nicole rademacher

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Guests and Gifts

The homestead gate opens. A man holding a small boy's hand walks through. The man has the little boy's colorful backpack in his other hand. He greets Anne with a big handshake. She laughs and her boys come running in to greet their cousin. We walk over to Eve's house. The man is Eve's brother-in-law, Mom's son. He, Simon, lives in the city and has come for a visit. Simon reaches into the colorful backpack and hands small bags of peanuts to Paul and Daniel, a lollipop to Eve, and a hard candy to me.  By the looks of it, this piece of candy has been in that boy's backpack for a very long time. As everyone else unwraps theirs sweets to chomp down, I follow suit.

After Eve and Simon have had a short conversation in Kikuyu, he asks me in English, "You don't speak Swahili?" There is a small exchange about my inability to speak Swahili, though feeling inadequate I do mention that I speak other languages. Though, eventually I say, "Kidogo" (a little). Hoping that will suffice.

"100 bob?" He asks matter-of-factly.

I am confused and think that maybe I didn't understand him correctly. He repeats himself.

"No," I respond just as matter-of-factly.

"50 bob?"


"You don't have?" he asks.

"No. What I have is for Anne and your mother." Despite my initial apprehension of actually paying my participants, I learned very soon after my arrival that guests are expected to arrive with gifts. Traveling with pounds of flour and sugar are heavy. So, following advice of Kenyans, I decided to not only bring sweets on arrival but also give money to my participants (and new Kenyan families) upon my departure as a gesture of appreciation.

"How much?" he questions.

"That is between me and them," I tell him.

"10 bob?" He requests.

I shake my head at him.

"You don't have?" He asks in utter disbelief. "I want to smoke"

I look at him blankly.

"I want to smoke." He repeats.


"I want to smoke. 10 bob."


I say good-bye and pass Mom as she enters Eve's land.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

In stereo

I need to skip ahead to Saturday evening and go back to the neighborhood walk later. Jane, the kids' mother, called to say that she would be late. And because she had promised me a traditional Kikuyu dish, the girls - Damaris, their daughter, and Esther, the house help - would have to make it instead. She sent them the directions via SMS.

The three of us chatted while we prepared lunch together, which was when I found out that Esther was only one year older than Damaris, and also that Esther had only been working for them for the last nine months. Since Damaris had been away at boarding school, the girls must have only just met a month or so ago, when Damaris had returned. During lunch it was obvious that they were friendly - despite being from different ethnic tribes and, of course, the class difference. While we - and I really mean the two of them - made dinner it was abundantly clear that the two were actually quite close. There were giggles and shared knowing looks. 'Thick as thieves' one might say from watching them cook.

Damaris dictated the steps to Esther from the text message. Previously Esther had pealed and cut plantains, but it turned out that they weren't needed. Instead they were put in water and then placed in the fridge. The recipe only called for yams, squash, and kidney beans. The yams and squash were boiled together.

Today was the third day without running water, and since this morning we were out of drinking water. Jane had promised to pick some up on her way home. But because Damaris, Kirioki, and I had had our adventure in the neighborhood today, we were all parched. Kirioki decided to suck on ice cubes, but when he pulled the tray from the freezer it was covered in frost. He got out a knife and started to pick away at it. At the same time Esther started cutting up cabbage in her hand. There was that rhythm again: schka schka schka, schka schka schka... but this time it was in stereo.

I looked up from watching Esther's chopping and saw Damaris and Kirioki on either side of the fridge. Both sitting on the floor with their knees pulled in. Damaris and Esther continue to talk and laugh in Swahili. Kirioki munches on his ice, as all three of us wait for the woman of the house to return to quench our thirst.

Nicole Rademacher was in Kenya during the first part of 2012 doing research and documentation for her current project investigating domestic ritual (made possible by the North Carolina Arts Council, USA and many private donars/patrons).

Friday, March 15, 2013

Walking down the street near my house...

A Korean woman flags me down. As she approaches she says:

Mama, [something in Korean] apartment open. [Something in Korean] 2,000.

I politely declined and thought: I like her gusto! And the fact that she called me "mama."

Monday, March 11, 2013

From my Studio to yours!

from Field Note Installation, One (2013)
Yep, I've got lots of new work to share with you!

I am nearing completion on one of the projects from my time in Kenya. It's working title is Facing Inside Surfaces, consists of a video installation and a photo/sound installation (photo above is part of that), and is an investigation of space and privacy in the central province of Kenyan via the omnipresent gate. 

I'm starting to set up studio visits via Skype (Skype name: Please let me know if you are interested. I would love to show you what I have been up to.

Additionally, I want to see what other artists have been getting into. In the next couple weeks I will be physically visiting studios of local L.A. artists as well as doing studio visits via Skype. I'll be sure to keep you abreast on all the info!

Thanks for your continued support.

Research and documentation for this project made possible by the North Carolina Arts Council, USA and many private donars/patrons.