Nicholas Mboya

Transit Point examines geo-lingual identity as an immigrant living in Germany. Also included in the work is an attempt to respond to the rapidly developing lingua franca in Kenya, Sheng. It is primarily a mixture of English and Swahili and other local vernacular embeddings spoken among the youth in Kenya. This work explores language as a nexus where multiculturalism and multilingualism meet, especially the lingua franca. By examining vibrant linguistic environments, the project raises questions regarding how communication can be opened and closed, thus examining the possibilities of mixing different languages, but also the exclusivities that can accompany language policies (e.g., bureaucratic borders in German). A collection of doors from various parts of Hamburg makes up the work. There are six doors attached to four 4m long rails, 20cm apart, mounted on a ceiling that cuts across an empty space. In order to simulate multi-railway tracks at Hamburg HBF, these powered motor-driven doors slide from one end of the rail to the other after overtaking in different intervals in the middle of the room. By making these doors, Mboya expresses diverse linguistic communities he is familiar with through the languages he speaks, such as Luo, Swahili, Sheng, Kikuyu, English, and a bit of German, demonstrating dynamic household structures that form unique patterns of being among the housed persons. This project was born out of an encounter with a fellow Luo speaker on a train in Hamburg who identified him as a “jadhot” (literally: a person of one’s own door,) a word often used by Luo people abroad. It was this that inspired the idea to use doors to visually represent language instead of using audio sound. In transit point projects, Sheng’ is seen as a linguistic collage of languages among its code switchers. – Nicholas Mboya

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