Artist profile: Miriam Kings and the Tea for 216

Miriam Kings – Tea Time For 216.

Looking out at the valley (1)

Name:    Miriam Kings

City/Country:   London, England


Website :,

Miriam is an artist and curator born in London who lived in Kenya from 1984-1991. Both her artistic and political interests are related to issues of human geography and community formation.


Miriam Kings

Miriam Kings

Tell me about your work? What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects?

I have previously been involved in collaborative curating projects like Hackney Transient Arts Project (HTAP) (Hackney is a borough of London) which included editing talking heads interviews with Hackney residents on subjects such as what it means to call Hackney home, and conflict and displacement.  We (HTAP) also curated – and participated in as artists – a mapping one day exhibition set out like a fêtê, where the visitor moved from stall to stall, adding to or engaging with the five artists’ maps. The authoriship in this event was blurred as some ideas were quite collaborative between artists, secondly the exhibition visitor was contributing to make the work. (i.e.  thinking up words for a map, placing a counter on a board game, or bringing an object or photograph from their home to add to an installation.)

Participation and looking at the wider politics in how we conceptualise space and place are the two strands that link the projects done over the past 10 years. Each new project takes on a different form which is quite hard, you can’t say, I’m a painter, or I’m a sculptor. It’s also difficult to make a living from this kind of work.

How did you decide to become an artist?

When I was in art class at school I sat next to someone who was really talented at art I realized how much I wanted to be an artist. Art holds a unique space where it can communicate – separate to a commercial brief – using a visual response. A painting or a sculpture can change your mood for the whole day, perhaps the whole week- some works of art you never forget.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

Someone told me to respect your own decisions as an artist. You made that decision for a reason at that particular time, so then to undo that decision you are backtracking and it’s lots of work to back track.


Many artists struggle to find ways to sell their art.  How do you sell your work?  How do you market yourself?

The last piece of work I sold was two weeks ago and the time before that I hadn’t sold anything since 2004. So I do other jobs to financially support myself. This has meant for the past 10 years I’ve been working two jobs, sometimes ridiculous hours per, week sometimes 80+. Any money raised from donors or sales would spent on the exhibition, the venue, the installation etc. This isn’t a great work/life balance as you’re always working, one job for the money, second job for art, to be involved in creating an exhibition somehow.

I have two blogs one more formal,  and one for photography, I market myself with these and also attend gallery events and openings of specific galleries I’d like to create a relationship with.

About Tea for 216

Before I arrived in Kenya I planned to make a video of the landscape of the valley I lived in for seven years in my childhood. I was inspired to use a technique used by artist Patrick Keiller’s work – a long shot that looks like a still photo, but as you watch it you realize it is a video. The view I planned was similar to the valley exhibition photo. The sound was going to be the natural valley sounds, birds, pigens hooting now and again, and the trees rustling. Due to various reasons I didn’t bring a video camera to Kenya so the work wasn’t realised. When I was shown the valley by Gacoki, who looked after me for five years of the seven,  I took a photo of him looking out at the valley. This photo for me represents the epic, almost spiritual, nutrients the hills provide the community. The culture of shambas – integrated into Kenyan life. The fact that if you have a plot of land and don’t plant on it, you’re mad.

When I came back to Kuona after my trip I asked if I could exhibit the photos in the gallery and kuona said ‘why not’ which was amazing to have a solo show. The photographs were taken on a camera phone. There are four themes that arise: The almost spiritual richness of the soil in the foothills of Mount Kenya – shamba culture-, womens cleansing actions of sweeping and cleaning, the role of women in church, and also, my perspective, the advantages we had as foreigners in a Kikuyu community. This is represented by my inclusion of  a photo of a photo album photo. The advantages we had, and I experienced when travelling back to visit, constrasts significantly with the difficulty that foreigners have when  visiting  or living in the UK.

 Who are some of the Nairobi/ Kenyan artists you enjoy?

