The month of love opened up with a first Solo show by the young Kenyan Artist Anita Kavochy at one of the leading Art Galleries in the East African country- One Off Contemporary Art Gallery.
February welcomed a flurry of activities in the Kenyan art scene. In Nairobi alone there was an art exhibition in every corner- from Lavington where Kenyan Paul Onditi launched his own art gallery to the Mukuru Art Club. All these showcases boiled up to the Coastal Lamu Festival whose highlight was the eight mahogany sculptures by a German Joachim Sauter at Lamu Fort. The sculptures represented the hard labor of men of Manda Island who labored to carry heavy stones from Maweni.
That aside, at Rosslyn Riviera Mall in Nairobi, a young artist was making history in a first Solo exhibition dubbed ‘Thresholds’ Hosted by One Off Contemporary Art Gallery at one of the outposts, Anita Kavochy would showcase her several mixed media paintings; a spectacular gaze for audience.
The show which opened on Tuesday, February 12 would run up to Saturday, March 9. It is the closing ceremony that ushered in an artist talk curated by Jepkorir Rose Kiptum. In the afternoon Nairobi heat, I availed myself at the mall sweaty and thirsty- thanks to the incessant felling of trees to create bypasses in the now smouldering city in the sun. Coming from the outside microwave-jeez did I mention the heat?-I made it to the gallery which ushered me in with the coolness of one of those caves from the Karura Forest.
Rose was now leading the young audience gathered around the hearth of the gallery in a discussion about awareness. In this respect, the group of listeners took time to pay attention to the noises around them- a kind of meditation to make them aware of their auditory senses. In the discussion, there was a lot that one could pick up, process and give out. Different subjects came up with different interpretations of their surroundings.
The next exercise would be for half the group to close their eyes while the other half picked up a member from the group and tried to imitate their exact movements. It was followed by an interesting discussion which boiled down to the artist talking about sacred paintings prayerfully hanging on the wall.
The paintings spoke of life, moments and how we choose to reveal about ourselves. Specifically, they addressed transparency. “Those two dark paintings speak about my heart-brokenness,” Anita said pointing at Unpleasant Conversations I and II. “I have had two past relationships, she added. The deep scars from her relationships made her realize that “everybody was going through the same shit,” but all chose not to talk about it. “How did they hide the pain and feign happiness amidst all the pain?” she wonders.
However, through her art, she decided to create conversation around the psychological personal misery that we all face. The deep dark paintings in charcoal, mixed with a dash of red and purple accentuating exposed femininity are a personal catalog of how we choose to expose ourselves and hide other parts that we deem not fit for the society. It is a personal testament on how we choose to deal with situations around us and the self-censorship of our emotions. Nevertheless, it is also about a journey towards revealing the dark torment to reinventing oneself after a catharsis achieved after exposure brought out through open dialogue.
As one walks through ‘My heart my body bleeds, Uncomfortable conversations, Deep Thoughts and Along in Years,’ one appreciates the damaging power of solitude and the power of healing found in opening up. ‘Thresholds’ truly begins this young artist’s solo career on a strong foot. Now isn’t that something?
After high school, Anita joined Buruburu Institute of Fine Arts (BIFA) before joining Maasai Mbili for internship. Maasai Mbili is in the sprawling Kibera Slum where Anita was born and brought up. She never went back to complete her course in fine arts because she wanted to draw and not write stacks and stacks of projects. “When I moved to M2 (Maasai Mbili) that’s when I started drawing, at BIFA it was all about writing projects and notes. I am not cut out for writing. All I wanted was to draw,” she says pointing out one of the major flaws affecting Kenyan tertiary institution where applications are nowhere close to the curriculum designed to train professionals.
Anita’s previous works include portrait series Ni Nyumbani? and Funika/Funua among others.