Do you want to delete this article from your reading list?

Wilson Oryema on the social distancing and the idea of a sharing economy

By Marisa Bellani


Photograph taken from Wilson Oryema’s isolation place in Brixton. Spring 2020


On the 11th of April 2020, Wilson Oryema called from his home in Brixton, his usual neighbourhood. We talked about social distancing, microbes and his creative possibilities in these times and after.

“When people see me out, it is typically after spending a few days isolating and not seeing anyone”.

Wilson is an artist and writer whose work includes writing poetry or articles mainly about fashion and sustainability. He also makes short films and documentaries, and before the lockdown he was already isolating as a self-initiated practice. “Writing is a rather solitary process and not much has changed on that side of things for me”, he said.

In London we are allowed to exercise outside and shop for groceries and essentials but nothing else, and are encouraged to stay home as much as possible. Luckily, Wilson is spending his quarantine time in Brixton where he has got friends and he can see them on the streets – “I have just bumped into a friend quite casually and went with one of my oldest friends to buy some groceries just now; that’s pretty nice”.

When I asked him about what protections he is using to go out, he said that he keeps social distancing, of course, but he decided not to wear a mask. In fact, Wilson expressed concerns about human health in the future: “Staying inside for extended amounts of time will weaken our immune response. There are over a hundred million viruses on this planet in circulation at any given time, which are constantly exchanging genetic information with flora and fauna through horizontal gene transfer (I’m paraphrasing for conciseness here). So, regular contact with our surroundings actually builds our immune response. Even a large number of our DNA is composed of viruses (which is basically foreign DNA). So, we can most likely expect to see an increase in people becoming more susceptible to various diseases/bacteria for a short amount of time, when we’re all allowed to be outside again. It’s comparable to, if not exactly the same as, letting kids play in grass/dirt and touch a lot of things when young to build their immune response, otherwise they fall victim to a lot of allergies as they grow older”.

PEOPLE will be home…”

Wilson is working on his next book of poetry, which is coming out in a few weeks, a “project that started before the pandemic and that [he is] still writing now”. He is designing the cover of the book as well as working on some articles in relation to fashion. Another project he is working on is a sustainability report and a book about trade-offs with regards to climate change.

Since the poetry book will not be printed now due to restrictions imposed by the current human crisis, I was curious to know how he was thinking to release, promote and diffuse his poetry book.

The book will be free to download and available online on Amazon, iTunes and Kindle Publishing. I asked Wilson why he would not charge for his book and he said that in these times but also in the future, he doesn’t want to charge for publishing books online; he believes more in increasing future exchanges with his audience. Also, he finds that a greater access to readers is more valuable that the immediate monetary return he could make. I think that his collection of poems can be a nice thing to spread, especially now. The book will later be available in print (probably by June).

Wilson is also active in fashion and he shared how he feels that the industry will evolve from now on. The modelling industry will be minimized, the number of fashion weeks will probably be reduced, and we will see more AI and studio imagery. “There was a lot of unnecessary in the luxury industry and that will step down”.


To discover more about Wilson Oryema and his productions:

  • How Toxic Are My Clothes?’ is a video documentary and research cell on the topic that was released in December 2019 and you can find here:

To learn more about AI and modelling, read ‘Creative AIs and Law: Future Models’ by Giulia Trojana:

Save to
reading list