Art in the Diaspora

Exhibition Review: “Invocations” at Circle Art Gallery in Nairobi

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Circle Art Gallery in Nairobi has recently unveiled a captivating group exhibition titled “Invocations.” The exhibition features an impressive lineup of African artists whose works aim to invoke spiritual forces and contemplate the political issues intertwined with nature and our daily materials. Moreover, it blends experimental and contemporary pieces and showcases the artistic prowess of established and mid-career artists in Africa.

Agnes Waruguru, KENYAN, B. 1994
SEARCHING (PASSAGEWAYS), 2023. Acrylic ink, acrylic paint, and pastels on linen. 143.4 x 204.3 cm.

Among the featured artists are Souad Abdelrassoul, Jonathan Gathaara Sölanke Fraser, Tahir Karmali, Syowia Kyambi, Theresa Musoke, Shabu Mwangi, Dickens Otieno, Gor Soudan, Sujay Shah, Tiemar Tegene, Agnes Waruguru, Donald Wasswa, and Tabitha Wa Thuku. These talented individuals, previously showcased at the East African Auction held at Circle Art Gallery in late December, bring a rich diversity of perspectives and techniques to the exhibition.

“Invocations” explores the complex interplay of spiritual forces, political issues, and the materials that constitute our daily lives. The featured works, from paintings and prints to sculptures, highlight the artists’ ability to navigate different mediums and styles. Notably, the exhibition offers a comprehensive view of the artist’s evolution. From Theresa Musoke dating back to 1999, alongside more recent and experimental prints by Tiemar Tegene executed just last year.

This exhibition serves as a platform for the artists to address pressing issues related to post-colonialism. Artists continue to draw inspiration from their African roots and their communities’ challenges, providing evocative works. Moreover, the impact of the artists’ surroundings is evident. Their works reflect the critical environmental issues that persist due to historical and cultural shifts.

Noteworthy additions to “Invocations” include the unveiling of new works by Jonathan Gathaara Sölanke Fraser, Agnes Waruguru, and Sujay Shah, all of whom underwent expansive residency experiences in 2023. The exhibition also features previously unseen pieces by Shabu Mwangi, complemented by large-scale works from Gor Soudan, Tahir Karmali, Souad Abdelrassoul, Tabitha Wa Thuku, and Dickens Otieno.

Syowia Kyambi. PART OF THE TWINS (KASPALE’S ANCESTOR)S), 2021. Earthenware ceramics. 42.7 x 42.4 x 31.2 cm. Image courtesy of Circle Art Agency.

Syowia Kyambi presents the otherworldly ceramic sculptures in the Kaspale series for the first time at Circle’s new exhibition space, providing a unique visual experience. Additionally, Donald Wasswa contributes to the exhibition with seamless curved and geometric wooden sculptures. This adds depth and diversity to the overall presentation.

“Invocations” is not merely an exhibition; it’s a narrative, a contemplation, and a celebration of the artist’s profound connection with their environment and commitment to addressing socio-political challenges. It invites viewers to delve into the intricacies of African contemporary art. Additionally, it offers a journey through time, culture, and the ever-evolving landscape of artistic expression.

The exhibition is on till the 24th of February and can be accessed on the Circle Art Gallery website today.


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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