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Cyrus Kabiru. ‘The End of Black Mamba I’

— Included in the exhibition "Making Africa. A Continent of Contemporary Design"

3 June — 28 August 2016

Cyrus Kabiru. ‘The End of Black Mamba I’
Cyrus Kabiru, 'The End of Black Mamba I', 2014. Single channel video, colour and sound. Courtesy SMAC Gallery

'The End of the Black Mamba I' is the first in a series of short documentaries by artist Cyrus Kabiru on the declining use of a traditional fixed-gear bicycle in Kenya. Before its presentation at the CCCB, the video was showed by SMAC Gallery at the last year's edition of the LOOP Fair and later acquired by the H+F Collection.

Nick-named Black Mamba, the bicycle has achieved iconic status as an affordable vehicle and a popular method of transport for the Kenyan population. However, as modernisation spreads through the African continent, the Black Mamba is increasingly being replaced by inexpensive Chinese manufactured scooters and motorcycles. Filmed on a flower farm near Mount Kenya, the video shows local cyclists who still use this traditional mode of transportation. This older generation praises the Black Mamba for its reliability and health benefits, claiming that the bicycle’s replacements, scooters and motorcycles, ‘bring sickness and death’. In this film, Kabiru consciously acts as the devil’s advocate, arguing that the Black Mamba will, unfortunately, be replaced and will no longer be seen on Kenyan roads. The End of the Black Mamba I, Cyrus Kabiru not only documents a social and historical occurrence, but also creates a dialogue between his own life story and childhood, and the thriving and changing African city in which he now lives.

Cyrus Kabiru is a self-taught emerging Kenyan artist, best known for his elaborate and detailed sculptural spectacles or “C-Stunners”, made from found objects and recycled material sourced on the streets of Nairobi. A confident and individualistic artist, Kabiru is eloquent and forthright in explaining his practice and resolve to follow his own path. These ‘Afrodazzled’ spectacular bifocals are entirely his own invention and are intimately linked to his life-story.

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