Nairobi Inspirations: An Exhibition by 5 Kenyan artists


Standing at the peak of Banana hill, your eyes gracefully drink at the beautiful scene of the ‘city in the sun’ Nairobi. You can easily point out the undulating skyscrapers at the heart of the city and those rising up in the blossoming Westlands. As your eyes narrow down into the now mellowed orange sign post ushering you into Banana Hill Contemporary Art Gallery, probably one of the places I call home, you find peace from art distant from the noisy city. It is here that five incredible artists are showing their works inspired by the picturesque of Kenya’s capital city.

The artists; Thom Ogonga, Michael Soi, Patrick Mukabi, and the posthumous exhibitions from Ashif Malamba and Omosh Kindeh have employed the canvas to colour the grandeur and beauty of the goings on in the City and playfully extort its virtues and vices to reveal an imaginative perspective of the city’s real face. Nairobi is metaphysical as it is real. It is imagined as well as created with its myriads of ups and downs, making it breathtaking and also grotesque. A walk in city distinguishes day from night from the fact that, the day is punctuated by Noise from the Matatu (passengers’ vehicles) and a buzzing night brought to life by the noisy clubs and hawkers.

The suburbs have a story to tell too, this is told through the eyes of the now deceased Omosh Kindeh, who in his works, the emerging highrise areas and the swarms of people who inhabit the areas builds a nest of sorts. The artist merges humanity into buildings creating an aura of mixed feelings that comes with the city’s rat race. Kindeh’s brilliant mockery of Kenyan infrastructural planning comes to life on canvas as the artist fills the canvas with hollow eyes of balconies and windows. It is however notable that he omitted or is it avoided to throw in the occasional collapsed and poorly erected buildings, which have now become a familiar sight in a number of Kenyan urban centers including the city itself.

Another departed artist Ashif Malamba twines the life of religion, masking it up with the threats of terror that boggles Kenya and the world while at the same time asking tough questions about the quest to finding peace in this world awash with corruption. His art is brutal, enigmatic and callous with a simplicity that melts down the heart into soul searching and reflections.

It is from the same angle that Michael and Thom approaches there view of Nairobi. Both artists are at the pinnacle of their career which is revealed in how they handle matters in their immediate surroundings. Thom pokes at the blisters of immorality by showing how the hunting grounds for commercial sex workers have shifted with the men hanging out near the women’s washrooms and the women at the men’s. He understands the female anatomy which he elaborately curve into what the ‘market’ so desires in the Nairobi’s twilight hours. Michael too, like an angel of liqueur dens, he pours the frothy beverages out of immorality dens and spills it into the streets which have no choice on who walks on it. Be it students, pupils or adults, it damning painting of a city’s dented moral construct.

However, the city is not all that drained into morality’s abyss as Patrick Mukabi would make us see in his work that extols hardwork and determination while at the same time elevating the female gender. Mukabi’s work empowers the woman to a huge extent, being everything, from the sassy dame, to a mother and a brilliant entrepreneur.  

‘Nairobi Inspirations’ in itself is a wonderful way to remember two incredible artists- Ashif Malamba and Omosh Kindeh for their awesome displays of the city they called home. The exhibition also, elevates Banana Hill Art Gallery to a big brother watching over the city and tries like an aging father to point out the good and the vices. The five artists’ work has truly set a huge milestone to what 2017 will bring on the table in the field of art.

The exhibition ends on February 2.     


Photo Courtesy: Banana Hill Art Gallery, Art Credit: Havana by Michael Soi