'I am Adam Ayko' in progress

Charcoal drawings Classrooms of Dus series

Opened 6th February 2020 Knysna Fina Art

I first started visiting remote rural communities in East Africa, to record their art; contemporary artists expressing their creativity and culture, using their bodies as canvas. My observations over a seven year period, provided insight into the trajectory from traditional independent lifestyle, living off the land, to modernisation. While the focus of my attention are the Omo Valley communities, this process is representative of countless traditional communities worldwide. I presented my perspective on In/Dependence at Everard Read Circa in 2019.
Faced with the consequences of loss; their ancestral land, their forests, their rivers, their cows, their crops; the Kara community of Dus, located in East Africa, are faced with little choice but to comply with the pressures of a monetarised world and formal education, which they have chosen to embrace.
The landscape of Dus is dominated by the imposing parliament building constructed of large timbers, representing the cornerstone of the ancient Kara culture. Across the village, in stark irony, as compensation for their losses and a supposed perk of development, stands the ‘modern’ dilapidated and direly underfunded classrooms. Nevertheless, the classrooms of Dus have much to be proud of, producing influential graduates who are able to represent the Kara communities needs through the challenges and changes.
This includes being informed when projects are a fait a complais, by which time ancestral land has been bulldozed, water levels in rivers have dropped, crops on diminished land have failed, cattle have died, and hunger has set in.
However, the real injustice is the lure of modernisation, jobs on plantations closer to slavery, catapult communities into a capitalist society and overnight poverty, where education, healthcare, water and electricity are offered as a perk or benefit of land loss.
In/Dependence offered a macro perspective on the often catastrophic challenges accompanying modernisation. Classrooms of Dus focuses on an astonishing moment in time where tradition confronts modernisation. Learners are learning English in a country where it is not an official language, some wear traditional dress with remnants of body painting, others soccer shorts and t-shirts; where there may be a cell phone in one hand and a headrest in the other. Traditional communities confront serious changes and challenges, including capitalism and cultural obsolescence.
The importance of this series is to raise awareness that this is happening now, perhaps not as striking, perhaps not as rapidly, not only in some forgotten corner of Africa, but in our backyard.
Arundhati Roy articulates this moment with precision and perfection:
“From being self-sufficient and free, to being impoverished and yoked to the whims of a world you know nothing, nothing about - what d’you suppose it must feel like?” Arundhati Roy
“Indigenous people - the people who still know the secrets of sustainable living - are not relics of the past, but the guides to our future.” Arundhati Roy

 

‘I am Adam Ayko’

Charcoal and chalk pastel drawing on Arches 300 gram cotton rag paper, 120.5 x 176 cm

Robert Slingsby I am Adam Ayko Web.jpg
 

‘I am Zino Gadi’

Charcoal and chalk pastel drawing on Arches 300 gram cotton rag paper, 94 x 117.5 cm

Robert Slingsby Zino Gadi.jpg
 

‘Classroom in Dus’

Charcoal and chalk pastel drawing on Arches 300 gram cotton rag paper, 161 x 108 cm

Robert Slingsby Classroom in Dus.jpg
 

‘No cow in the field is a cow on the wall’

Charcoal and chalk pastel drawing on Arches 300 gram cotton rag paper, 119 x 92 cm

‘No cow in the field is a cow on the wall’
 

‘Name is’

Charcoal and chalk pastel drawing on Arches 300 gram cotton rag paper, 118 x 92 cm

Robert Slingsby Name is.jpg
 

‘Defending the forest’

Charcoal and chalk pastel drawing on Arches 300 gram cotton rag paper, 130 x 112 cm

Robert Slingsby Defenders of the forest.
 

‘I am Sura Bona’

Charcoal and chalk pastel drawing on Arches 300 gram cotton rag paper, 124 x 94 cm

Robert Slingsby I am Sura Bona Web.jpg