• April 16, 2024
  • Last Update April 16, 2024 4:14 PM
  • Nairobi

Art takes on different forms amid pandemic

Art takes on different forms amid pandemic

Like all other sectors of the economy, the arts have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Art exhibitions and music concerts are a major source of income for creative. However, many have had to move away from these traditional platforms to the digital space.

The first virtual photo and art exhibition titled Africa Covid Exhibition has been running since June, giving artists the opportunity to showcase their work to new audiences. The government has also stepped in to offer a stimulus package of Sh100 million to entertainers who submitted works that centred on the pandemic.

ResiliArt, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) movement held monthly on Zoom, was also launched to provide a platform where creatives and cultural institutions could air their challenges and seek solutions during these times. Some of the concerns raised in previous sessions looked into how the creative sector could be revived amid the pandemic.

And now, art galleries are reopening, with One Off Contemporary Gallery presenting Social Distancing and the Alliance Francaise gallery showcasing Wheels of Life by Evans Ngure. 

Mr Ngure’s title is derived from circular objects that he uses to create his pieces. He primarily uses discarded materials such as fans, brass wheels, old kettles, side-mirror casings, belt buckles, driftwood, wine corks and metal springs to create sculptures.

Wheels of Life is also about the different experiences of life, both good and bad. Ngure explores the themes of identity, human-wildlife conflict, environmental conservation, socio-economic lifestyles in Nairobi and his own personal experiences.

Take, for instance, a piece that is on display at the gallery titled Self-portrait, which is basically about himself.Ngure, however, reveals that although artists put a part of themselves in every piece they create, many find it uncomfortable to create works that are solely a reflection of them.

“They (artworks) are slices of me but are inspired by other people and stories. But when I start to create something that is fully about me, it is different and more intense. I would rather someone else do a portrait of me,” he says.

Artworks such as Monkey Revolt and Monkey King speak against human invasion of wildlife habitats and draw attention to reports of deforestation and grabbing of land meant for wildlife conservation. 

The government has also stepped in to offer a stimulus package of Sh100 million to entertainers who submitted works that centred on the pandemic.

Another work titled Sweets, Njuguu, Meem Caard, Loloo, Shkanisha was inspired by the African winnowing tray.

“Hawkers use them to arrange their products as they go around selling in buses and social joints. My attention as a creative is on the meticulous way in which they arrange their items, mostly in symmetrical and radial balance. To me, what they do is art and this is my way of paying homage to the ingenuity of these men and women out there who make a living out of hawking,” he says.

The artworks are relatively affordable and practical. Functional art, he says, is a great way to share his work at an affordable cost and still use it at home.

Ngure started out as a painter. Having gone to school mainly in the Central Highlands of Kenya, he was inspired to pinpoint nature as a subject in his paintings. He then evolved into a jewellery artist and shared DIY videos of this on his YouTube channel before morphing into a creator – a general term that does not limit what he can do.

“Right now I am simplifying my art. I am not simplifying it to be average or in a way that it does not end up looking good. I am simplifying it as abstract but I am also growing and improving myself. I want to try out new mediums in a simplified way,” he says.

The Africa Covid Exhibition was slated to close on July 31 but was extended to August 8. Visitors to the space were advised to sanitise their hands, wear mask and maintain social distance.

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