April rains, the long rains, are currently ravaging Kenya. The rains are a welcome respite from the January sun and the bellowing dust. Despite the breath of fresh air, Nairobi residents, who hate the deluge, are now at the mercy of price hiking in public transport and heavy traffic. During this time, people find every excuse not move out of their house and events are rarely attended. Many opt to stay locked in their houses or in their cars contending with the traffic rather than be at an event or grab a cup of coffee.
Now straddling in the muddied roads, hop skip and jumping muddy splotches and evading the speeding vehicles which could easily give you a street shower, I made it to the Lord Errol for a pop in exhibition, ‘phases’ by the Artspace. The exhibition brought together the works of Ann Mwiti and Joe Makeni.
Phases brings home different faces of personalities in Ann Mwiti’s work and phases within the Mara National Park in Joe Makeni’s. It is a seamless flow that requires a guided hand to grasp the two juxtapositions. At the exhibition opening I got to indulge Artspace owner Wambui Kamiru. An Artist herself, Wambui refuses to add another title to herself as a curator. One thing to admire about her, is the way she curates her exhibitions. It is like she builds a giant art installation with other artists’ work or tells a story using the different art pieces on display. As she walked me through the exhibition I got to see the transition from Ann Mwiti’s portraits to Joe Makeni’s wildlife photography.
Whereas Ann Mwiti’s portraits presents phases in human life Joe presents the phases in the African jungle. Ann takes us back to the confusion of colonialism, the despair and the misty feelings that comes with lack of understanding. As we rise from the colonial, we immerse ourselves into the world of understanding the people around us. From the Hero Dad to the Music Icon and the Celebrity descending down to that Persistent Memory Ann Mwiti’s work needs you to feel it, meet it, study it, ask questions and most importantly flow with it towards self-reflection.
Ann was raised by parents who understood the freedom of a young mind, therefore when she chose art in graduate school, her teacher parents were solidly behind her. Perhaps it is because, she was studying to become a teacher of art, a vocation of her parents and at the same time appease her soul’s desire of being an artist. The more pleasant thing however is, she got the support she needed at the time and now she enjoys the fruits of that support. Asked if she would support her kids in any venture they take, she confidently says yes, luckily, both her kids are into the art; “My boy is studying graphic Design, and the girl seems interested in the art, in fact, they are the first critics of my work. I ask them of their opinion about my work all the time.” She quips.
I sought to know about her three week foray into the land of the Pharaohs. According to her, what was meant to be a three week symposium turned out to be a fun-filled tour of Egypt. She immersed herself into the beauty of the Egyptian temples and at some point forgot about their aim of being in the land that bore a mark to our present day civilization. Egypt offered her opportunity to shine new light to what is coming this year around November, which she promises to be a massive art exhibition.
Joe Makeni work is majorly photography. The current photographs on canvas takes a little detour into the Maasai Mara. Joe relieves the fascinating experiences in the wild interring it on canvas his pieces like the ‘Zebra Crossing’ evokes the memory of the beautiful wild detached from our own world of chaos and traffic menace, the lonely Elephant sheds the face darker with the knowledge of our very own human activities that are slowly making the Jumbo a forgotten memory. It is this wild human faces and the wild that define the Exhibition Phases at the Picturesque Lord Errol- a place according to Ann, makes one quickly feel the days of colonialism rush to mind.
The exhibition opened on Friday 7th April and runs until May 2nd.