Kenyan's photos to exhibit at Sundance


April 15, 2011 – A Kenyan photographer and filmmaker Philippa Ndisi-Herrmann will have the honour of having her photographs exhibited at the Sundance Institute in New York next week.

The pictures are titled “The View from Manda” and are a selection of photographs taken during the Sundance Institute’s first Theatre Lab in East Africa last year.

“The lab was conducted in Manda and Lamu islands at the coast,” she tells Capital Lifestyle.

Associate Director of the Theatre Programme at Sundance, Christopher Hibma stated: “The Sundance Institute decided to exhibit Philippa’s photographs because the images transcended mere documentation of a special process by being true pieces of art. Philippa’s craft is evident and it was our desire to share her work with an American audience.”

CL: What does it mean to you to have your pictures exhibited there (Sundance)?

PH: I am honoured and ever so delighted. It is an institution that I respect, and I am very proud to have my work recognised by them. 

I appreciate the fact that my work can be shown on an international platform and aid in promoting and bringing awareness to my craft and to the arts here in East Africa.

When I photographed the lab last July in Lamu, I was so impressed by the works created and performed by thespians, playwrights and directors from Kenya and the entire East African region. And the wonderful energy of the works is what I wanted to capture in my photographs.  

I am so grateful that Sundance could facilitate a workshop of such a magnitude for artists in East Africa. We need more spaces in East Africa where artists are given the time, facilities, expertise and peace of mind to CREATE. 

CL: How did it happen; did they approach you, did someone recommend you, did you have to apply for something?

PH: I was travelling to Yemen last year via Addis (Ababa) and as a Facebook status I mentioned I’d be in Addis for the night! Two completely unconnected friends told me to meet a man called H. Heruy, or H for short – a music, cultural aficionado and Ethiopian socialite extraordinaire.

So H and I met, we hit it off and started chatting about the upcoming first ever Sundance Lab in East Africa. H suggested he put me in touch with Roberta, one of the directors of the Sundance Theatre Institute. Roberta saw my photographs on my website and she loved them – and so I photographed the Lab. 

Great, huh? Imagine! Serendipity at its best! And then when they saw the photographs they were so impressed that they wanted to exhibit them too! 

CL: Are you as passionate about photography as you are about film-making?

PH: I enjoy being both a filmmaker and photographer since I am a visual, creative person. I find the two are so interrelated, yet they are so different as mediums of expression.

I find photography to be a personal experience. When I’m capturing an image and when I’m working with it I become introspective – it’s sometimes like a spiritual experience too.

It’s funny. When you photograph someone, and when you are working with their image later, I am not sure they realise how much you are connecting with them! How you the photographer falls in love with the image, and because you spend so long looking at their image, you fall in love with the way their lips curve, or the wrinkles around their eyes… 

I love filmmaking for different reasons. With my filmmaking; I often start photographing first as part of the research. 

CL: What are you hoping will come out of this?

PH: What am I hoping will come out of such a wonderful opportunity?! Exposure for me as an artist, exposure for all the participants of the 2010 Lab such as Sitawa Namwalie, Lillain Olembo, Mrisho Mpoto… 

I am also currently applying for funds for the feature I have written, which is actually set in Lamu! And so I would be lying if I didn’t say that I would like some funding for my film! And some extra money in my pocket!

Philippa says she’s also grateful to the Sundance Institute East Africa, which supports theatre-makers in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Rwanda. The 2010 Theatre Lab in Manda was a pilot Lab to see if the model for new play development in the U.S. was relevant and useful in East Africa. 

After Sundance, “The View from Manda” will be showcased for ten days at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art in Brooklyn, New York.

In the words of Christoper Hibma to Philippa; “I want to say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for delivering some of the best photos that Sundance has EVER had from a Sundance Lab. I am stunned by the beauty of your work. It was a pleasure, indeed, to meet you and to work with you. I am now one of your biggest fans.”




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