ANA Spotlight

Goethe Institut, Kenya: Amplitudes of Dawn Exhibition

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The Goethe Institut, Kenya, is hosting a captivating exhibition titled: “Amplitudes of Dawn“. This captivating body of work was curated by Rosie Olang and presented by the Downriver Road and Friends team. The exhibition embarks on a profound exploration of sound, drawing inspiration from the historic radio announcement of August 1, 1982.

Set against the backdrop of 1982, when Kenyan citizens attempted to overthrow the government, this thought-provoking exhibition invites viewers to reflect on what was and contemplate the possibilities of what could have been. Upon entering, one is transported into a time capsule of the late 1980s, with Kenya mourning the loss of its first president and under the rule of President Daniel Arap Moi.

Amplitudes of Dawn exhibition at Goethe institute, Nairobi, featuring Cyrus Kabiru and Onyis Martin. Image courtesy of Goethe Institute.

Titled “Amplitudes of Dawn” the exhibition delves into the consequences of political coups, corruption, looting, and protests during a troubled period in Kenya’s history. This era was marked by numerous challenges related to the government’s actions. The Moi government, accused of corruption, nepotism, and dictatorship, faced an attempted coup by the Kenyan military. Unfortunately, the coup failed due to mismanagement, resulting in significant losses, fatalities, and the unjust persecution of suspected coup participants.

The accomplished curatorial team, consisting of Alex Teyie, Clifton Gachagua, Franklin Sunday, Kamwangi Njue, Raphael Kariuki, and Rosie Olang’ Odhiambo, skillfully incorporated sounds from the 1980s to evoke emotions and enhance the exhibition’s thematic elements. Additionally, the exhibition showcases sculptures and paintings by Cyrus Kabiru, Onyis Martin, and the Downriver team. Each piece aims to delve into the realm of memory, visually representing both the past and the future.

Among the featured artists, Onyis Martin’s work resonates deeply with the exhibition’s themes. His piece “Do Not Stand in Front of the Gate” prompts viewers to scrutinize the dissemination of information on Kenyan walls. It’s a compelling piece within the “Talking Walls Series” designed to encourage audiences to question public information, its intent, and its impact.

On the other hand, Cyrus Kabiru’s meticulously crafted radios function as time capsules, transporting us back to 1982 when radio was the dominant mode of communication. “Karibu Radio” for example, has been in Cyrus’ family for generations, holding a significant place as the primary means of public communication in that era.

Cyrus Kabiru. Image courtesy of Instagram.

This exhibition serves as a testament to the enduring power of artistic expression in the face of adversity. In an age marked by diminishing freedoms, it raises profound questions about dedicating eight hours to commemorate the 40th anniversary of an uncertain coup. It encourages us to ponder how sound, in its diverse forms and distortions, can either ground us in the present or unmoor us as we challenge the prevailing status quo and aspire to a brighter future.

The exhibition runs until September 13, 2023. If you’re in Kenya, don’t miss the chance to fully immerse yourself in this extraordinary experience at the Goethe Institute. You can also access the catalog on the Goethe Institute’s website today, offering deeper insights into this captivating showcase.


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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