Born in Kenya in 1986, Longinos Nagila is a young experimental multi media visual artist living and working in Nairobi. Primarily focusing on video art and the exploration of digital imagery, Longinos’ work is influenced by a deep love of early cinema and black and white photography, which he blends with paint and transferred images on paper and canvas. After graduating from the BuruBuru institute of Fine Arts, Nairobi in 2009 he studied documentary and film making at the Apulia Film Commission in Bari, Italy.
In a group of works called The Technicians of the Sacred executed in early 2016, Nagila explores the worlds of fashion and faith, exposing the irony of their co-existence in our 21st Century consumer-led society. Raising questions about what is sacred and what is profane and the shifting identities of these concepts, as well as the cultism of celebrity society and fashion, these works also question what is perceived to be authentic or traditional African through video and mixed media bi-dimensional work. In the video a huge nuclear cloud fills the screen, preceding split-screen juxtaposed images of western models showcasing major brands with black and white archival video images and stills of traditional African village people.
The radical contrast between concepts of contemporary Western and traditional African beauty and design also examines the role of Africa and the “Africa Rising” narrative, as well as tackling themes of cross-cultural contamination and fusion. In several works on paper, photo-transfer images of traditional people are stenciled together with logos advertising contemporary western fashion brands, often collaged by acrylic paints on backgrounds sporting the pattern of traditional African textiles.
Questions about African production, African brands and their identity and their increased visibility on the international market subvert the conversation of Africa as a producer of raw materials and a receiver of goods.
Nagila’s most recent solo show, Democracy My Piss the Kuona Arts Trust in Nairobi explores the processes involved in elections in Kenya, critically engaging with the idea of a free and democratic election and its meaning and looking to raise questions around this subject at a time of pre-election tensions in Kenya.
Focusing the production of the exhibition on the idea and visual imagery of an anonymous polling booth, Nagila has created an installation built up of eerie, ghost-like, bright red hooded and void sculptures, evoking the presence of someone underneath. Suspended from the ceiling, the voters’ empty shells queue in front of an intimidating black figure wearing a gas mask. The red figures lean on each other, blindly going through the process of voting, whilst in the background scenes of protest, political violence and police brutality play on two TV screens located in a double voting booth. Taking common observations of political elections in Africa as a starting point, the installation juxtaposes accounts of unconstitutional practices, manipulation of electoral processes, patronage and violence with ordinary people, the supporting cast to a corrupt centralised system of powerful men and women, probing into the history, process, expectations and results of democracy since its post-colonial inception in Africa.
In his most recent canvases and video work, Nagila is beginning to explore the concept of industrialisation, mass production and rapid urbanisation. Billboards advertising international brands sit next to stencilled images of traditional people and street market scenes, highlighting how the lack of infrastructure pushes people to move to urban areas where they often end up producing what they cannot afford to consume and commenting on the invasion of mass-marketing on the urban landscape.