My name is Bonsalles.
I was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. Attended university in the midwest. Escaped the cold to Southern California.
my mother she is a major life force
British sensibilities (slowly being eroded by American ones)
an all girl Catholic schooling
my African identity (growing stronger every day)
As new new swimmers,
we splashed the water so hard,
slapped it, really, like its existence offended us.
The older girls took whole lengths without breathing;
they parted the water,
rather than trying to break it.
One of the things I enjoy the most is shopping for fabric. Very early on a Saturday morning I head out to the downtown Fashion District long before the throngs of people arrive. My favorite place to shop a shabby little spot with very unimpressive store front. Inside you will find a large battered desk and an old rusty register in the corner but the rest of the space filled from floor to ceiling with hundreds of bolts of fabric. Every possible texture, weight, pattern and print imaginable can be found there. The rolls are so tightly packed so that you only catch a glimpse of the patterns. When you find one that intrigues you have to fight to pull it out. The most rewarding part though is when you unfurl it to reveal it’s secrets.
Swahili the Kenyan national language is taught in primary school as part of the school curriculum. As part of the coursework we learned Methali which are wise sayings that have been passed down generations. Recently I have found a renewed interest in these sayings and their meanings. This is the first in an art series inspired by Swahili sayings.
Macho hayana pazia____Swahili sayings
Eyes have no curtains or screens____________________________________________Translation
Loosely interpreted it means that the eyes see all that is in their view. It can also be said to mean that you cannot unsee what you have already seen.
‘You are so stiff!’ my younger sister said during one of our heart to heart conversations. I was genuinely surprised for even though I was not as whimsical and fancy free as her I did not see myself that way. So that summer I threw caution to the wind, lowered my inhibitions and had the best time I can remember.
To say that we are not affected by the energy around us would be naive. It is like being in a sealed room where a poisonous gas is being released very slowly. Eventually we shall all succumb. The events in Charlottesville this past weekend are disheartening. That a group of people would gather and march in the name of hate in this day and age is chilling. Though countering hate with violence is clearly not the answer, let us not let our silence condone this cancer.
For a creative person staring at a blank page, canvas or neatly folded fabric is one of the most scary things. It is as though success is solely determined by that first mark. And even though experience has debunked this fear again and again it still persists. I have long used this theory to explain away canvases that collect dust in corners and piles of craft items that still remain in the origin packaging. Yet when I look at my life and see how many times I have started over, there seems to be a disconnect. My most recent milestone involved moving to a new city and a new job. Two things that I am very satisfied with. As I reflect on this I am less anxious about starting over which is great progress for this self-proclaimed creature of comfort. After all, based on the previous results, the odds are in my favor.
See, I can kinda recall a lil’ ways back
Small, tryin’ to ball, always been black
And my hair, I tried it all I even went flat
Had a lumpy curly top and all that crap, now
Just tryin’ to be appreciated
Nappy headed brothers never had no ladies
And I hit the barber shop real quick
Had ’em give me lil’ twist and it drove ’em crazy (crazy)
Then I couldn’t get no job
‘Cause corporate wouldn’t hire no dreadlocks
Then I thought about my dogs from the block
Kinda understand why they chose to steal and rob
Was it the hair that got me this far
All these girls these cribs these cars?
I hate to say it but it seem so flawed
‘Cause success didn’t come till I cut it all off
Some of the best times in primary school were spent on the playground. The sweetest of those was when the last bell rang and we ran out to the front of the building where we would frolic until our parents picked us up. The only thing that dampened our time was being under the supervision of one woman. Most impressive of which was not her size or her booming voice when she yelled across the compound, it was her face. She had this permanent menacing scowl and it terrified us. From where she sat, she could see every corner. We did our best to keep a clear perimeter around her. It was only during a pleasant interaction a few months before I headed of to high school that I realized that that was just her face.
I can’t imagine my life without spice and I have a man I never met to thank for that. After returning home from a university residency in the UK my father stocked our pantry with every spice you could think of. He had the good fortune to have a roommate from India who was an incredible cook and taught him how to make curries. My father has always been a great cook and but this took his cooking to a whole new level. What is life without spice?
When first moved to the Midwest I heard about these things, phenomenon known as tornadoes. I had only watched the wizard of Oz a few dozen times back in Kenya so I thought only wicked witches need be concerned about them. Actually living in tornado territory was a very different experience. At first early summer drills, siren checks and actual tornadoes were terrifying. Then it dawned on me that they had been dealing with them for years. Tracking, warning, sheltering, damage control and recovery was now an art form. That once they decided this was their home they dealt with them. I think of life the same way. We have no control over disasters but somehow we can learn to deal them. Even though they may be unpredictable, we can develop a strategy to limit the negative impact and channel it into meaning change. Maybe then we won’t be so terrified of the unknown.