Ben Lloyd’s new work Empire Kiosk follows a trip to Sierra Leone, where in 2011 he worked as a volunteer teacher. Here he describes the kiosks seen in every Sierra Leonean village and town that this new work responds to.
These vibrant multi-coloured kiosks are made from humble materials and are a source of pride for their owners and a joy to be part of. They are painted with various images of mobile phones, household goods and the flags of Sierra Leone, US or UK. Inside, the walls are a collage of cultures in posters, the Salone pop plays and an electric lightbulb flickers on a generator supply. These kiosks existed before the civil war but now have become the main retail outlets and services of any street in any town. They seem symbolic of the state of development there.
In particular Lloyd used the mobile phone charging and credit kiosks and became fascinated in them. He was struck by how they form the hub of the community and how they connect the community to the global 21st century. He began photographing and documenting these kiosks in order to form a project on his return. Empire Kiosk is an appropriation of these life affirming kiosks and inspired by the creative and enterprising people of Sierra Leone.
Empire Kiosk identifies culture as a collage in flux and stands for the constant fragmentation and rebuilding of empires. It draws connections between Sierra Leone and Wales at a time when visual art is responding to multi cultural explosion where the narratives of the past no longer fit.
Ben would like to thank Afroned, the Jalloh family of Sierra Leone and all who supported his trip to Sierra Leone.
Empire Kiosk was supported by the Arts Council of Wales