ARK Tanzania Gallery, 2020

The culture of giving has long been presented to us as something holy. From religious texts to dubious festive season marketing – we are subconsciously reassured that to give is the most noble of actions. Jan Van Esch deconstructs this narrative by delving into the otherwise ignored psychological motives and power play between giver and receiver.

There are many ways to claim power and to reinforce it. Imagine a game of Tug of War, where both sides are fiercely pulling for power – the side that unexpectedly lets go of the rope causes the opposers to fall. They gave them the victory, but is victory really victorious when given away? When the other is left inferior, laying on the floor with a rope that is connected to nothing. This may be similar to the dynamics of the mitumbas. Jan asks if this “gift” is really a gift.

Throughout the video works and photographs he highlights a lack of dialogue, the cosmic disconnect between the donation boxes in Germany and the Mitumba markets of Karume and Mwenge. He intentionally weaves clothes, movement (or lack thereof), ocean and sound to create a body of work that sets to provide an alternative relationship between giver and receiver –  introducing an ideal cyclical dynamic of being both giver and receiver in exchanging motion. Nipe Nikupe.

As an alternative view of the “Mitumba Monster” (emerging from the same waters that brought about western oppression and inequality) the heap of wrinkled, twisted clothes may also be seen as the “Capitalist Monster” – who feeds on the culture of excess. A culture of excess brought to a people who live in anything but. Jan subversively raises another conversation – how much choice do the receivers have when dealing with a gift they did not ask for but are forced to accept? The West remains as an “exemplary” social model – although detached and otherwise unbothered by where all their giving goes.

There is a strong introspective element tying all the works together, and the development of an attempt to correct the issues raised. Cautious to cross the thin line between supporter and white savior, Jan is conscious in his collaborative approach when dealing with the intersection of social culture such as music and dance – he is very literally and physically aiming to “level the playing ground” and nurture healthier exchange and intercultural dialogue.

Give me, and I’ll give you; presents a corridor linking one western door to one in the east. It is a personal journey of redefining value, relearning it not only for Jan, but you the spectator. Jan has simply set out the playing cards, the facts and non-facts, the destructive nature of compliant acceptance. Mitumba imefuka – tunazipokeaje?

Mitumbas: Donated second hand clothing or factory rejects sold at extremely low prices in Tanzanian market places.
Mitumba imefuka - tunazipokeaje: The mitumbas have arrived, How are we accepting them?

visit Jan’s website here

Co-curated with Asteria Malinzi


Nafasi Art Space, 2019

A social experiment and a commentary on how we perceive goodness and “badness”.

“Take the things you have rejected.

Look at them again.

Flip your world upside down, Can you grow with only good thing?

I dont know.”

The exhibition featured a scream room where participants were invited to close the door and scream as loud as they could. A needed release from the everyday hyper-politeness of Tanzanian society.

Ultra Light Beams

Visual Art Festival Zanzibar 2019

People learn and grow from imitation and repetition, mirroring in role models, ideas, activities and attitudes around them.

Taking into consideration the Tanzanian context, and the social nuances of Dar es Salaam in particular in relation to global standards, it is easy to fall into the cycle of entitlement – expecting our communities to function, grow and provide for us in an exponential way.

It is human nature to focus on those things which weigh us down, which frustrate us, which we want to change; unaware that this constant emphasis of the negative results in us over looking all that is good.

Ultra Light Beams aims to highlight the moments, feelings, people and places that contribute to the progressive ever evolving narrative of Tanzania. Through the interpretation of local inspiration by sound, video, image and text. A new media art exhibition that will create a platform that showcases the richness, diversity and presence of growth within the country.

An Ultra Light Beam is an idea, a person, a sound or thought that elevates you into a state of appreciation of life itself and that which is around you.



Nafasi Art Space, 2019

As the current inhabitants of earth, we are the result of a long line of ancestors, of sacrifice, of revolutions, wars and hundreds of years of cumulative knowledge and transformation. We are all the by-products of inheritance.

If we consider inheritance only as the physical passing of ownership, we fail to see it in its entirety – as the passing down of life force.  Our genetics, the information we are exposed to in our daily lives, sometimes even our dreams and aspirations are products of countless others. This exhibition is a doorway into exploring those things that are beyond touch, stepping into the reality that we are emotional, intuitive and most of all influential beings that are also influenced by what is around us.

The artists delve into the various spheres of inheritance, touching on both the tangible and intangible. They observe inheritance as large scale phenomena, including belief systems, cultural norms and emotive expressions, as well as the possibilities of individual epigenetic inheritance of trauma and memory.



Left: Performance peice collaboration Maker Factory, 2019 Right: Winifred Luenas Installation titled “Formula”

The process of journeying is one we engage with whether we are conscious of it or not, through the linear movement of time, the development of the physical body, the progression (or digression) of thought. From birth till death we are in motion, but how much responsibility must we take over how we move and where we end up as a result? How much does our family, religion, place of birth and governing body dictate the stories our lives will tell?

 ‘How did we get here?’ is a question that requires an outer body introspection of ourselves and our communities – it urges us to to look at our lives as an equation of sorts, in which the outcome is directly dependant on the inputs that are our decisions. We analyze the way in which actions lead to reactions, reality morphing as we morph with it, wondering how much of the journey we spend in the driver’s or passenger’s seat. Living within societies and under creeds, we cannot only look at the journey from the point of view of an isolated self; we must also interrogate the collective whole – the community – the nation. Which roads have we taken, which roads should we have avoided all together? How did we get here? 

The answers to these questions are suggested through the pieces presented, waiting for you to unravel them and find your voice within. Artists such as Winifred Luena mock the importance we have put on careers, presenting the lottery of life as a randomized pool of possible job outcomes. Flora Robinson reflects on the journey of the object, how it moves from usefulness to uselessness and back again, how we can transform a singular discarded part into an intricate and beautiful whole. Andrew Munuwa freezes time through his photographs of young divers; we are invited to assume a narrative, to decide if we ourselves would jump or not jump into the unpredictable deep blue – in this case, the ocean becomes a never-ending metaphor. These are a few examples of the vast and compelling pieces presented.

The exhibition presents works from national and international artists that aim to expand the dialogue beyond our homes and borders, to journey further into both conventional and alternative realities which are equally relatable. What are the consequences of our choices? Does the path one takes determine the outcome, or is it your perspective on the journey that matters more? The consciousness we should strive for in making choices about our relationships, political beliefs, religion and so forth –  or abandoning choice altogether – can perhaps be found in the clarity and commitment of our thought and expression. 

In the end, the journey you take is yours to own, regardless of which road you traveled. Seriously, how did you get here? 

Andrew Munuwa, 2019

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