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Choctaw artist Jeffrey Gibson confronts history at US pavilion as its first solo Indigenous artist

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Choctaw artist Jeffrey Gibson confronts history at US pavilion as its first solo Indigenous artist
News

News

Choctaw artist Jeffrey Gibson confronts history at US pavilion as its first solo Indigenous artist

2024-04-19 08:29 Last Updated At:08:40

VENICE, Italy (AP) — Jeffrey Gibson’s takeover of the U.S. pavilion for this year’s Venice Biennale contemporary art show is a celebration of color, pattern and craft, which is immediately evident on approaching the bright red facade decorated by a colorful clash of geometry and a foreground dominated by a riot of gigantic red podiums.

Gibson, a Mississippi Choctaw with Cherokee descent, is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. For context, the last time Native American artists were included was in 1932.

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Artist Jeffrey Gibson, right, poses with artist Mark Bradford at the U.S. pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

VENICE, Italy (AP) — Jeffrey Gibson’s takeover of the U.S. pavilion for this year’s Venice Biennale contemporary art show is a celebration of color, pattern and craft, which is immediately evident on approaching the bright red facade decorated by a colorful clash of geometry and a foreground dominated by a riot of gigantic red podiums.

Visitors look at sculptures on display inside the US pavilion by artist Jeffrey Gibson during the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Visitors look at sculptures on display inside the US pavilion by artist Jeffrey Gibson during the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Visitors look at sculptures on display inside the US pavilion by artist Jeffrey Gibson during the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Visitors look at sculptures on display inside the US pavilion by artist Jeffrey Gibson during the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Visitors look at sculptures on display inside the US pavilion by artist Jeffrey Gibson during the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Visitors look at sculptures on display inside the US pavilion by artist Jeffrey Gibson during the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Visitors look at sculptures on display inside the US pavilion by artist Jeffrey Gibson during the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Visitors look at sculptures on display inside the US pavilion by artist Jeffrey Gibson during the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

From left, Curator Abigail Winograd, artist Jeffrey Gibson, and Curator Kathleen Ash-Milby pose at the US pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

From left, Curator Abigail Winograd, artist Jeffrey Gibson, and Curator Kathleen Ash-Milby pose at the US pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

From left, Curator Abigail Winograd, artist Jeffrey Gibson, and Curator Kathleen Ash-Milby pose at the US pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

From left, Curator Abigail Winograd, artist Jeffrey Gibson, and Curator Kathleen Ash-Milby pose at the US pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Artist Jeffrey Gibson poses at the US pavilion during a media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Artist Jeffrey Gibson poses at the US pavilion during a media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Artist Jeffrey Gibson, right, poses with artist Mark Bradford at the U.S. pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Artist Jeffrey Gibson, right, poses with artist Mark Bradford at the U.S. pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Artist Jeffrey Gibson, right, hugs artist Mark Bradford at the U.S. pavilion during media open day of the 60th Biennale of Arts exhibition in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Artist Jeffrey Gibson, right, hugs artist Mark Bradford at the U.S. pavilion during media open day of the 60th Biennale of Arts exhibition in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Artist Jeffrey Gibson poses inside the US pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Artist Jeffrey Gibson poses inside the US pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Gibson, 52, accepts the weight of the honor, but he prefers to focus on how his participation can forge greater inclusion going forward.

“The first is not the most important story," Gibson told The Associated Press this week before the pavilion’s inauguration on Thursday. “The first is hopefully the beginning of many, many, many more stories to come."

The commission, his first major show in Europe, comes at a pivotal moment for Gibson. His 2023 book “An Indigenous Present" features more than 60 Indigenous artists, and he has two major new projects, a facade commission for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and an exhibition at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

Gibson’s eye-catching exhibition titled “the space in which to place me," features text in beadwork sculptures and paintings taken from U.S. founding documents, music, sermons and proverbs to remind the viewer of the broken promises of equity through U.S. history. The vibrant use of color projects optimism. In that way, Gibson’s art is a call to action.

