Kenyan visual artist Ngene Mwaura AKA Sheepgoat is dead. It is unclear how the artist died but according to fellow artists, his body was found in a morgue after vigorous searches in police stations, a remand prison and hospitals around Nairobi.
Ngene Mwaura was a free spirit who worked at his studio at Kuona Artist Collective in Nairobi Suburbs. Being one of the organizers of Kuona Artists Collective’s First Saturday of the Month event, Ngene would be present at the December 7th 2019 event and left the venue at around 9.30 pm with three other artists headed for the CBD Nairobi. He never arrived home that night.
Family and friends tried to reach him via his mobile phone to no avail. He had left it in his studio. “Sunday we got so worried because his sister had panicked,” a fellow artist at Kuona said. According to Kuona, Mwaura never spent the night out except for the weekend of his death. “It was normal for him at times to spend even a week without coming (to Kuona,)” one artist observed. However, the unusual disappearance would make fellow artists and friends look for him until his body was discovered at the City Mortuary on Tuesday 10th the following week-apparently a victim of a road accident.
Born on 15th April 1981, Mwaura developed a passion for art the age of 12, drawing inspiration from the likes of John Muafangejo and Ndasuunye Shikongeni from Namibia, Vincent Van Gogh (Netherlands), Henry Moore (England), Amadeo Modigliani (Italy), Kivutha Mbuno (Kenya) among others. He has worked with a number of Kenyan artists, the likes of renowned painter Patrick Mukabi and revered sculptor Wanjohi Nyamu, and had a chance to train at Kenya’s Kuona Trust at the National Museums where he studied printmaking with fellow artists like Peterson Kamawthi and Thom Ogonga. From Kuona, Mwaura moved to Glendale community college and Pasadena City College in California, USA.
In the USA, Mwaura would put his artistic skills in painting murals, Bikes and designing sleeves for a jazz album among other things. He also participated in about two dozen exhibitions in California at Pasadena, Santa Monica and Los Angeles before returning to Kenya in 2016.
Mwaura was born and raised up in Kikuyu- a suburb near Nairobi. He enjoyed both the love of his pious mother and philosophical atheist father. This two worldview parents would shape his philosophy about life and art. Moreover, his mother was a dhania farmer and Mwaura would help in weeding the delicate vegetables. Weeding dhania requires attentiveness and hard work-skills Mwaura extrapolated in his art.
A tight-knit family of three siblings- two boys and a sister- Mwaura would feel at a loss when his parents died. In 2016, when he came home from the USA, the nostalgia was still there. The loss of his parents, specifically mother- deeply affected him which is why his first show in Kenya in October 2016 dubbed Reclamations paid homage to her with one of the paintings representing his mother surrounded by her three children.
Mwaura will be buried at his home in Kikuyu on Thursday 19th 2019. Fellow artists, fans and friends are meeting at Kuona to pay their respects on Wednesday 18th 2019.