Photographer James Muriuki’s Undefined Constructions series was conceived for the Nairobi – A State of Mind project at Nairobi’s Goethe-Institut. The series attests to Muriuki’s continuing engagement with architectural proliferation in the Kenyan capital.
The photograph Untitled VII shows scaffolding clad with torn tarpaulin and old sackcloth, masking a multi-storey building whose future contours are only just definable behind its shabby exterior. This picture was taken in Parklands, an urban district of Nairobi that was amongst the most highly populated during British colonial rule. Today, this central area is best known for its huge Asian-born population and for providing favourable conditions to business and residential property developers. Irrespective of the neighbouring settlements and without giving residents any prior information, many new buildings are erected, their exorbitant size radically changing the cityscape. A critical observer of these global processes and their regional impact on politics and society, Muriuki unmasks forbiddingly disguised unfinished monoliths as symbols of power, progress and technology. “We cannot foresee today what will happen tomorrow,” says the photographer. “Architecture in Kenya is misplaced. Everything appears random. These buildings are like pregnant women – we do not know what they are going to give birth to.”