As a Rwandan living in Harlem, New York, I work to configure ways of demonstrating my in-between state of being stuck in a perpetual transit lounge. Using humour bordering on the ridiculous, I engage complex narratives to discuss issues of displacement, cultural adaptation, and what it means to be an immigrant today. My work calls into question assumptions around hybrid identity in this increasingly globalized world. In exploring these issues I fixate on the transitional material of iron oxide to create a variety of sculptures, installations, prints, and paintings. I coalesce disparate components, suspending them in space, to suggest geographical collision.
Living near the Rust Belt of the U.S., I have undertaken a process of “urban excavation” to collect material for my installations. I carve used books and cut steel into map-like shapes that I rust using a plethora of acids, including muriatic acid, ferric acid, and a combination of salt, water, hydrogen peroxide, urine, and bleach. The different concoctions act as a “painting” medium to create various marks and textures on the steel surface. The assemblage process that holds the objects together is directly visible, at times impermanently constructed, demonstrating an ephemerality common to a nomadic existence.
The oxidized surface of the steel as well as that of the metal detritus echoes the red ochre mixture used by some African clans to beautify and protect their skin. The fugitive material denotes a state that is on the one hand decaying and subtractive to an object, and on the other hand alive and growing as it clings to the object.
As the viewer walks through my recent installation Assimilation Laboratory, they are met with the rusted steel shapes overtaking a corner in mass with the backdrop of the floor and walls that appear to be covered in concrete. To approach the main wall in the installation, they must traverse a narrow passage way also lined with the steel shapes. Closer inspection may reveal partially concealed by the metal, empty liquor bottles of Ugandan Waragi. Emerging from behind the steel objects on the wall are rows of test tubes. An example in one test tube: 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, 2/3 teaspoon of cayanne pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the urine of a female hyena, and the juice of three garlic cloves.