After I completed my first degree in Product Design, my interest shifted from designing products to what stories were told in products – about people’s lives and how they reflected on the individuals, their families, their cultural and faith groups and in general on the human society and values.
Hence, my MA and PhD led me into the study of art and material culture. I see material culture traversing over almost all social disciplines. In short, material culture is the prevalence of the presence of the object in fashioning our social and art world.
After graduation, I continued in the same line from 1972 to 2002 - learning, researching, teaching, publishing and curating exhibitions on material culture. The objects projected many contexts: Culture, history, identity, art and craft, migration and settlement, religion and oral traditions, dialogue and community building, and even peace and conflict resolution traditions. For almost ten years, I worked on community participatory exhibitions so the owners of the artifacts were also co-curators of the exhibitions with me. My inspirations came from ethnographic and folk museums where I saw the sights and heard the sounds in objects of daily use by ordinary folk. Working with community theatre in rural Kenya also influenced me to develop this approach.
Things made my life: My career, tastes in clothing, furnishing, my life style and I think even my worldview has been molded by things. I came to realize that Material Culture, a discipline in Social Sciences, draws on artifacts to tell stories combining facts with myths, geography with history, art with politics, poetry with traditions across generations and cultures turning stories into legends. The ten steps in Stories from Things are written out of this experience.