Finding Tike is a new short film by Canadian filmmaker Chloe Keleny. It follows British artist Pie Herring around the Kenyan island of Lamu, as she learns the story behind, and eventually paints, the man known as Master Tike.
Chloe is a ‘digital nomad’ who travels full time, making vlogs for the past three years. Chloe’s mother is Kenyan and she has travelled to the country for years, first visiting Lamu, off the northwest coast, eight years ago. Finding Tike is Chloe’s first subject-focused film.
Pie is a British artist, who whynow first spoke to during the early lockdowns. By the time I got a chance to catch up with her last winter to see her debut exhibition, Fortitude, her work had changed massively. Large orange canvases filled the room, with Pie’s portraits of locals from the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy defining her first show. Now, with the help of Chloe, her work is on display through a different medium.
Watch and hear more about Finding Tike below.
So how did you two come into contact?
Pie: We met in early 2021. We instantly hit it off. I am someone that likes to learn about people and cultures through painting and Chloe is a travelling creative nomad who has been all over the world. So, naturally, we were in the corner nattering all night whenever we crossed paths. We kept in contact from then onwards.
Chloe: I was [in Lamu] starting one of my first videography jobs. Being a very small island, I kept bumping into Pie until eventually we spoke and made plans to hang out. We were instant friends. We couldn’t believe how much we had in common and although we had only just met and hung out for a couple of days, we stayed in contact until somehow we both ended up in Lamu together at the same time (completely unplanned) – which is when we filmed and painted Master Tike.
And how did you, presumably not having known each other for that long, go about making a documentary together?
Pie: I think it was serendipity at its best. I was travelling back to Lamu a year later, specifically with the idea to paint Master Tike. After a couple of months, his story was unravelling and it was having a profound creative impact on me.
My mind was racing with ideas on how to elevate the painting and that’s when Chloe and her partner Dave returned to Lamu. We went for dinner and I couldn’t stop talking about Tike. The next day Chloe approached me and asked to take on the narrative for a short-film.
Although we are working within two different disciplines, I’ve seen the skill and dedication Chloe has to film. We sat down and she ran me through her creative process. It was clear by the questions she asked that she wanted to sincerely capture why Master Tike’s story was so important. Purely through that exchange I trusted her completely, and she ran with it.
Chloe: As a completely self-taught videographer, I am constantly trying to learn and practice new skills. It’s on me to find work and come up with projects. And the way this project came about was actually quite coincidental. Just before going to Lamu, I had just finished a course on making mini-documentaries and was looking for an interesting story to tell.
I’d been keeping up with Pie on instagram and was seeing her recent work on the people of Lamu, and decided that when I met up with her in Lamu, I’d ask her if she wouldn’t mind me filming a short film about her life there in Lamu, painting. But before I could ask, Pie told me Tike’s story and that she was going to film something for instagram – I assumed she had hired a videographer and it was all done and planned.
Low on hope, I thought maybe I could assist the videographer, so I asked Pie if I could help and found out she was going to film it herself. And that’s how the doc came about. I told her that I’d been wanting to film a story like this and that I would love to make one about her and Tike.
In terms of how it went about, we had very limited time. I was only there in Lamu for about a week and we decided to make this film with only about 5 days left in the trip. So it was quite a run-and-gun situation. Lots of late nights doing pre-production and editing, lots of trips around town to get the right shots and make sure we had it all – because once we left, we wouldn’t be in Lamu again for a long time.
Pie was still busy working on the other pieces of art for the same collection, so the shape the video took was up to me, but with consultation from Pie. I’d written a rough storyline and would run everything by her to make sure that the video stayed true to the actual story.
Pie, did it change anything for you working in front of a camera?
Pie: I have worked with a filming crew a couple of times in my life so thankfully I felt used to a camera. However, the first time I was put in the spotlight a few years back I was a nervous wreck – and it showed! So I’m grateful to have had that early experience so Chloe didn’t suffer too badly. Finding Tike is the first lengthy project centred around my work and so it is definitely an artistic milestone and will forever be close to my heart.
And Chloe, did you try to get any overlap between the style of Pie’s art, and the style of this film?
Chloe: The overlap comes with the painting and editing style, and also the environment. Lamu is quite a dusty, quite undeveloped, raw place – and Pie’s art really depicts this. As you find out in Finding Tike, the way she paints changed as she got to Lamu by incorporating the environment into the paint – sand, pieces of scraps, etc.
I channelled this into the edit a little. I didn’t want the film to look too polished and I went for a slightly warmer feel to the colour grade and colours represented in the film because orange, for example, is a colour that represents creativity as well as the ground in Kenya.
Did you have anyone else helping you with the filming and what was it filmed on?
Chloe: I completed the project on my own. I’m a one woman crew! But of course I had help from Pie who shared her and Tike’s story with me and allowed me to create a film about it.
The entire video was shot on my Canon EOS R6. I used several different lenses throughout (a 50mm, 16-35mm, 24-70mm).
Pie, how much of an idea about Tike and his story did you have when returning to Lamu?
Pie: Very little. All I knew was that he was a kind man who sat outside my house in 2021, feeding cats. I didn’t even know if he would still be there when I returned a year later. I went back with my fingers crossed hoping nothing had changed – because last time I was in Lamu, I was actually painting a series for an exhibition based on communities in Northern Kenya.
I had never focused directly on Lamu culture itself. This time around, having lived and worked there, local friends were able to connect me with a guide and translator called Cisco and I really could not have done it without him.
In the film you mention trying to convey some of Tike’s unseen qualities – patience, serenity, wisdom etc. How did you try and incorporate those into the artwork specifically?
Pie: In the painting, Master Tike is observed in a laid back position, reclining against a step with his leg resting on his knee. There is no sense of hurry. He is content. You can see a hint of a smile within his eyes as he is watching something on the ground before him.
I see a self-confidence about Tike which, coupled with his age, the lack of shoes and dusty clothes, speaks of wisdom and an understanding of what is valuable in life.
In Finding Tike you talk about leaving London behind. What do you think brought that change about?
Pie: What I discovered when I returned to London after working in Lamu in 2021 was how a new environment can have a profound impact on creative work. I didn’t realise at the time how exciting the colours, the patterns, the light and the people were to my painter’s mind.
It’s not to say that London is lacking in these departments, but for me it was something new. It taught me how, as an artist, it’s so important to go beyond what you already know, to open your eyes up to new visuals. Although you may not feel it at the time, the artist within you is absorbing and what is learnt will shine through later on.
Chloe, how do you typically find stories?
Chloe: My favourite part of being a videographer/photographer is the creativity that comes with it. I’ve always been a creative person and it’s only once I started travelling three years ago that I discovered photo and video as my outlet for creativity. So in terms of how I find stories, I just sit and brainstorm or it just comes to me.
Sometimes I’ll be walking down the street and an idea will pop into my head and I’ll quickly write it down to revisit later. Up until now, my videos are mainly travel focused and my YouTube is a lot of vlogs.
But I’ve decided to move away from that. My ideal field is travel/adventure related brand content – including spec work, like my more recent film, ‘Energised by Nature’, and videos for brands that show a product in use in nature. All of this alongside passion projects, like this one with Pie.
What made you want to make that change in style at this time?
Chloe: I wanted to make this more serious and documentary style video because I’d never told a person’s story before. My work has been all vlogs, product videos, event videos and travel videos, so I wanted to try something new. Being fairly new in the field, I think it’s important to try many different styles before settling on one. That, along with having just completed a course in documentary making, made me want to change styles for this video with Pie.