1st May 2016
The Nomadic Community Gardens transforms marginal, disused and unhealthy spaces into urban gardens where people can grow their own product, share abilities and produce art. The community is based close to Brick Lane, in Shoreditch, in a space between two overground lines which was previously inhabited by drug users and alcoholics. The community work has completely regenerated the area, giving birth to plants, flowers and creativity.
I visited the place during the Nomadic Community Gardens 1st Birthday celebration, one year since they started making use of the space. They organized a joyful event, bringing the festival into the city by making use of every inch of the gardens in a creative, artistic and interactive way. They called visual and graffiti artists, musicians, face painters, jugglers and more to participate.
It was here where I first got to see Ange Mukeza in action. She is a brilliant Congolese visual artist, who loves to create (or re-create) art through the interaction with the audience. I spent the day chatting with Ange and observing the way she convinced people to contribute to her work-in-progress.
Ange asking me to leave my mark!
For that occasion, she had brought a painting which she had produced four years earlier and she wanted to re-work on. She was asking to everyone who was passing by to participate, to make a personal mark on the painting. The audience was very international, mainly formed by young people (“to cool for school” as Ange said), tourists, locals who knew about the Nomadic community, families and children. Sometimes Ange would leave people “painting” alone, but most of the time she would have long conversations while painting with them. Not everyone was stopping by but a great majority was curious to try out the experience.
Later, Ange explained to me that art is for her a therapeutic process. Choosing to make people painting on her piece was her way to show that her feelings were moving forwards, constantly changing. She did not have bad memories related to that particular painting, she just felt the necessity to transform through the collaboration of others.
Strangely that day I did not encounter other Congolese, a part from Ange sister, Desibell, who had a stall of her own and was selling her products from Hiliveloveurlifestyle. I soon realized that Ange is an outsider and interesting character to discover.