Monday, December 31, 2007

Facing the New Year/2008.

African Howl (With a nod towards Ginsberg).

I saw the best minds of my brothers weeping for freedom, shouting, protesting, screaming their naked souls,
forcing themselves through the black streets at sunrise, looking to a lake still red with sunset,
angel-winged lovers, flaming for the connection to ancestors and the union of navels,
who knew the dance of death in the skulls of mind—
who ran from the trained dogs which sniffed mama’s bra—
which sniffed the youth’s sports socks for the last of his inheritance—
who walked through their day with souls stained by blood—
who still dared to dream in the chaos of looting as the land cracked in two through war and dissension—
who watched the juice of orange turn from citric to nitric—
who watched the devil gorge on his fruits of fallen ashes—
I saw the best, and urge them now, to hear the sentence passed in the sentences of howling,
to trust in love from the wet-dream moon, and not the monied lust that has fucked a generation.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

More to mind.

”The glance on a face may tell more to mind than the dick being forced on paper for display.”


Friday, December 28, 2007

The Kingfisher

African Pied Kingfisher.
Pied: mottled, often used in poetry to suggest “new spirit”.
Kingfisher/Fisher King, a symbol of a holy quest in poetry.

In essence, this beautiful new image by Orokie captures a moment where youth and nature are linked: the relaxed limbs of the body and the contemplative, listening face are absorbed by the persistent song of a tiny bird. A moment of fixed intensity in a world of watery and cloudy flux.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Notebooks of Orokie.

Notebooks offer glimpses of private worlds. Often, through picture and word they speak to both sides of the human brain: the left which controls writing and the right which controls drawing. A double language. William Blake remains one of the most important visionaries and alchemists of the human spirit. In his work, word and picture speak together. They look at the world through double-vision. In his notebooks, his mental processes can be seen in operation. Blake mistrusted the education given by scholars (Reason, the enslaver of mankind, which he named Urizen, You-reason) which he feared took away the gift of intuition. Last night, Orokie wrote this about a new painting for his notebook and his belief in the world of spirit:

“that me ought to try, defend and protect it from preachers and teachers that would always try to put the unseen energy of my spirit in chains cause that was their job.”

His view is the same as Blake’s! In his notebooks on Afriboy—The Moleskin is a good place to begin— Orokie reveals a series of sketches that open up a world of signs and inner thoughts. This world belongs to innocence and experience. For Blake, the universe was dynamic, a cosmos, a seed to be viewed in a grain of sand. And the poetic-art-image as it appears…in Orokie’s notebooks… is something to be viewed in this way. It requires involvement and contemplation.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Drawing Lesson.

“How much I would like to do drawings like you, but I cannot do.”
Orokie smiled, and asked me,
“You cannot do? Have you tried?”
“Why? I know I cannot do.”
Orokie looked for his pencils, which were small, in a carton box set of 12, half length: some were shorter because of much use. Blue, red, yellow, black, orange, brown; water, heart, maize, line, gourd, soil…
Orokie, then, cut half a sheet from his writing pad.
“Follow me,” he said sweetly.
And he started to draw on half a sheet, leaving me space on the other half. He began to do the line of lake waters on a peaceful day. I followed, not bad. The shore on the left became a triangular piece, then a boat with engine (to go and come back from main market in the village, where shoes and t-shirts would steal our glances): trapezoidal, with shorter line for base, the larger on top. Oh, yes, yes…
“Now you use colour pencils to paint your boat.”
“What colours?” I replied.
“Try and listen to the music that lives in your spirit, close your eyes, you will see the colours to use.”
Amazed, I did see bands of colours like this: pure green, sunshine yellow and red. I was Bob Marley with the Wailers performing their song “Is this love that I’m feeling?”I drew the engine boat, pure green, sunshine yellow and red: then a circle, small, plus a short straight line… made a head with red baseball cap, a crate of the soda with name–Coke (and cold)– then two figures like eggs, sacs full with maize, our principal food, followed by a mama with baby plus elder with hat, then conductor guiding boat smoothly towards sandy shore, without throwing the crew forth with force. I heard Orokie,
“You can do it, you can do it, my friend.”
And I was liking it much, I was feeling the joy, I was singing an overstanding song of love in colour.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A mysterious ambience.

In 1807, when Abolition was in the air, John Bourne painted “A Meeting of Connoisseurs”. This satirical painting captured well the academic tradition of drawing, in which the black male model is relatively rare, and the strangeness that European artists found in the Black male body. Bourne's particular view of the Life Class is shown as a deadly affair, as the stiff academicians come to terms with the unusual dimensions of the Black male form.

A hundred years later, the Black male presence was being acknowledged as a source of eroticism and beauty by the Bloomsbury artists Duncan Grant and Edward Wolfe. Today, Grant is well known for his inter-racial gay sex drawings, Wolfe less known for his heroic sexual portrayal of South African Black miners. Slowly, the inclusion of the Black male form increased. John Singer Sargent created an art that honestly portrayed the flow of the Black male figure, especially in his minor watercolours.

