East Africa

Artistic Interpretations of Communication and Connection at One Off Contemporary Art Gallery, Nairobi

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Over the weekend, the spotlight was on One Off Gallery, Nairobi, as it unveiled a captivating exhibition titled ‘Outside Within,’ a showcase that brought together two exceptional artists: James Mweu and Patrick Karanja. Each of these artists was allocated a dedicated space, allowing attendees to be fully immersed in the depth of their artistic interpretations. The exhibition was a remarkable experience, offering many insights to those in attendance.

As visitors entered the expansive gallery space, a distinct earthy aroma of dried leaves enveloped them, creating an immediate connection with the theme of “Outside Within.” Strewn across the floor, these dried leaves intentionally crafted an ambiance that resonated with the exhibition’s title. James Mweu’s collection of paintings and intricately carved wooden portraits took center stage in this setting, capturing the essence of his numerous hiking escapades.

James Mweu, Chogoria, 2023, Ink on woodcut, 69h x 61w cm. Image courtesy of One Off Contemporary Art Gallery.

James states, “Hiking is a transformative journey, akin to a captivating cult; it draws you back.” His artworks skillfully transport observers to the verdant landscapes of Kenyan regions like Meru County and the lush Kirinyaga countryside, popular weekend destinations. The artistic journey evoked a sense of resilience as the viewer ventured into the unknown. Integrating immersive technologies like virtual reality could further elevate the exhibition’s impact.

The subsequent section introduced Patrick Karanja’s intriguing showcase titled “Blurred Lines.” This collection, conceived by the industrial art design student, tackles the enigma of body language head-on. Patrick prompts viewers to cultivate self-awareness and attunement.

It blurred lines figurines installation by Patrick Karanja, 2023. Image courtesy of One-Off Contemporary Art Gallery.

Patrick says, “To ‘record nature’ is my universal language. Often, nature’s essence infiltrates our creations without our cognizance.” Patrick’s two-dimensional figures portrayed everyday people engaging in diverse social scenarios, mirroring Nairobi’s urban life. These figurines interacted, communicated, and converged, embodying an ongoing exploration of body language, human behavior, and their intertwined influence.

Patrick explores the intricacies of interaction, migration, movement, and energy consumption, shedding light on others’ motives for mobility. His perceptive observations foster self-discovery, illuminating his identity and the broader world. His creations amplify the nuances of human communication, elucidating the ripple effects of engagement and nurturing comprehension. A video installation would enhance the exhibition’s accessibility, allowing diverse audiences to engage with it personally after grasping its essence.

This exhibition was undeniably a captivating spectacle. The ingenious use of installations to elevate visual and sensory immersion added a unique dimension, engrossing the audience in a truly immersive experience. The potential integration of technology and digital art holds exciting prospects for further enriching this artistic journey.


Rose Mwikali Musyoki is a creative writer from Nairobi, Kenya. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Business and Finance from the University of Embu, Kenya, and is the founder of Bloom Inc, an art startup in Kenya. Currently, she works as a writer for Art News Africa.

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