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This Blog used to be about the question: What is Science?
Now, it asks: What is Happiness?

Monday, January 18, 2010


Direct from Wikipedia:

"In the summer of 2000, Casey Kelbaugh invited about fifty of his friends, all engaged in various creative endeavors, for a combination slideshow and potluck in his backyard on Seattle's Capitol Hill. Kelbaugh received positive feedback from his friends about the opportunity to share artwork and food in a relaxed and spirited setting, and began to hold repeat events under the name Slideluck Potshow. Over the course of the next three years, Kelbaugh produced twenty shows all over Seattle in galleries, backyards, and artists' lofts. In the fall of 2003, Kelbaugh relocated to New York and shortly thereafter teamed up with Alys Kenny. Together, they produced the first New York show in Kelbaugh's East Village apartment. The turnout far exceeded expectations and it was clear that there was an immediate demand for egalitarian, community-building gatherings such as SLPS. Kelbaugh and Kenny began producing three shows a year, all over Manhattan, and the popularity grew. Within four years, attendance had grown from 120 per event to 1200. In 2006, SLPS began getting requests to bring this model to other communities outside of New York and Seattle. The first show of this kind took place in Washington, DC. Soon after, there were shows in Los Angeles, Columbus, San Francisco, Portland, OR, Chicago, Anne Arbor, Detroit, and elsewhere [2]. In the Spring of 2007, Kelbaugh and Kenny traveled to Europe to launch in London, Madrid, Milan, Copenhagen, Berlin and later Seville.
The following year, they returned to launch in Rome, Barcelona, and Stockholm. In the Spring of 2008, SLPS launched in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Bogotá, Venezuela, Panama and Mexico. Slideluck Potshow is currently developing shows across the Middle East, Europe, Asia, North and South America."

Direct from my Cranium...

It had to have started somewhere and it had to have been exactly like our own homespun movie and pasta group. So what turned Slideluckpotshow into a global phenomenon?
Could it be that having started in Seattle and, fuelled by a let's do it attitude, it really kicked off once the creator, advertizing and multimedia fundi, Casey Kelbaugh, moved to New York? Can it really work anywhere? Judging by last Saturday night, I think so!
10 years down the line and over 50 cities worldwide, with a wiki page of its own and well talked about in all the right publications, SlideLuck PotShow is now in Nairobi. On Saturday, the 16th January 2010 it opened with a glitsy coming together at the even glitsier Tribe Hotel. The Tribe is so well positioned (physically and classwise) that it can afford to hide behind a shopping mall in close proximity to the local United Nations and US embassy enclave. The closest I can get to the feeling I had in this monument to the New World in Africa is to say that it has all the pretentious grandeur of Sun City in South Africa and is seemingly filled with folk who successfully pursue illusions for happiness.

What better an illusory experience than a larger than life slide show next to a bluer than reality pool under a controlled environment so utterly manmade that clearly even the chance of rain had been officially negated. That said, the space decidedly worked in favour of SLPS. The word had clearly spread to the not often seen downtown artistes and creative conversationalists of Nairobi who arrived like relief flights in Port au Prince to strut their auras and earrings on the narrow pass between blue pool and the earlier arrivees.

92% of the submissions were from local artists and given the 48 hours from close of entry it is clear that the vetting process continued long into the nights leading up to the inevitable last minute techno-hitches. But it was the succesful informality of the idea behind the event that made the hiccups and delays totally part of the weave and simply allowed more drinks to flow and connections made.

The deal is that if you bring a dish (make it creative!) the small $5 entry is waived. The hotel (bless them for their vision) made up the food balance and .... well, made up on the drinks prices with a beer, wine and orange juice coming in at $10.

What clearly makes this recipe work is the potluck part. Not that anyone apart from South Africans and Americans seem to know the term. However, in a kind of you-don't-know-what-you-are-going-to-get but at least 'you will be seen by anyone who is anyone in town', it works and attracts all the right folk and more visual material than can be used.

I am sure that they have never failed to fill the standard 90 minute visual program - 45 per half with the first half of the evening for food and people.

The Nairobi offerings came in a supremely mixed dish. From frivilous fashion to hard core photojournalism with grim reminders of our neighbours in Mogadishu and recent Post Election Violence (Boniface Mwangi).
The fashionista strutted their bodies and wares with images of maasai children on Cessna wings balanced by starkly familiar East African landscapes.
That young, emerging photographers could share a grand platform with internationally acclaimed photo-heroes like Mo Amin is the secret of SLPS's future. The exposure is heavyweight enough for the big shots yet accessible to the little uns.

Pure graphic work was splashed over the big screen and a Maasai blood drinking ritual made comediesqe. But it was the powerful narratives from South African Photographer xxxx that hit the hardest - a reminder of what us expat South Africans have left behind. The power of this photo-essay on child abduction and abuse recalled for me how relatively benign and crime free Nairobi is.

In the car going home we gave a ride to a mother and daughter from Italy who quizzed us on our feelings about the city and safety. They had been told not to venture out as Nairobi was too dangerous. On the way home our new friend, with a keen eye, commented on the sight of unattended roadside craft and flower-selling venues, clearly left in safety.

Passing through the Westlands night life we were tumbled back into reality with an almost impossible attempt to negotiate a traffic jam on a 4 way stop. Several taxis had simply stopped in the middle waiting for business and with ' no giving way' being the norm here it was like a Champs de Lise special. I popped out the car to photograph such a phenomenon. A security guard ran up and admonished me to which I told him that I had every right in the world to take photos. He then asked what I was going to give him. I pointed at some very smart cars full of local revellers and suggested he rather beg off the wealthy. Clearly he knew that was a non-starter. I had barely finished confusing him when an angry driver asked my why I was taking photographs.
"Because", I replied, " I am a photographer, "What are you?"

That was the first and only moment of real aggression I have experienced in 3 years in Kenya.

Losing myself in the luck of a not so potless slideshow was well worth braving Nairobi by night. We will time bearing more than food!

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Well done, Andre!