Migrants in search of luxury and utopia

Saturday July 15 2017

The choice of venue was deliberate, as it is in

The choice of venue was deliberate, as it is in the middle of shiny new vehicles that represent people’s aspirations and tie into Nagila’s sub-theme of travel. PHOTO | KARI MUTU | NMG 

By KARI MUTU
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Longinos Nagila is using conceptual art to evaluate the relationship between buyers and sellers of luxury goods.

In an exhibition called In Search of Alternative Utopias, Nagila uses the story of African migrants in Europe to review the connection that people have with status items.

The exhibition is on at the showroom of Simba Colt Motors, located at Aspire House in Nairobi.

The choice of venue was deliberate, as it is in the middle of shiny new vehicles that represent people’s aspirations and tie into Nagila’s sub-theme of travel.

The Vessel of the Unknown is a monochrome picture of African immigrants crammed into a rubber boat sailing to Europe in search of a better life.

The boat is branded, ironically, with monograms of the fashion company Louis Vuitton.

Below the picture, Nagila has placed four cement slabs embedded with fake designer handbags, like those sold by illegal immigrants on the streets of Europe.

In another part of the show, Nagila has turned ordinary metal trunks into attractive luggage by painting them bright red on one side and attaching golden emblems of famous fashion houses to the pieces.

Having lived in Italy, Nagila knows about enslavement to luxury goods, whether they are genuine or fake.

The latter are bought covertly by aspirational but less-moneyed people seeking their alternative utopias while at the same time giving an income to migrants working clandestinely.

There are also photos of street hawkers selling counterfeit handbags on white sheets in front of luxury goods shops (pictured above).

Nagila has recreated the scene with barbed wire handbags, and attached strings to the corners of a sheet, a trick used by migrant vendors for making a quick getaway from the municipal police.

Another section of the installation features video art about migrant journeys and the yearning for status items.

The show is curated by Wambui Collymore, founder of The Art Space gallery that closed earlier this year. The exhibition will run until July 23.