Diary of an Artist During COVID-19 Pandemic: Beatrice Wanjiku

Letter to Myself: Today is Yesterday and Tomorrow  | June 2020 

Dear Self, 

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Life as we have known it is done. I wonder if this was how people felt during the plague or the Spanish influenza. Uncertainty, anxiety…

This stranger beat down the door and made himself at home.

We went about our lives as if everything was normal. There is no normal, what is normal?

Days bleed into days, sometimes I feel like I’m losing my sense of time. Every day feels like yesterday or tomorrow. I refer to each day as today because it is all we have got, tomorrow is not promised.

No more gathering or coming together since this disease is transmitted by close contact.

At the beginning I thought to myself, I can do this quarantine if need be. I spend most days in the studio, so what’s a couple more till this passes over? We are four months in and no end in sight.

A studio is already a place of isolation, contemplating, experimenting, and the building up of new ideas.

Beatrice Wanjiku, Losing my RELIGION (II), 2020.
Beatrice Wanjiku, Losing my RELIGION (II), 2020. Courtesy the artist

I think the struggle is more mental than physical for me…

During this Corona time (COVID-19 pandemic), I have been reflecting on the idea of isolation. Such deep silence calls to my mind my failings as I reflect on our interrupted lives. The meeting with friends over drinks all seem like a distant dream.

It’s been a time of confronting my fears and doubts while examining this season of life we are in.

Grateful for a healthy family. But since I don’t get to physically visit them, it gets lonely though it is better, for their sake and mine.

This isolation takes a heavy toll, a recalibrating of how my time is spent. Checking with myself to see that I’m in the right mental space.

Today was a great day, we got some drawings done. Ideas are beginning to come forth, but it’s not always like this.

I have destroyed more paintings than I can count during this lockdown which has now been extended.

I have stopped watching the news altogether. I found out I’m having bouts of anxiety as the numbers keep climbing and the end seems nowhere in sight. 

To remedy this I’ve been taking walks, which quiets my mind. I get back to the studio inspired and refreshed.

Recently after a walk, I penned a poem in a moment of realisation as to what our busy lives have been. 

On my walk, I stop to remove blackjacks which have stubbornly stuck on my clothes in irritation….then stop. Stare surprised at the beauty of their flowers.

I ruminate at the trampled mushrooms…

from hurried steps…

Death arrived, a season interrupted.

I gaze at the cracked earth, awaiting rains seeds buried beneath, soon to break forth

I ponder at our interrupted lives

forced to adopt a different pace that requires more patience than movement

to arrive at our rebirth.

I continue, carefully avoiding to trample on more mushrooms…

hoping to have gained a little insight.

Amid the weeds, beauty and truth lie…

life goes on… 

Beatrice Wanjiku - studio sketch images.
Beatrice Wanjiku – studio sketch images. Courtesy the artist

I sketch, draw, and read but what I’ve found to be most interesting in this quarantine times is the lack of a studio production that is driven towards a show. This way I feel my studio practice has been enriched and not interrupted.

Just researching, excavating ideas and taking each day at a time. I reflect on “what going to shows or exhibitions meant to me” over a glass of wine. I have conversations on the mundane politics of it all and somehow, slowly, I have come to appreciate the pace of now.

Mayhap, this is the change we need.

We are responsible for it all in our greed and pursuit of wealth that the earth deemed it no longer viable to go on as we were.

This virus has forced us to pause.  I can’t help but feel that we are going to come out on the other side okay. I mean we have to hold on to hope… After all, to every being, there is a time and a season. I can only hope for better days. Which seems like they will never return. 

The world feels like it is self-combusting. As if the virus is not enough we are bombarded by the layoffs, the violence in personal spaces, homes, the disregard for human life. It’s a sad time, making it sometimes harder to create as the spirit is not aligned.

Reading, reading, and more reading… and sometimes sleeping when all else fails.

Artwork by Beatrice Wanjiku.
Artwork by Beatrice Wanjiku. Courtesy the artist

Dialogue with an Artist Friend  

Friend: After a long, quiet time, I got myself into my studio today.

Pandemic feelings.

Are you working?

Xx

Me: Hello.

That blue is saying it all. I love the energy here. I’m working but the work doesn’t seem to be flowing well. I feel like I need to be aligned with my spirit.

So much is going on, subconsciously we can’t help but carry all that energy with us. So I’m hoping everything aligns. So basically the studio is slow but I make a point of going there every day.

Yes, I’ve watched Maggie Smith it’s such a lovely film. As for reading, been reading Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins. Remember you took me to this bookstore near where your exhibition was showing? I love the poems and somehow they feel so now.

“This was enough, the fraction of the whole, just as the leafy scene in the windows was enough now that the light was growing dim, as was she enough, perfectly by herself somewhere in the enormous mural of the world.” – excerpt from Detail by Billy Collins

Remember how earlier in the year we’d decided to do a drawing a day. Feels like it was so long ago. Now just taking a day at a time and thankful to be healthy. I think the struggle is more mental than physical for me sometimes but I check with myself daily to make sure I’m well.

Sending love,

Beatrice

Friend: What a lovely note.  These days are so out of order, topsy turvy.  It feels right not to be rushing or pushing, so I have put the idea of a drawing a day aside, as well. I like taking things really slowly.

Billy Collins says it best. To be enough.

So take good care.

Thinking of you,

xx 

– 

Beatrice Wanjiku | Visual Artist based in Nairobi, Kenya. Her work is constantly probing the human condition, delving into psychological issues and repeatedly questioning our reality and the space we occupy.

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