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Jackie Karuti

Black Birds, 2017

Video-Black & White, Sound. 4 min. 3 sec.

The wandering and disappearance of children was a common theme in early East African storytelling, as was the destructive and nurturing nature of the sea. Black Birds takes its inspiration from this storyteller tradition, as well as a moment Jackie experienced through a sojourn in Kampala, Uganda, where she observed a child’s innocence being shattered by her mother. Taking as a starting point a box that contains “a wind full of stories” emerging from the sea, the text in the video conveys the transition of girls who descend into the sea as children and who return as grown women.

The imagery of the video is constructed through experiments with drawings and objects fed through a slide projector, while incorporating dreamy birdsong of a place waking up somewhere in the world. Paradoxically, the text – in the way it is loosely connected to the associative images and sounds – underlines the open and fabulating characteristics of oral storyteller tradition, though the sound of the storyteller’s voice remains absent.

Jackie Karuti (b.1987) is an artist based in Nairobi, Kenya.