|MR AND MRS SILKYKNICKERS by Derrick Kakembo|
I met Derrick through a chance encounter with his friend, Tichelle Norman whom I met at the Impact Art Fair in Islington in 2011. She had volunteered to assist with the Fair and indeed took over looking after the "Over the Hill" stall when I and some of the other photographers couldn't be there. Obviously, we talked about the project and she mentioned that her friend, Derrick, took photographs. She asked if I might be interested in working with him and so I looked up his website and really liked his work. I met Derrick (with Tichelle) in Victoria Station and he threw me a lot of questions my way as a means of discovering exactly who I was. Gradually, ideas began to form in his mind and he said after hearing stories about myself, that he wanted to photograph me with the gate from Berry Cottage (my old family home) and also me naked with my teddy bears. When I lived at Berry Cottage, the post to which the gate was attached was rotten and one had to lift it up to open it. One day, when I was about 14, there were two girls walking towards me as I entered the front garden so Mr Cool stood with his back to the gate and stared at the girls as he lifted it up, off its hinges and fell back into the rose bed. Mr Cool decided to remain in the rose bed until he was sure that the girls had passed by.
And so Derrick journeyed down to Brighton (from Leicester!) and photographed me with my gate and my teddy bears. I found the shots outside in the front garden a bit of a strain because Derrick wanted me to pose in a cool way and if there is something I'm not, it is cool! Also, it was in the front garden and it was witnessed by all and sundry as they walked by. We then adjourned into our sitting room and shot the photographs of me naked with my teddies or at least two of them. As usual, it was a very enjoyable shoot overall but I have to say that I was a bit worried how the shots would turn out bearing in mind my general misgivings. When I received the chosen images from Derrick, I plumped straightaway for the gate shots because I was convinced that these would work best. However, I put them all to one side and left it a week before I looked again. I went straight for the"gate" pictures but they did not connect with me and so I turned to the others and slowly began a little journey of discovery. I began to see perhaps what Derrick saw and I realised that I needed to look at the Teddy pics with two eyes - one subjective (they were my teddies and I knew them well) and the other objective (What does the photo say? About things in general and about me in particular?) and slowly but surely, they took on a different meaning. They connected me to my past and for this I did need to be naked to ensure that my clothes did not express anything which undermined the image. That was me, on the carpet, playing with my teddies, that was me.
Mrs Silkyknickers, on the left, was given to me by the children of the Roberts family who lived in the same road as us in Finchley when I was quite young, probably about 8 or 9. We had so little money in those days that it was wonderful to suddenly be given a whole lot of new toys. This teddy was wearing a dress and wore silky knickers, hence the name. My mother tidied her up a bit by sewing on pink felt paws and black woollen eyes, mouth and eyebrows. As a consequence, she took on quite a severe countenance and so became the obvious matriarch amongst the collection of dolls and teddies that belonged to me and my two younger sisters, Corinne and Sally. Then subsequently, a great friend of the family, Madge French, a sort of surrogate granny, bought me the other teddy for my birthday and he became Mr Silkyknickers. Nowadays, they sit on a shelf in my bedroom but every so often I take them down to dust and clean them and memories flood in...........
So, thank you, Derrick, for surprising me and helping me to see what is there. A very worthy addition to my project.