Apollo
40 Under 40 Africa

Jim Chuchu

28 September 2020

Nairobi

Jim Chuchu announced himself on the international stage in 2014 – the year of his first feature film, Stories of Our Lives (2014), a dramatisation of five true stories of queer life in Chuchu’s native Kenya which was co-produced by the Nest Collective (of which Chuchu is co-founding director). The film was first shown at the Toronto International Film Festival and, although it was banned in Kenya for ‘promoting homosexuality’, it has since been screened in 80 countries. In the same year, Chuchu’s photographs were included in the exhibition ‘Precarious Imaging’, hosted by the Raw Material Company at the Dak’Art Biennale – one of the first shows on the continent to focus on homosexuality.

Subsequent films have been screened at festivals around the world, while Chuchu’s work in both photography and film has been exhibited at MoMA in New York, the Brighton Royal Pavilion and Museums, and the Guggenheim Bilbao. In 2015, the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art acquired two video projections titled Invocations – deeply personal works exploring the conflict between personal identity and the ties of history and community.

Chuchu’s concerns about the disappearance of indigenous African beliefs and rituals during the postcolonial era play out in many of his videos and films. Tapi! (2020), for example, presents the tensions between a young ritual healer and local church movements. The Nest Collective is one of the three founding partners of the International Inventories Programme, which to date has documented some 30,000 Kenyan cultural objects held in public institutions around the world. Chuchu is also a co-founder of HEVA, a creative business fund that has so far invested more than $3m in the East African creative sector.

Still from Stories of Our Lives (2014), Jim Chuchu.

Still from Stories of Our Lives (2014), directed by Jim Chuchu. Courtesy the artist

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