James Muriuki has some beautiful photographs and bagged some interesting projects. Poet, actress, performer Ngwatilo Mawiyoo is very cool. I really enjoy Cyrus Kabiru’s work, it is utopic asthetically but also conceptually –  in the sence that it is fantastical, and the same time critical of the throwaway culture of the world. Some art ou just see and love, and it grows on you. With the matatu’s by Dennis Muraguri it was both. I like that each painting is of that particular moment in the life of a particular matatu or street scene. The paintings are are firstly satirical and fun, secondly, hopeful, holding contemporary Nairobi in a political story.


if I were to follow you around to see art in Nairobi, which places would we go? What would we see?

Kuona Trust, Go Down Arts centre, Talisman. Nairobi National Museum, Village Market,  Red Hill Gallery, Maasai Mbili, all good places.


In addition to, where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise?

In Nairobi there are a few good blogs to find what is going on in the arts scene, mainly on facebook though- kuona always updates facebook regularly! Otherwise in the uk, which is a website that shows art shows going on.


Do you have any exhibits to promote in the near future?

Yes tomorrow I’ll have a private view of some photographs. Its only in a storage room that we have painted white, we call it The Cloud Gallery, a bit like a square cloud- it’s quite small, but it works. I am working on a new blog at the moment,, it’s a kind of sketchbook photographs- you can sign up to ‘follow’ the blog- and it will notify you when new pictures are posted.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

I’d like to continue with Photograph series.

Parting shot, Miriam Kings with Kuona artist Omosh Kindeh during the ‘Tea Time for 216’  party

miriam and kindeh

Look out for picture of the exhibition and the party in our  July Newsletter.

Typeface & Heroes opening at the Qpasa Bar & Bistro on the 2nd of August

Typeface & Heroes

Typeface & heroes is an art exhibition of Brian Omolo’s  latest works The typeface artworks are a little autobiographical; they are little wisdoms and experiences that the artist has picked up along his  journey as designer, boiled down into a series of artworks that people can enjoy.

 The hero artworks are an attempt to show a cross cultural upbringing. Growing up, Brian loved heroes like superman and batman but also loved hearing about the mighty animals of the wild like lions, tigers and gorillas so the idea of mixing them together to see awesomeness happen was quite fascinating.

The exhibition opens at the Qpasa Bar & Bistro on 2nd August 2013

Kuona Trust June Newsletter

Kuona Trust June Newsletter

Ongoing events

Print making workshop

Premier Swedish print maker Anki Kallstrom is currently conducting a print making workshop focused on the basic techniques of block print and intaglio. Those attending the workshop had the opportunity to learn how to prepare images from printing plates,  using the printing press as well as  printing on different materials including paper and fabric.

Participants will showcase the output of the workshop at the end of the week. Keep it here for the pictures.

‘Paradigm’- a collaboration between Kuona Trust and Kobo Trust

Paradigm is the title of  a group exhibition by three Kuona artists- Cyrus Kabiru, Dennis Muraguri and Sidney Mang’ong’o which officially opened at the Village market on the 10th of July 2013.

The art work on display is an output of the artists’ studio practice during the one year period  they were sponsored by the Kobo Trust. The trust sponsored the artists by helping them pay their studio rent and purchase  art materials

The Kobo trust continues to work closely with Kuona Trust and is already looking into sponsoring new artists for the second half of the year.

poster (1)

The exhibition is on till the  18th  of July 2013 at the Village Market.

Past events

Nai Ni Who? Project

Nai Ni Who? poster

Nai Ni Who? poster

The Nai Ni Who? (Who is Nairobi?) project took Nairobi by storm, with already four festivals done, there is no holding back. The ambitious project by the GoDown Art Centre had the aim of creating festivals around different zones in Nairobi to create a sense of community and ownership. People had the chance to celebrate what they felt was represented their neighborhood best in a week long festival that saw hundreds of people join the cause and spread the message on various social sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Kuona Trust pioneered the zone ten festival with back to back activities happening in all the major traffic areas and malls among others.

Some of the highlights from the week are as follows.

Screening of the film ‘Premier/Divisions’ by Chris Paul Daniels at the Yaya Centre roof top. The film is an output of a residency programme at Kuona Trust in which Chris sheds light on the divisions that cut across the modern Kenyan society with particular reference to tribe and social class.

