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I Am Sparkling

N.V. Parekh and His Portrait Studio Clients: Mombasa, Kenya, 1940–1980 – Isolde Brielmaier in conversation with Aruna D’Souza

Location: Virtual

September 27, 2022 @ 6:00 pm 7:00 pm

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Deputy Director of the New Museum and Guest Curator at the International Center for Photography (ICP) in NYC, author of the recently released I am Sparking: N.V. Parekh and His Portrait Studio Clients: Mombasa, Kenya, 1940-1980 (Damiani, 2022), Isolde Brielmaier brings years of curatorial and academic experience to bear on the unseen trove of Parekh’s Kenyan studio portraits. These portraits not only express his unique vision, but also Mombasa’s lively identity.

I Am Sparkling is the first ever overview of this historically significant photographer, his clientele and the temporal, geographical and cultural milieu in which he flourished. Rarely accessed until now, Parekh’s personal archive went out of circulation following his retirement to Britain in the late 1980s. This volume draws on this photographic archive along with extensive interviews with Parekh’s diverse clientele, and is complemented by Brielmaier’s rich historical context and analysis with a particular focus on women as clients of studio photographers. The artist Wangechi Mutu contributes a preface.

We are pleased to have Brielmaier, who has served as Assistant Professor in the Department of Photography and Imaging at NYU Tisch, in conversation with writer and art critic, Aruna D’Souza, to explore the nuanced ways Parekh’s portrait studio reflected Mombasa’s identity. How did Parekh’s studio provide solace amid Kenya’s state of emergency and political party bans of the 1950s to independence in the 1960s and beyond? How did he use styling and the camera to reflect the cultural milieu of Mombasa at the time? The conversation will be followed by time for Q&A from the audience.

Cosponsored by the Department of Photography & Imaging, NYU Tisch School of the Arts.


Isolde Brielmaier

Isolde Brielmaier is Deputy Director of the New Museum as well as Guest Curator at the International Center for Photography (ICP) in NYC. Previously, Isolde served for six years as Executive Director and Curator of Arts, Culture & Community at Westfield World Trade Center. Isolde also served as Professor of Critical Studies in Tisch’s Department of Photography, Imaging and Emerging Media at New York University. Her most recent photography book, I am Sparkling, was released in May 2022. She is also the author of Culture as Catalyst (Fall 2020). She speaks regularly on topics related to art, culture, leadership and social impact

Previously, Isolde has worked for the Guggenheim Museum, the Bronx Museum of Art, and as Chief Curator for the SCAD Museum of Art. She serves on the boards of the Women’s Prison Association (WPA) and the sustainable fashion brand Another Tomorrow, as well as an advisor to Malaika, an all-girls school in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Isolde holds a PhD from Columbia University and lives in New York City.

Aruna D’Souza

Aruna D’Souza writes about modern and contemporary art; intersectional feminisms and other forms of politics; and how museums shape our views of each other and the world. Her work appears regularly in 4Columns.org, where she is a member of the editorial advisory board, and she is a contributor to The New York Times. Her writing has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, CNN.com, Art News, Garage, Bookforum, Frieze, Momus, Art in America, and Art Practical, among other places. Her book, Whitewalling: Art, Race, and Protest in 3 Acts (Badlands Unlimited), was named one of the best art books of 2018 by the New York Times. Her most recent editorial project is Linda Nochlin’s Making It Modern: Essays on the Art of the Now, published by Thames & Hudson in 2022. She is editor of Lorraine O’Grady’s Writing in Space 1973-2018 (Duke University Press, 2020), and is co-curator of the retrospective of O’Grady’s work, Both/And, which opened in March 2021 at the Brooklyn Museum and is traveling across the U.S. She is the recipient of the 2021 Rakin Prize for art journalism and a 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation Art Writers Grant.

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