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Grace Ndiritu
Pinned to Ndiritu's studio wall is a mood board, a collage of found images that provides a snapshot of the elements inhabiting the cognitive terrain on which she draws.

A photograph of a maori meeting house is juxtaposed with a Masai warrior, a temple in Mali, the temple complex of Borobudur in Java, an Antarctic landscape, a flier for the Women and Third World Working Group to which her mother belonged, a postcard of Frida Kahlo's painting 'My Nurse and I' and a circular chart with 'Atman' (Sanskrit for soul or ego) written in the centre and the 'collective unconscious' at the periphery.

As a child, Ndiritu had spontaneous shamanistic experiences and began practising astral projection and after leaving De Ateliers in Amsterdam in 2000, she spent three years meditating, fasting and practicing Yoga Tantra. In Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama lives, she spent ten days studying vipassana meditation, the form explored by Marina Abramovic in 'The House with the Ocean View' at the Sean Kelly Gallery, New York in 2002.

This gave her the tools and the confidence to confront the camera and, in 2003, she embarked on the work for which she has become known - making what she calls 'hand-crafted videos', solo performances in front of a camera fixed on a tripod. They are made in a trance-like state that produces a mesmerising intensity of focus; Ndiritu's gaze seems to transfix and to hold the viewer for the length of time it takes to put across her viewpoint.

'Waking Art' is the first of these pieces. She describes it as an 'initiation ceremony, my communion with the universe to reach the next level.' Eyes closed, she pats and rubs white clay onto her face to the rhythms of West African trance music; as the music speeds up, her movements become more vigorous - as though she is determined to slap herself into a state of wakefulness. Finally achieving her aim, she opens her eyes and stares at the camera.

'I was waking up the art part inside myself', she explains. 'The piece was inspired by Bruce Nauman's face painting video, but also by initiation ceremonies in which Aboriginals cover themselves with ash to signify death or transition.' An apparent reluctance to expose herself makes one feel like a snooper, intruding on a private moment; but Ndiritu turns our embarrassment to her advantage. It gives the work an edge that moulds us into a captive audience.

Still from Waking Art by Grace Ndiritu, 2003
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