“What I find so beautiful about Jeffrey’s work is its ability to function as a prism, to take the traumas of the past and the questions about identity and politics and refract them in such a way that things that realities that have become flattened … can become these beautiful kaleidoscopes, which are joyous and celebratory and critical all at the same time," said Abigail Winograd, one of the exhibition’s curators.

“When I see people walk through the pavilion and kind of gasp when they walk from room to room, that’s exactly what we wanted," Winograd said.

Entering the pavilion, the beaded bodices of sculptures in human form are emblazoned with dates of U.S. legislation that promised equity, the beading cascading into colorful fringe. A painting quotes George Washington writing, “Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth," in geometric letters that meld into a colorful patterned background.

By identifying specific moments in U.S. history, Gibson said that he wants to underline that “people who are fighting for equity and justice today, we’re not the first.

“This has been a line in the history of American culture. But I’m hoping that people will think about why … some of these things … have either been revoked or have not come into fruition,” he said.

Craft is at the center of Gibson’s art, both in defiance of past denigration of craft and as a way to confront “the traumatic histories of Native American people,” he said.

“There is something very healing about the cycle of making," Gibson explained.

The pavilion’s intricate beaded sculptures owe a debt to Native American makers of the past without imitating them, employing couture techniques to create something completely new. In the way of his forbears, Gibson uses beads sourced from all over the world, including vintage beads from Japan and China, and glass beads from the Venetian island of Murano.

Paper works incorporate vintage beadwork purchased from websites, estate and garage sales in mixed media displays that honor the generations of Native American makers that preceded him.

Gibson's themes fit well into the message of inclusion of the main Biennale exhibition, titled “Stranieri Ovunque -- Strangers Everywhere,” which runs in tandem with around 90 national pavilions from April 20-Nov. 24.

His personal history has placed him firmly in what he calls the “diasporic history of Indigenous people.” His father's job took his family abroad when he was a child to Germany and then South Korea, and he later studied in Chicago and London. His partner is Norwegian artist Rune Olsen.

Through all of this, Gibson has picked up traditions and practices that go beyond his Indigenous background.

“I’ve looked at op art, pattern and decoration. I've looked at psychedelia, I have taken part in rave culture and queer culture and drag and the whole spectrum," Gibson said.

"And so for me, I would not be telling you the whole truth if I only chose to spoke about indigeneity. But my body is an Indigenous body — it’s all funneled through this body,'' he said. ”And so my hope is that by telling my experience, that everyone else can project their own kind of intersected, layered experience into the world.”

Artist Jeffrey Gibson, right, poses with artist Mark Bradford at the U.S. pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Artist Jeffrey Gibson, right, poses with artist Mark Bradford at the U.S. pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Visitors look at sculptures on display inside the US pavilion by artist Jeffrey Gibson during the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Visitors look at sculptures on display inside the US pavilion by artist Jeffrey Gibson during the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Visitors look at sculptures on display inside the US pavilion by artist Jeffrey Gibson during the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Visitors look at sculptures on display inside the US pavilion by artist Jeffrey Gibson during the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Visitors look at sculptures on display inside the US pavilion by artist Jeffrey Gibson during the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Visitors look at sculptures on display inside the US pavilion by artist Jeffrey Gibson during the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Visitors look at sculptures on display inside the US pavilion by artist Jeffrey Gibson during the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Visitors look at sculptures on display inside the US pavilion by artist Jeffrey Gibson during the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

From left, Curator Abigail Winograd, artist Jeffrey Gibson, and Curator Kathleen Ash-Milby pose at the US pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

From left, Curator Abigail Winograd, artist Jeffrey Gibson, and Curator Kathleen Ash-Milby pose at the US pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

From left, Curator Abigail Winograd, artist Jeffrey Gibson, and Curator Kathleen Ash-Milby pose at the US pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