Premier/Divisions is to preview in the UK alongside the  Manchester International Festival

Links: Chris Paul Daniels blog spot


Screening of Kirik at the Kenyatta National Hospital children’s cancer ward. This was an extension of an ongoing project by various artists who teach an art class twice a week to the young ones.

Children and their caretakers watching a movie

Children and their caretakers watching a movie

The C-stunners and graffiti public art projects

NAI NI WHO1 stunners

The yoga sessions with the Yoga Africa project who conducted two yoga sessions during the Nai Ni Who? Week and the street March from Kilimani primary.

Street march

Street march

Planet Tiba run by the Maasai Mbili art centre and a few friends including Maya Von Lekow. Onlookers were treated to some tasty colored maize that was well roasted by the team.

Planet Tiba

Planet Tiba

Weaver bird Art camp

Kuona trust collaborated with Weaver bird founder Collin Sekajugo in this the just concluded art  that took place in Masaka, Uganda.. Five artists from Kuona spent a week in Masaka, actively interacting with the community and introducing them to the fundamentals of sculpting as a form of visual art.

Weaver bird

Screening ‘I am breathing’

‘I Am Breathing ‘ is a moving film by Emma Davie & Morag McKinnon which tells the story of a young man who suffers from Motor Neuron Disease and eventually succumbs to the disease  14 months after diagnosis.


The screening was organized by DOCUBOX, a newly established documentary film fund for East Africa founded by Judy Kibinge. This was as part of a global initiative to show the same film in over 100 cities all over the world on the same day and also create awareness on the disease whose cause had remained a mystery and had no known cure.

Picture of the Month

The New Kuona Trust gate

The New Kuona Trust gate

It is said that that first impressions are most crucial, they determine how others relate with us and the image they carry of us  hence fourth,being an artistic space we decided to follow suit and we thus unveil our new look gate.

We acknowledge the following artists for their hard work and creativity- Jacqueline Karuti, Kevin Oduor, David Mwaniki, Anthony Wanjau, Tonney Mugo and Lionel Garang, Meshack Oiro and Dennis Muraguri led ably by Mutheu Mbondo.


Have a wonderful month 🙂

‘Tea time for 216’ works by Miriam Kings

   ‘Tea for 216’  is a showcase of works by Miriam Kings drawn from her journey through Kirinyaga County.

Looking out at the valley (1)

The photographs show the beauty of Kirinyaga district that is rich with red-coloured soil and valleys filled with vegetation around the foothills of Mount Kenya.

They also depict subjects, such as sufrias and colorful buckets, which are symbolic of the role of women in nourishing the community through cooking, cleaning, and teaching.

This exhibition traces a journey back into Kabare, a community in Kirinyaga district where I spent seven years of my childhood. The photos and video were taken at the local girls boarding school, a theological college library, homes and shambas of old family friends.

When visiting homes of old family friends, I was shown photo albums that included a few photos of my family when we lived in Kabare. Looking at the photos I saw myself as an ‘Other’ through the lens of Kenyan families, that provided me with a new insight into myself. From this complex moment, I saw an opportunity to unpack a myriad of threads in history.

Initially, I took a few pictures of old photo albums only to show family back home. But as a I looked closer, I saw flashes of a deep disturbing colonial legacy which I felt compelled to share. In one example chosen it pictures, two ‘wazungu’ children sitting near the center of a wedding photo, both holding the larger flower baskets. Why did we have larger flower baskets  in contrast to the smaller or lack of flowers the other bridesmaids had? Was it because we could afford to buy them or because we were chosen to hold them?
I’m interested in the utility of art, the aesthetic providing a dialogue on subjects that are taboo, contentious, and not examined in public consciousness/conversation due to sensitive or delicate nature

Miriam is an artist and curator born in London who lived in Kenya from 1984-1991.Both her artistic and political interests are related to issues of human geography and community formation.


The photographs will be on display in the Kuona gallery from the 10th- 15th July 2013.

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