You found out about Joan and Warembo Wasanii whilst working on your previous project: 28 Hats for Lamu back in 2020. How did you come across it? Was it a very organic discovery?
LF: Organic, it was exactly that! I was sitting at a dinner table in Shela, Kenya in Feburary 2020, waiting for Kristin-Lee to arrive to shoot 28 Hats For Lamu. We were a collection of artists and journalists hosted by the competition’s founder. I was sat next to a friend and collaborator of Joan’s, Nyambura of Ubunifu Lamu studio, who told me about Joan and the girls. Full of awe and curiosity I showed Kristin-Lee the next morning, who was equally intrigued by the story. We subsequently set out a path to meet Joan and the girls, hatching a plan which would end up spanning two and a half years.
This was mid-pandemic, so the process was slow and we had to wait for the right moment to travel. The project was finally made possible when we had the good fortune of meeting Sophie at one of her exhibitions in Paris. Sophie loved the spirit of the idea and couldn’t wait to come on board to curate an exhibition. Sophie partnered us up with Emmanuelle Atlan from Farago Projects, also a curator and producer, who generously supported the project and ensured the girl’s and Joan were properly remunerated for their time and work.
“We started the project with a short-term benefit: Assuring that the artists were valued and paid for their time and skills.” – Sophie Strobele
Sophie, How did you come across the project and what made you want to exhibit it at ERE?
SS: When Louise came to me with Joan’s story, I could feel that she and Kristin had already put a lot of thought into it. Mokoro came from the heart and they had already established a real connection with Joan in Korogocho.
At ERE we look for projects that are impactful and positive, whilst being creatively convincing. And this project just reunited all of that for me; there was creative intent connected to a cause. All we had to do was work out the precise beneficial action behind the project: so we came up with two phases.
We started the project with a short-term benefit: Assuring that the artists were valued and paid for their time and skills. Together with Farago Projects we paid them commission to rent their garments and purchased some of their brilliant art pieces. The long term benefit will hopefully be sharing Joan’s story with our connections in the art and fashion industry, in order to find more interesting collaborations that will help Warembo Wasanii to further grow and develop.
What was it like working with Kristin, Louse, Joan and Warembo Wasanii on both the initial shoot and the curation of the exhibition?
SS: Together with Farago Projects, we brought together the existing material to curate the exhibition; We wanted it to be a celebration of everyone involved, seen through the unfailing and distinctive eye of Kristin. It was also her daring, challenging, powerful and at the same time mystical, dream-like work. Complemented by Louise’s unique eye; I had already seen her dedication to the 28 Hats of Lamu project, so I didn’t doubt the potential of this project. But it was the moment I met Joan, who is a powerhouse of inspiration, that I knew 100% why we took on this project in the first place.
Louise’s unique style and eye, who had dedicated so much time and thought to the 28 Hats of Lamu project as well as Mokoro, I couldn’t doubt the potential of this project. And the moment I was able to meet Joan, a powerhouse and pure inspiration, I knew to 100% why we took on this project.
With ERE we never know what the outcome of our projects will be, but we do know our equation: a creative intent, passionate and dedicated artists, who dare to break prejudices and overcome stigmas, and a clear cause. From there we put everything in place to find adequate actions for the chosen cause, to assure that the artistic work has a real impact and benefits something or someone.
In order to present the globality of such projects, like Mokoro, ERE unites with Farago Projects to build an exhibition that will spark necessary conversations, show new perspectives and demonstrate how creativity and engagement inspire changes. Thanks to Farago Projects we are able to invite Joan to see the exhibition and we’re setting up a few meetings for her here in Paris.