And the Camden Town painter, Harold Gilman, drew the Black male figure as a sort of erotic idyll:

In the 1930s, a rather different view began to emerge, as the Black presence became more viewable, less a source of exotic fantasy. Glyn Philpot paid tribute in the 1930s to the Black male form

and here is an academic sketch by Derek Fowler from the 1940s:

This drawing’s attention to line and form shows an engagement with the figure such that he becomes a personal subject. In the drawings of Orokie, there is this quality too, for the figures that he represents seem to be an overflow of emotion, as if they have drawn out of him every drop of spirit, every drop of honey or water. It is this high- fidelity tuning towards humanity which gives Orokie’s drawings their particular sensibility, “a special ambience”.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Camelopardalus on Orokie's art.

La carte du paganisme agreste est aussi la carte du corps nu – et pour Orokie, surtout du corps masculin nu. Entre parenthèses, il se peut fort bien que le point trivial qui permettrait de distinguer franchement le paganisme des religions sémitiques révélées, c’est la honte du corps et la valeur superstitieuse accordée à la nudité, en particulier celle des organes génitaux. Il se peut aussi, bien entendu, que la chaleur torride des saisons africaines, associée aux conceptions païennes du corps comme une simple expression biologique de forces immanentes dans l’univers, ait rendu cette superstition du corps vêtu (et non simplement orné et valorisé) inimaginable. Certaines populations agrestes – les Dinka par exemple – sont entièrement dévêtues, mais d’autres qui portent un manteau semblent le faire uniquement comme une sorte de protection décorative contre les vents froids, comme les Massaï sur les haut plateaux de l’actuel Kenya : le manteau ne dissimule pas, et en particulier, ne dissimule pas les organes génitaux.

Responsible desire.

"Culture dictates behaviour and behaviour decides the exposure to AIDS. At a time when visual culture is cheap and available everywhere, the makers of images have a great responsibility. For MSM the use of condoms is vital. The correct use of condoms prevents infection, the acquiring of a different strain of HIV and the transmission of damaging sexual infections. If a line might be drawn between erotic art and pornography that line would have to be related to responsibility. The availability of pornography in Africa, among adolescents, adults, and MSM, specifically, is not a safe situation: it encourages unsafe practices. Erotic art recognises the right of MSM to see visible, proud, human images of themselves. When men are visible and respect themselves and their behaviours, the spectre of AIDS loses its invisible line of surprise attack. Different cultures need different solutions and visual rites of protection. "


Friday, December 07, 2007

"I was grown doing drawings."

That is an interesting way of describing a life in art. This simple expression says more than, “I grew up doing art”. It rather recognises that art created growth. So often, when young people are taught to draw or paint, there is force put upon “How to do it”, or even worse—follow these steps and make what I make. Art becomes coercion. Orokie’s interesting statement does not recognise force. It recognises liberation, the “Why I do it” (against all odds). As teacher to himself, Orokie places emphasis on feeling, not rationality, on an organic link between himself, others, nature. His art taps into the roots and branches of feeling, Eros.

The origins of Orokie.

Etant adolescent, Orokie (qui est Ougandais) passait les vacances dans la région de sa mère, au Kenya, dans un bled au bord de la mer. Il s’asseyait souvent sous un arbre, avec des amis, et regardait au loin les amusements des garçons dans le sable et les vagues grondantes. « C’est sous cet arbre que je me rendis compte combien j’aimais être avec les garçons. » Il y a toujours une sorte de sensualité âcre, mais généralement inconsciente, ou non érotisée (sauf par accident), dans les jeux de garçons, surtout en liberté et sous le soleil. *
As a young man, Orokie (who is from Uganda) spent the holidays in Kenya: in a lakeside village close to his mother. Here, he would often sit under a tree, in the pleasant shade watching other males, realising how these brought warmth and pleasure to him. The early drawings of Orokie show longing and desire. They offer both a bitter sensuality and a sweet sensitivity. They reveal what many have known-- that sense of yearning and that haze in which friendship holds hands with love on sun-filled days, when liberty feels possible.
Pour un amoureux du sexe masculin comme Orokie, cette sensualité devient évidemment très perceptible, et il a décidé d’user des moyens à sa disposition pour l’analyser et l’exprimer. « J’ai grandi en dessinant (I was grown doing drawings) », m’écrit-il. « Sur mes manuels scolaires (j’ai été très souvent puni). Sur des bouts de vieux journaux. Sur mes cahiers scolaires (encore les punitions). Sur toutes les enveloppes usagées dans lesquelles des lettres nous avaient été envoyées…»
Orokie did not find art easy when he was young. Art does not provide food in Africa; it is hard to paint when water is rationed and paper is scarce; also, the nature of his drawings demanded secrecy and that meant little discussion about techniques. But he was a determined and passionate artist. He drew on envelopes, newspapers and school books. He mixed paints with tea and saliva. Finger nails and feathers became brushes. Orokie was determined to grow through his drawings and become himself.
*This is part of a detailed essay by Camelopardalus.

Welcome everyone

Welcome everyone to the new Afriboy Blog. Hopefully, this new venture will keep you informed about the work of Orokie Okoth, a free man and artist from Uganda. There is a belief in Africa, which goes like this: when everyone sits down at the communal meal then everyone shares, piece after piece, so as no one is left out. So, we would like to invite you to sit down and enjoy Afriboy, and share in the creative spirit of Orokie… to eat with joy, piece by piece.