I am a senior lecturer in the School of Art, Design and Performance at the University of Portsmouth and completed a PhD at the Royal College of Art. Along with teaching and research, I am a practising illustrator, animator and printmaker.
I’ve taught in US institutions such as Parsons New School of Design, SUNY Purchase, College of New Rochelle, and Westchester Community College. My work has been published in Adbusters, Campaign magazine, Subterrain, Livingston Press, World War III illustrated, The Corbyn Comic (Self Made Hero), The Stranger newspaper, Stocks and Commodities, and The Rockford Review among others. My artwork is collected in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, and numerous university libraries across the US. I am known in the fields of etching, reportage drawing and illustration primarily.
My research includes looking at the contemporary act of reportage drawing and how my own practice explores some of the central debates in the act. I’m also exploring how the comic is an effective form for exploring historiography and difficult personal narratives, which serve to highlight commonalities amongst experiences. In larger research bids, I have explored using creative methods to help marginalised communities develop effective messages around health and well being and explore their own lived experiences.
More recently, I’ve been working on three projects in Nairobi, Kenya. My function in those projects is to facilitate artworks that aim to communicate health messaging, sensitisation and awareness around plastic pollution to communities living in informal settlements, specifically the slum Mukuru.
I facilitated a 32-page comic book with several different stories about coronavirus prevention and awareness as part of the ACT project in Mukuru. The project was called Action against Coronavirus Transmission and looked at different methods of delivering positive, preventative messages to the residents of the area – as well as mobile filming to make videos, murals, puppetry and a music video.
The second project is called Tupumue. This is a lung health study focusing on 5–18-year-olds in two communities in Nairobi; an informal settlement (Mukuru) and a middle class suburb (Buruburu). I worked alongside Dr Cressida Bowyer and others to facilitate the making of murals, paintings with children, performances, puppet shows and music to communicate the aims of the project in the community. This was ultimately led by the ground ‘champions’ whose expertise made these artistic outputs highly successful. It’s all about participation and creating memorable experiences, and we were able to effectively sensitise the public of the aims of the project.
The third and most recent project is called STEPP (Sustainable Transitions to End Plastic Pollution) and this is focusing on Mukuru and Silhet in Bangladesh. Similar creative methods such as the comic and participatory mapping are being used to assess local perceptions about plastic pollution and considering local action(s) to combat it.
Additionally, I’m working on an animation for AHRISS (Arts, Heritage and Resilience in South Sudan) with Professor Tamsin Bradley on gender and the arts in South Sudan. Animation, like the comic, enables insights developed through research to be amplified, emotionalised, and correlated. This has come off the heels of my first animated music video in which I piloted many new animation techniques used here.
At first, the idea of art changing the world sounded very idealistic but now I really believe it. Even amongst the poorest people, art can have such a valuable contribution to their lives. To quote a local artist in Mukuru, Shabu Mwangi: ‘through art you can make hope.’