36.5 / A Durational Performance with the Sea is a series of performance works and video works created by Sarah Cameron Sunde that engage people on personal, local, and global scales in conversations around deep time and sea-level rise.
It was exciting to be part of the 36.5 Bodo Inlet, Kenya performance as a Location Scout and Ground Producer. The following photography was majorly for test runs of tidal shifts in the different locations, in preparation for the final performance.
Fort Jesus had been the first real option and the location we did the most water tests at high and low tide. The museum were super amazing about it though it was clear that we probably wouldn’t have been able to stop people from going in for a swim while the performance was happening. Not only that but the newly constructed wall that formed a barrier between the ocean and Fort Jesus created another complication. It meant that the open ocean wasn’t as visible as would’ve been ideal and not only that ; the sand bags the flanked the foot of the wall made the place look like a dumping site.
Kongo Mosque has this interesting feature where the river meets the ocean, and there’s a dance of waves at high and low tide. The ocean side gets pretty wild because Diani, so that was not an option. The river side however turned out too unpredictable and the current in and out of the ocean. Not only that, it was pretty muddy so a stable foothold would have been a challenge. Also very touristy so we took photos but moved on.
We passed by the Bidi Badu stretch of Diani Beach, and the openness to the ocean while beautiful was a definite no. Sarah had in Brazil done the performance at one such beach and the waves were too much.
Wasini Island was suggested by Dr Kimingichi majorly because of the interesting coral gardens. Crossing from Ramisi cost us about Ksh 2500 both ways (after lots of bargaining, a fallout and then a friendly renegotiation after the boat guys decried that they were almost always getting the shit end of the deal. We made it clear that we’re not the bad guys; we simply did not have ksh 5000 to go across and back.)
The Wasini community at face value looks close knit and very in sync with the activities that should benefit the whole community but below the surface there was some grumbling about some people benefiting more than others. The women of the island are however a force to reckon with; they’re the ones that set in motion the building of bridges across the coral gardens and one has to pay about Ksh 400 to visit the coral gardens. The money goes to the small community. There is no electricity on the island other than solar power mostly at the hotels.
Accesibility was the biggest issue with Wasini- but it was a great visit nonetheless!
Kilifi was definitely worth a look but once again, while less wild than Diani, standing for about 12 hours with the open ocean coming at will was not an option. Sarah fell in love with the mangroves and we got some pretty good photos! I got to walk down stretches of the beach I never had before even though I had lived in Kilifi for quite a number of years!
The Kilifi Creek was more calm for sure but it was too shallow for too long a stretch. The water rise and fall to neck height and back to the feet would not have worked.
Mtwapa Creek as well as Coba Cobana were also cancelled once we visited. We did take a swim which was amazing and went on a sundowner boat ride on Nabeel’s boat and Dr Kimingichi got to play captain. It was during this ride that Nabeel pointed out the various abandoned mansions along the sides of the creek and it got me thinking about interesting narratives of ghosts and coastal superstitions.
Mswambweni Beach and Bodo were both suggested by Wakili who turned out to be irreplaceable to the project as it went on. The last I had been in Msambweni was while in high school, and it was certainly not the beach I had gone to. The beaches are amazing with much less the touristiness (that’s a word) of Diani. Once again the open ocean cancelled the location, but once again, we took amazing photos!
Bodo was the final place we took a look at, and interestingly the place was a sweet balance of the things Sarah found important for the performance. It took a number of visits and meeting with the elders, for the villagers to no look at us like intruders – the place receives a lot of tourists but they’re mostly passing by on the way to Funzi Island (filming location of Pete). The kids were amazing and very brazen, and we always ate at the same restaurant ; they had awesome coconut rice and beans. I always had their fish which was crazy cheap and crazy good! It was also there that I tasted the type of black tea I’m having at this very moment : black with ginger, cinnamon, iliki and cloves.
It was also there that we learnt the village comprises more than just people from the Mijikenda tribe. There was mention of Swahili dialects I wasn’t previously aware of as well as a bit of politics with some people claiming direct Arab heritage- specifically from the Shirazi.
I couldn’t stay long enough for the performance because we had a rerun of the Mboya Edition of Too Early for Birds the very same day. Find all of the 36.5 durational performances here.
Major thanks to House of Friends (Bamburi) who housed us. The host called Wycliffe actually turned out to be the brother to Mercy- an amazing woman who had a kibanda food place inside Kenyatta University- a place we ate at frequently in 1st and 2nd year before it was shut down.