Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Orokie: a critical view.

In 1980, Robert Mapplethorpe produced his infamous “Man in Polyester Suit.” This is the photograph that sits on the easel in Orokie’s image. Mapplethorpe’s image produced mixed reactions (if not erections) in the 1980s. For some, it was the prime example of aesthetics and sexuality combined: sex was art and art was sex. For others, it was pornography: the fetishism of the Black male body. The semi-erect penis of Milton Moore (who had the most beautiful penis ever, for Mapplethorpe!) was both upgrading and degrading.

Mapplethorpe’s view of the Black male body in “Man in Polyester Suit” shows much of how Mapplethorpe looked at Black African men. The penis is their authenticity. The cheap, badly tailored suit (the pun in tailor, tail=penis would not have escaped the photographer) represents the fake veneer of Mapplethorpe’s Black men. The Black male touched civilisation in a distinctly shoddy manner, for him.

More recently, critics have claimed a more ambiguous role for Mapplethorpe’s photograph. Yes, it was a glorious sex hole for White males, but it was also a space in which Black men could gaze. An object of offence could also be an object of defence, allowing the Black male gaze to exist. The image allowed, in the words of critics like Mercer and Smalls, a double desire to co-exist. But the image in “Man in Polyester Suit” might be even more problematic than this. For it assumes that the Black male gaze has candour, honesty, and the fetishistic photograph might be turned into an agent of liberation. (Such might be as accurate as the belief that White men invariably look upon the Black male body like Mapplethorpe). In truth, the Black male gaze might be identical to Mapplethorpe’s view: candid, nothing more than an eye for sex-candy.

The photograph below is clearly a descendent of Mapplethorpe’s image. Of course, the Black male now wears a tuxedo, is given more status than an imported suit, non-American suit, but the message is no different. Beneath the trappings of dress, the Black male (the model Melshawn) is little more than his great penis. That Mapplethorpe’s image can be re-worked in this way (20 years later) does not show a development of the intelligence of feeling. It rather shows that nothing has changed for the better, indeed, has worsened, because Black men now consume the Black male image like White men. There is little difference. All that has happened is that Mapplethorpe’s high art pornography has become joking poornography. Still the same game: erect porn stars to celebrity status (as in Mapplethorpe’s photographs of Tom as a Da Vinci Renaissance Man). Little time is given to seeing the spiritual star within the common Black man.

Orokie’s painting casts an eye on these important issues. Who we are is implied by how we see. So, a Black male hand is guided by popping out eyes. A typical Orokie touch and hieroglyph for desire. Then, the artifice of Mapplethorpe’s work is stood against a natural horizon. In Orokie’s Black male, the image of Mapplethorpe is visually reversed (shirt tail from the right). Orokie’s African male exposes the sexuality within the model image and offers that sexuality as human, as natural. Much like Basquiat (in Armani), it plays with the image of the Black male artist and what kind of Black male aesthetic might result.
Orokie’s painting, here, questions the anaesthetic that is given daily to Black men who love other Black men. It suggests that human feeling is more than feeling a penis.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Erotic Art and Orokie.

Who is Art for? This week I came across a thought on erotic art which said: “The fantasy of the viewer is most important. That is what makes a painting erotic. Erotic art is made to awaken the fantasies of the viewer.”

Is that true? I do not know. Partly, I feel it true. But it has the room freshener smell of post-modernism to it. You know, the author is dead and so the reader has free rein to live as s/he wants when criticising the work of art. Erotic art is made for a virtual world, one in which the viewer can fantasise. But of what? Of meeting the person in the picture? Of having sex with the body shown? Of entering a scene and bringing an intense and personal story to life. Like this:

It was a hot dark. He had taken refuge in the shadows of a stair-well. Here, he felt the dry heat of the sun being replaced by a liquid heat inside himself. A temperature that compelled him towards one deep, flowing action. Etc.


Perhaps. Yet, I think that the erotic spirit is more than this. Look at this painting.

It came from a connection between model and artist. When there is some spiritual link with the model, when he agrees and feels very easy to model, then the drawing comes very beautifully, while my spirit gets very pleased through the creative process, as delightful as making love when both partners do wish so. Surely, this is what exists in an Orokie. Or I would like to think so. A feeling that a personal love has made the work and the viewer can touch that personal love. What the viewer creates is touched by the view that came from the love felt by the painter. I hope so.

