Nairobi Gallery is one unique building hugging the roundabout on the famous Uhuru Highway and Kenyatta Avenue in the Kenyan capital. The building, which holds the old British architecture stands askance from the modern day skyscrapers that now pervade Nairobi’s skyline. Silent like an old home from outside, the building only comes alive just when one enters its interior, walls decorated with the famous art collections of the late Kenyan Vice President Joseph Murumbi.
This however is not the reason why I trudged into the gated compound at the heart of the City in The Sun. My intention was to witness the opening of Boniface Maina’s exhibition under the series title ‘Transitions’
Boniface Maina, the talented artist paints around the most crucial topics with ease and dexterity, in “Transitions”, the 30 year old artist explores the world of political campaigns and associations. Boniface deftly satirizes political unions, the political party hopping and the voter intimidation. Like a newspaper editorial cartoonist, Boniface makes his art about the fallacies behind the lush and exorbitant political campaigns, the poor and unsuspecting voter and the confused yet well-intentioned citizen who has to grapple with tribal loyalty and political party deceptions that most often sweeps them into making wrong decisions come the voting day.
Kenya is going to the polls in August, the political temperatures have risen even further as politicians whip up tribal emotions and remind the young of how youthful they really are. The exhibition therefore, comes at a more appropriate time to address the political situation in a country where ten years ago people went into a post-election violence that left many displaced and thousands dead. Maina expects this exhibition to open up discussion on the country’s political situation and awareness on what really constitutes wise leadership.
Pieces like The Political Dab, The Serial Contestant I and II talk about the conceited political contenders who after elections forget their political obligations to the people and concentrate on enriching themselves. Maina also playfully presents within his art the many political parties born in his country out of the sheer need to get a vehicle to political office. The parties have peculiar names that Maina comically reiterates with his own coinage like Super Alayans of Nations (SANA) political party whose subject is an astronaut, Kifua Wazi Party, Tung’oe Misumari Kutu Party among others.
As an artist, Maina is the co-founder of Brush Tu Studios in Buruburu, one of Nairobi’s sprawling suburbs. He has exhibited his works widely both in his home country and internationally. The exhibition opened on April 23rd and runs through June 30th.