My use of pornography is kind of probably my most rebellious, juvenile moment, because I come from a culture where pornography is illegal.1 I come from a country where it’s technically still not allowed, even though there is a burgeoning porn industry and there are pornographic images around, it’s actually illegal to produce and sell and circulate pornography. So, I hadn’t seen much pornography when I left Kenya. I’d seen a little bit of — a couple of videos had been moving around, and I was thoroughly shocked to see them. And I know that one of the things about me is when I react strongly to something, I recoil, I tend to go back and look at it again. I tend to think about it even more.
And so, when I started working with the female body and making sculptures and objects that related to scenes, that related to ideas around the Black female body, I found magazines that had Black women in them.2 And then at some point, looking through magazine stores, I found magazines specifically made with Black women modeling in pornography, and I was very fascinated by the racial kind of — inside there were only Black or Brown skin women in them. It was very — it was interesting to me, because I think at that point I was only — I was more familiar with pornography with White women in it. So, I didn’t know that there was Black porn as such, and so I bought the magazines and started to flip through them, and I was — the prude in me like recoiled, and I was like so shocked.
But at the same time one of the things I found very interesting is how much these magazines — rather how little they altered the women in them. The women were the most unphotoshopped images I’d ever seen of Black women, women in general in any glossy magazine. That was the first thing. And then the second thing is there were these particular signals that went off, like I was attracted to the nails and the hair and the shoes, because they were such specific objects, working tools that these women were working. And they all had them, and they all worked with them differently. And so I fixated on these hands, these feet, these big weaves and hair that the women had, and use them to make the work that I make.3