That is what I want to give in my work…to a viewer…to a buyer.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Kind comments.

It is good to receive kind words, from those who write through Afriboy, from those who write on this blog. These matter more than the racist comments that appear on my YouTube site. A White man writes on my video, “Great, more N******!” and links my art to his own enslaved mind.

This week a man from the USA wrote to me. He wished to buy some of my work. I was honoured by his wish and his words. I asked him what man of the imagination he might like. His words were so lovely that I trusted a friend to turn them into words. Malcom, your pure words were water to me.

Entrance (to the body).

(After Cavafy).

I listened and his words caught me.
Turned towards the screen where he spoke,
I saw an African body of beauty
Which appeared as if rivers and mountains had formed it—
Not European, not marble, not made by Eros,
But a form made by a painter
Who had drawn the very essence of man.
He was a body greater than the little thing,
A man of strength, yet vulnerable,
A man whose sexuality was a clean light
That warmed from inside
The glow of his very dark skin.
He possessed hands that might gently touch a forehead
And run downwards, against the flesh,
Be bold in their touch upon the secret boulders of love.
In his eyes, he held a peace
That might lull a man to sleep.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A View with a Room

A new room:
It is truly peaceful,
With sunshine coming through large window.

Sunshine spreads across
The next wall, smooth cream paint,
Where plain colour differs—
Clear shapes of danced shade.

These, in number, make five,
While nobody is in the room—
Gracefully drawn in sunlight
They cannot be viewed…opaque.

Nothing intrigues my mind
As I savour
The kiss of true light
With no question;

Any thought overwhelmed by sensations
As I peacefully stare into this room,
Taking whole pleasure in it…
My spirit.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Art of Love.

Quittons Orokie pour, ahem ! Platon (autre grand amoureux de garçons, quoique d’un genre plus gnangnan)…L’un des mythes érostiques répandus par Platon – chez qui le fabuliste n’est jamais loin du dialecticien – est celui de l’hermaphroditisme originel, qui vaut bien celui du péché originel. Nous sommes nés complets, et une malédiction de Zeus le père fendilla notre âme et notre corps en deux, et depuis, nous courons le monde à la recherche de notre moitié – notre âme sœur. Chez Platon, il s’agit d’un mythe érostique, et c’est le principe de l’amour (si loué et si décrié en même temps par l’Eupatride) qui guide notre errance. Mais il y a une vérité plus générale à ce mythe. Nous sommes nés incomplets de bien de façon, et c’est pour cela que certaines rencontres, dans des domaines moins flamboyants que Eros, nous comblent cependant de façon essentielle. Notre âme n’a pas été simplement fendue en deux : la foudre jupitérienne l’a aussi endommagée en bien des endroits, et nous cherchons dans le monde les êtres dont le tissu peut se coudre au nôtre. Certainement, c’est une telle rencontre qui m’est arrivée avec Orokie – mon frère païen

The Love of Art.

From Orokie to Plato! It is a great leap. But come, all my friends, let us sit down at a Banquet of Love and discuss the love that we all share and reflect on the myth of Plato: the dream of the androgyne. Let this be the beginning of a dialogue between us. Ah, it is said that we yearn for our other. But so often the Black Male has been the Other, that nightmare from Africa to be desired with fear. As the great angel of poetic and political vision, Essex Hemphill, once expressed it: the Black man is expected to walk with machismo. So, he drags his cock and balls like chains of slavery. He lives as a member without any membership. But he must belong. I show you my work and ask you to re-member wholly the beauty of the Black Male. We must keep faith with love and not be afraid. In these times of HIV and AIDS we must yearn still, but learn to love wisely. So often we talk of looking for Love. But in my work I show you that Love is here and we should allow Love to give us eyes to see. Let Love give us eyes to survey the tenderness and brotherhood in others, so that our tissues unite, become sweet and run with milk and honey.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Boy Who Lost his Penis. 6.

And so it was

As the artist says

At Museum The Best not long ago…

And even now in 2008 where

“New Exhibitions, New Experiences, New Brand!”

