Exhibition: Lamu Interiors. Paintings by Karin Voogd

In between

This is what Karin Voogd writes about her art work on Lamu:

Everybody is building on Lamu, an island on the east coast of Kenya. In fact, I was first invited to come and paint on the island by a builder, a German who had built five houses in Shella, a favourite destination on the island for tourists and expats. Lamu town is a Unesco World Heritage Treasure with impressive architecture and well-preserved old buildings. I was immediately taken with the outside-inside aspect of Swahili houses. There’s no need for protection from rain, so traditional houses do not have glass windows and feature large open areas and open stairs.

I travelled to Lamu, in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Plots of land, let alone old Swahili houses, are usually too expensive for locals. And families without their own land are unlikely to build a house made from stone. But when fire swept through the village of Mararani in 2016, destroying half of the huts, cheap plots were sold off and a number of people rose to the occasion, building huts from wood and marara, the leaves from the Mkoma (doum palm).

Everybody on Lamu builds and everybody knows how to build a hut or a stone house. Of course, there are full-time craftsmen on hand to help, but young Swahili men, whatever their daily profession, haven't lost their ‘traditional’ building skills. A little bit of money will buy a heap of stones or chalk, which can be used later. Meanwhile, walled plots with the outlines of a house look abandoned, donkeys roam in future rooms and plants are emerging through the coral-stone walls. Just when you think the owners may never take up building again, they do, digging into the hardened chalk heap and transforming a virtual ruin into a room or two. The wife and her children start cooking and playing, watching television, maybe planting a Mbirimbi tree or doing needlework on the porch, waiting for the second round when the husband might build a second floor or finish the walls with fine niru (smooth, soft-coloured stucco).

These are the scenes I have tried to paint: the self-built houses, men using abandoned houses as a gathering place in the afternoon, the strange heaps of chalk, trees growing inside houses, the stairs and pillars of old Swahili houses, the sewer system in the street, bachelor huts that look like tree-houses, attempts to find the right niru colour on an ancient wall, bare, greyish walls built from blocks of coral stone. I admire the handmade quality of the building style: a straight line becomes soulful when drawn without precision instruments. In the new neighbourhoods, with names like Kashmiri and Wiyoni, I found examples of new Swahili architecture, bold and original and executed in a soulful way! This makes painting new houses and traditional ones are a real treat.

My drawings of the Maktaba ya Sanaa, and the attempts I have made to gather books for an Arts library in Lamu will be on show in the ASCL Library.

Karin Voogd elaborated on her paintings at the opening of the exhibition on 9 June.

The exhibition can be seen during office hours in the corridors on the third floor and in the library (ground floor) of the Pieter de la Court building.
The paintings are for sale, prices between € 318,- and € 822,-.

Read more about Karin Voogd on her website.

Date, time and location

12 May 2017 to 27 August 2017