Morris Foit contemplating his work at RaMoMa Gallery, Nairobi


My mum started a business of making pottery flower pots. One of her customers was a white person by the name of Foit. He used to buy the flower pots together with flowers. One day Foit found me with my mum. My job was to prepare the clay, and hers was to make the pots. Sometimes I used some of the clay to make my own figures. One day when Foit came for flower pots, he found me with my mum and a clay car I had made four days earlier; it was already dry.

Foit was really surprised to see that the clay car was performing well without an engine and wanted very much to know how it worked. I told him that inside the car I had put rubber and soap, and when I rolled the rubber and put the car on the floor, it performed very well. Foit took my mum aside so I couldn’t hear what they were saying. But she told me all about it that evening. She told me that Foit wanted me to go with him as his student and I was given two weeks to prepare myself. After those two weeks, Foit came and found me with my box. That was my first time to find myself in a vehicle. We went to Foit`s place, and when I arrived he told me all about his ideas. He told me that he was a lecturer at the University of Nairobi and that I could do art work to cater for myself in life, for my family and community and to pass my message. That’s why I do art.


Foit told me that he had all the supplies I needed and that he would show me how to use the tools. He taught me techniques and skills how to treat wood. I used to practice by copying the Makonde style. But when Foit began to teach me, he told me that since I now had a teacher I should stop doing Makonde and come out with my own style.(Editor’s note: the sculpture of Makonde has its origins in the highland of northern Mozambique and southern Tanzania. One branch involves traditional mapico masks for initiation ceremonies; the other ,modern branch involves seemingly ‘‘abstract” pieces that appear to be made especially for non-African clientele.)

He used to take me to the university where I found that some of his students were adults. I was the only young person, but when we did our work with older students Foit would tell them that I was his student at home and I that was doing a better job than they were. They replied that I only had art to do while they also had other lessons to attend too. I continued living with Foit until there came a day when he sold some of my work. He gave me the money with which I bought a bicycle that I used to travel to see my parents.



This article was first published by RaMoMa gallery in Nairobi  and AFRUM thanks very much for permission to publish it on its website


Author: Morris Foit
Date: 13.07.2008