TAP Feature: Always, in Spite of Everything by Mimi Cherono Ng’ok 

Mimi Cherono Ng’ok (1983) was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. She graduated from the Michaelis School of Art, Cape Town in 2006 and has participated in a number of exhibitions with her work now in a permanent collection at Walther Collection.  

This feature looks at a beautiful photo book/exhibition catalogue showcasing the work of photographer Mimi Cherono. Always, in Spite of Everything published by Galleri Image in 2016. 

The book opens up with two captivating essays by M. Neelika Jayawardane and Akinbode Akinbiyi, that dig deeper into Mimi’s work and practice. Poetic, musical and thought-provoking; Mimi’s work is clearly very personal and emotionally charged. 

The book consists of twenty-four images. We see images of horses, beaches, houses, food, plants, and people. The photographs have been taken in different cities across Africa and Europe. From Dakar to Accra; Kampala, Abidjan, Kigali, Nairobi, and Berlin. All twenty-four images are untitled.  

The photographs invite the viewer to be the author of the narrative as they were recorded in different places at different times. For example, I find myself mulling over, where was the white horse photographed on the cover of the book? I see an ocean behind in the background, the face of the horse looks sad, and it is missing some fur. What does this horse do? Does it transport people and goods to the beach?  Is it well treated?  What did Mimi intend for the viewer to see? 

We live in a fast-paced world, encountering visual representation at every turn. Technology and globalisation have made it possible to have a second-hand experience of different locations and everyday living in different parts of the world. And when we experience travels first-hand, are we thinking about those intimate and mundane moments we encounter? Such as the different architecture that is found in Mimi’s images. Mimi invites us to think about our connection to different places, and the spaces we inhabit. The belonging and the fleeting moments, the fragments of life, the moments we will never experience again as the seconds and minutes pass by. Where is home? And what is the connection of humanity, spaces, distance, the familiar, the different, the memory, the individual and collective experience?

Intimate candid portraits of the men in the book give the ease of collaboration, the movement and the stillness in the images are meditative, and so are the plants by the window or by the road and the beach. The images taken explore the self-reflection, the individual but also the collective fragility, discovery, and healing.

I find myself thinking about life’s meaning when going through the photographs. As Ken Light (p.11 2000) writes, “The world is both a promising place to make photographs and a broad stage for self-discovery. Good photographs are complex records of this exchange between photographer and subject. They give us access to the experience of both and evoke and widen feelings within the viewer.”

Highly recommended book, although I do not have the experience of seeing the work on the wall, the book brings the images to life and is a physical archive that can be experienced at any time. That is the beauty of photo books/catalogues.

Mimi’s first US solo exhibition recently closed at The Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, USA


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Light Ken, Witness in Our Time: Working Lives of Documentary Photographers, 2016


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