues of race, perception, gender and memory, collaborating with dancers, performers, photographers, video and film makers. She examines how our contemporary experiences are influenced by constructed histories of the past and present, by colonialism, family ties and sexuality. In her performances and performative installations, she explores cultural identities linked to loss, desire, race and the position of women in society. In her artistic work she combines modern presentation methods and performances with traditional knowledge, for example video work with clay pots and weaving techniques. 

In her performances she makes use of disruptive characters (the Kaspales) who expose the legacy and pain of colonialism. Kaspale's Playground is an example of this. Her performances are often uncomfortable and demand from the spectators the willingness to undergo a collective experience in a search for connections between the 'canonical' now and the changing now. The spectators do not watch a performance from a distance, but are included in the performance. She asks questions about what is remembered, what is archived and how we can see the world again.

Syowia Kyambi lives and works in Kenya.

Director and performance Syowia Kyambi