From left, Curator Abigail Winograd, artist Jeffrey Gibson, and Curator Kathleen Ash-Milby pose at the US pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Artist Jeffrey Gibson poses at the US pavilion during a media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Artist Jeffrey Gibson poses at the US pavilion during a media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Artist Jeffrey Gibson, right, poses with artist Mark Bradford at the U.S. pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Artist Jeffrey Gibson, right, poses with artist Mark Bradford at the U.S. pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Artist Jeffrey Gibson, right, hugs artist Mark Bradford at the U.S. pavilion during media open day of the 60th Biennale of Arts exhibition in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Artist Jeffrey Gibson, right, hugs artist Mark Bradford at the U.S. pavilion during media open day of the 60th Biennale of Arts exhibition in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Artist Jeffrey Gibson poses inside the US pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Artist Jeffrey Gibson poses inside the US pavilion during the media open day at the 60th Biennale of Arts in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. A Mississippi Choctaw of Cherokee descent, Gibson is the first Native American to represent the United States solo at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art show. Gibson mixes Western modernism and Native American craft in his vibrantly hued paintings and sculptures. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

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Thousands in Kenya demonstrate against proposed new taxes

2024-06-21 11:31 Last Updated At:11:40

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Thousands of mostly young people demonstrated Thursday in Kenya’s capital and across the country against new tax proposals by the administration of President William Ruto in its annual budget legislation.

The protests brought Nairobi’s central business district to a standstill as horse-riding riot police threw tear-gas cannisters and opened water cannons on demonstrators who advanced towards parliament buildings, where lawmakers debated the finance bill.

The protesters, who began their demonstrations in a first round on Tuesday, are demanding that lawmakers vote against the legislation, which is expected to be burdensome for salaried Kenyans, entrepreneurs and consumers. They say Ruto has gone back on his pledge to reduce taxes and lower the cost of living.

The new taxes would include a 2.75% levy on income for the national medical insurance plan, as well as increased taxes on vegetable oil and fuel, which would increase the cost of production and trickle down to the consumer.

Proposals to introduce a 16% value-added tax on bread and a new annual tax on motor vehicles were removed from the legislation Tuesday after a meeting between Ruto and ruling party members.

But those who demonstrated Thursday said the amendments did not go far enough and that they want legislators to totally reject the budget legislation.

“Our parents have been taxed dry, yet there’s no development to show for it. We reject any additional taxes and will stay on the streets for as long as it takes,” Ashley Mwai said.

The 19-year-old who has never voted said the new taxes have made her get involved in politics for the first time for the sake of her parents who do not have the energy to join protests.

“As much as I’m not earning an income yet, additional taxes will increase the prices of food and transport, making life unbearable for us young people,” Mwai said.

Businessman Walter Mwangi, 34, said he’s struggling to earn a living because taxes are already crippling his consultancy business. "We are sick and tired,” Mwangi said.

Lawmakers were debating and voting Thursday on the legislation in its second reading. It is due for its third and final reading next week. Meanwhile, demonstrators tried to breach a security cordon to access parliament buildings, carrying anti-government placards and chanting against Ruto.

The president was attending a university event in the southeastern town of Garissa where anti-government protesters lined the street leading to the event venue.

Young people also demonstrated in the president's home turf of Eldoret town, where they told journalists they had been duped into voting for Ruto.

Ruto said earlier in the week that the protests were a constitutional right, but that government institutions must carry out their mandate.

“We are a democratic country. Those who want to demonstrate it is their right, no problem. But decisions have to be made by institutions," Ruto said Wednesday.

"We will make decisions as an executive, take it to the legislature, people of Kenya will speak to it through public participation, others will subject it to court processes and that is how democracy works and I am a great believer in democracy,” he said.

Tuesday's protests saw more than 200 people arrested and later released.

The right to protest is enshrined in the Kenyan constitution and organizers have to notify police who often give a go-ahead unless there are security concerns. Previous anti-government protests in Nairobi have often been met by police force with protesters in the past shot at by the police.

A protester uses a fire extinguisher during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

A protester uses a fire extinguisher during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

Demonstrators run from police during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

Demonstrators run from police during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

Police officers fire tear gas canisters during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

Police officers fire tear gas canisters during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

Demonstrators run from police during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

Demonstrators run from police during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

A protesters throws back a teargas canister at police officers during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

A protesters throws back a teargas canister at police officers during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

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