Are promised to all,

But politicians still bring



to honest youth of Kenya,

forced circumcision and sodomy

in riots and pillage.

And forget themselves


the love of all earth.

And still cannot honour

the absolute beauty of the African male body

in all its honest nakedness.

The End.

African Pride.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Boy who Lost his Penis. 5

And so a meeting in all seriousness took place

at half past twelve, afternoon,

Archives Building, first floor.

Meeting Room,

where a dozen chairs plus quite an elliptical table

were to listen to an incredible and almost rounded story.

- No, no, no. Cannot be made like that.

I have checked all names in the list.

No, no, no. Cannot be.

Yes I have checked all them:

Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Puma
Converse, Hilfiger and Calvin Klein.


None from these keep on sale watercolour underwear,

neither watercolour shorts, nor bikers, no, no.

No watercolour trousers to dress in watercolour Tsotso boy's naked thighs.

-Scissors? No, no, no.

It is most high risk.

We could spoil that watercolour Abu horn...

-Razor blade? A small window in that paper?

No, no, no.

It would bring our visitors wondering about genitals and sex,

- Listen to me, I keep a solution,

and we can approve it in a minute.

My cousin Mwandiwa,

he is decorator for Nyayo Buildings Ltd.,

he can mend faulty finished walls by applying new paint on the wrong.

He even experienced at painting one crashed Bus

and he painted that Bus that no one would ever think it was not new.

He can place new paint on the old design.

Abu horn will remain.

Nothing wrong.


Since that day, yes indeed,

Tsotso herald keeps blowing the horn.

Playing same roll as Mrs. Adamson had given him,

in same piece of watercolour paper she used

to communicate to the world about her love for art

and her love for truth.

Yet only a blot quite different in its colour shade from the original background

light grey blue appears there now,

giving news to our world that the body needs

castration and repression.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Boy who Lost his Penis. 4.

One day in the morning, just near noon,

where twelve a.m. equals zero p.m.,

there she came

a second blonde lady,

with hair the colour of crispy ripe maize,

UK’s PM in expensive anaconda shoes on the red rolled carpet,

which twelve Museum employees kept unrolling for her:
protocol second class.

Whilst children sang:

-Is she coming to stay?
- Is she making her home among the wild acacias?
- Is she coming to meet her bridegroom?
- Would she live where lion roars?

But this iron lady with blonde tinted hairs

did not come with paints, and brushes, and easel

(though she did come to see the savage lions of Kenya).

She just walked her feet inside the Museum,

raised a fine smile for the welcoming crew of Curators,

White Collars, Directors, three Captains,

some from the Police crew, Firemen -- just in case!

And paraded upstairs on red carpet with label:

"Second Class Protocol,

Colour Red,

Length One mile,

Brush it clean afterwards".

Until her face turned the colour of the carpet.

And her eyes showed war…went killing the air around.

For there was Tsotso, herald, displaying his horn,

with parts not meant for polite political party:

African Pride (Luo Warrior).

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Boy who Lost his Penis. 3.

It was as it was

when Minstrels sang

to the tune of Nyatiti.

Yes, many, many, and many more

She painted with truth, in all their glory.

But no it wasn’t as it used to be,

not as the minstrels used to sing.

For now there was a blot

On Tsotso the elegant,

a blot on his thighs…

and a tale to tell.

African Pride

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Boy who Lost his Penis. 2

And Minstrels sang upon their strings

that Mrs. Adamson was born with a gift from the gods—

was blessed with talent of painting with water

and painted the little things

and not little things that she saw.

And so it is was at Museum The Best,

(now funded by money from great EU

and built on corporate image of modern mind)

when school bus arrived,

from far-off valleys and school-like-prison,

down road of wonder,


that pupils cried out with awe and shock

to see strange pictures of “The People of Kenya."

African Pride.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Boy who Lost his Penis. 1

Formerly, my grandparents went into market places

where Obokano Minstrels or Nyatiti Minstrels,

always sang the songs we should ever remember…

that once upon a time,from the heart of Europe,

there came to this country of theirs,

a first young lady with strong chin and blonde hair;

and the young lady arrived, yes, yes ,yes,

to make her home among the acacia where lion roars.

