“I want to be seen and I want to be known by others. This is so important for me as I grew up alone. I spent much of my time alone as a child and even until now… therefore I have always had this sense of self- awareness and self-knowledge. I found that I knew myself so much that no one else could tell me anything about myself, which is such a danger because a single human being cannot know themselves fully without the reflection of another – I came to learn.”
I first heard of Janice Iche through her music. A friend had returned from a usual sundowner Sunday in Nairobi, but this time he would not stop raving about a performance he’d just seen from a young woman, supposedly channeling the spirit of Sade with a full stage of live musicians and a contagiously soulful sound. Weeks later, when I finally saw her perform – her mysterious smile and her delicate frame, calmly swaying with the sweating task of singing above a six piece band – I understood. Or… at least, I thought I did.
But evidently, I had not. Because the next time I saw Janice Iche several months later, she was producing portrait photography of some people at a party and this scene peaked my interest. I’d heard just last month that she had moved to the coast? Awash with curiosity, I clamored up to her, asking why I hadn’t heard of her performing in some time. She smiled that mysterious smile and met my gaze with her hypnotically open eyes. After a moment of silence, she explained that she was not just a singer. She was an artist. She was always making art. Some of it music. Most of it – Life. That was all she said. I think she knew instinctually that I did not need any other explanation. Now, I had truly understood. She was not pursuing a career. She was pursuing a path. Art at large was the medium. Any and all inspirations that spoke to her became the seeds of new conversations she was eternally conducting in no, one conventional way. In fact, it was almost as if she had decided that she was not an artist. She was the art.
So if some were surprised last week by photographs on social media showing Iche in a body suit creating performance art on a mattress at a nightclub – I can understand. But you see, I was not surprised at all…
I was smiling her mysterious smile, delighted to find out what art she was making now. Here, Iche shares her own perspective on the “LIFE EXCERPT” exhibition, currently installed at Nairobi’s Westlands venue MUZE every Thursday this month (*Free Admission*)
“The performance installation is made up of my actual bedroom set-up:
Bed, bedside lamp, floor rug etc in the ambient MUZE balcony space. I basically just transplanted my life in my solitary apartment to MUZE club. During the performance, I act normally as I would in my own personal space, lounging on the bed and battling my anxieties, watching something on my laptop as I simultaneously create art etc. I am showing myself in my most honest and vulnerable states for others to witness me, to experience me and get to know me and in that way, others get some insight into themselves as well through that reflection of honesty from me. I believe it is so important for all of us to see ourselves in each other in order to love each other.
And once we have this going, the entire world’s social, political and economic progress & growth will drastically improve.”
“This performance is about vulnerability and openness, especially when it comes to human connections. My art is about being fearlessly myself…
It’s like when you fall in love and this person knows you and you know them. Without them, there are sides of you you may never have been able to know about. You need another person in your life loving you and caring for you in a way that allows you to be free within yourself first of all to get to know ourselves fully as human beings. Like, no matter how much you love and know yourself, without this loving reflection of self from an other –
there is such a huge and integral part of life that you are missing out on.
So I just considered how introverted I am and how it is a fact that making friends for me is a bit of a struggle but I have this major avenue that I can use to achieve this – art. And this is the purpose and intention behind this performance. I want to be seen and known by others because I want to be loved. And I think this is something we all pursue.”
All images by Gathigia Kinyua