It was there that young lady met her bridegroom,

a British man,

with goatee chin and powerful witchcraft

who tamed the savage in the savage lion

and (whom like an English poet)

tamed nature red in tooth and claw.

Until from a marriage without a child

There grew nyakumahinya.

That is:

human-love for-mother-earth-and-her-living-beings.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Boy who Lost his Penis.

This satirical story will be published here soon.
Hope you all will enjoy!


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Orokie's Narcissus.

The myth of Narcissus is well known. In the story told by Ovid, Narcissus falls in love with his own image in a mirror-pool. Over the centuries, that myth has become concerned with error. Narcissus represents incurvatus in se: the sin of curving inwards to worship self above all else. The word Narcissism has come to represent two evils. Firstly, political narcissism (as seen in Kenya today) where the individual places his own body above the body of the state, where self-worship (born out of little knowledge of self) is mirrored falsely as the people’s wishes. Political narcissism is so deluded that it can justify violence and murder as the means to a beautiful dream. Secondly, personal narcissism, celebrated today in the word “metrosexual” whereby the body is a thing to be endlessly satisfied, where image is all and the surface matters more than spirit.

The history of painting shows many forms of Narcissus, but most take the path described above. In early Renaissance drawings, Narcissus is caught in the act of worshipping his image. The tale carries a simple, moral meaning: pride in self leads to a fall.

In the work of Caravaggio, a more complex gaze appears. Here, an elaborately dressed Narcissus is absorbed by the water that holds his image and his sinister hand plays with the medium that holds his face. Two lovers, who are one, meet in an erotic exchange.

By the seventeenth century, the broader narrative had come to dominate. So Poussin substituted the central sexual self-absorption of Narcissus with an allegorical, heterosexual meaning. Narcissus languishes, having spurned Echo, whilst Amor stands impotently, dwarfed by the arrow of love and bearing a weak, sexual flame.

It is this narrative tradition which passes on into Waterhouse and the nineteenth century. Now, Echo is fore-grounded, her heterosexual bare-breasted lure to the viewer cancelling out the homosexual attraction that exists in the gaze of Narcissus. Behind this idealised Victorian Classicism there exists a plain, Biblical morality that self-absorption in beauty is ungodly and leads to vice.

Narcissus had continued to influence modern minds. Dali’s “Metamorphosis of Narcissus” is the ultimate joke, for the narcissistic Dali presents a painting in which Narcissus does not appear: he has been absorbed into the flower, into the psychological pool of the painting.

Modern photography, in a similar way, has absorbed the Narcissus myth into its method: the photographer gazing through the viewer is caught up within the pool of vision and its perfect, air-brushed, enhanced plastic imagery. If there ever was a medium made for Narcissus it was photography. As can be seen above where the black male watches himself and more is revealed in the reflection than in the "real world" outside the mirror. The mirror is all.

In Orokie’s Narcissus, there is a return to the single figure of Narcissus. Not surprisingly, the heterosexual narrative has been abandoned (does not even exist as a muted echo!) Instead, this ink drawing shows a beautiful African male in a sacred place, his hand stretching out in an act of creation. This is a Black Adam responding to Black Adam, all of which is summed up in a delicate finger gesture that does not quite touch the surface of the water. Colour begins to spread where reality and image almost meet, as if this is a point of awakening…a realisation of blue and orange, of sun and sky, of political identity? There is no condemnation in Orokie’s drawing, no romantic languishing, no ennui, no lying down— the body of Narcissus is awake and primed, holding the life in his flesh. To the bottom right of Orokie’s Narcissus, a penis surfaces, not an elongated penis, but one shrunken by cold water: it is a double awakening. The figure in the water yearns towards warm flesh. In some ways, Orokie’s Narcissus returns to the very roots of the myth. Narcissus casts off the heterosexual world and its temptations for Platonic wholeness: to the Platonic thinkers of the Renaissance, Narcissus was a myth about wholeness, of man’s unification with the realm of the heavenly (blue) from which an awareness of body and body politic (orange) might come. Orokie’s Narcissus is a beautiful ode to Beauty, to the soul of Africa…which also includes Black men who love men. Spirit seeks body and body seeks spirit.