East Africa

Kenyan Artists Illuminate Society’s Threads of Connection at NCAI Gallery, Nairobi

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Do you think we are all fighting a common evil? Well, the exhibition at NCAI Gallery, titled: “Common Ground”. focuses on the similarities between social structures and influence, In Kenya. The exhibition features works crafted over the last decade that showcase the evolution of Kenyan art. Featuring four contemporary Kenyan artists: Morris Foit, Peterson Kamwathi, Paul Njihia, and Elias Mung’ora, “Common Ground” challenges the audience to examine the root of social structures and class in Kenya. Let us take a look at some stand-out pieces in the exhibition.

Opening the exhibition is a resounding masterpiece by Paul Njihia, aptly titled “Hadithi zile zile” or “Same Old Stories. Adorned with a kaleidoscope of colors, textures, and intricate drawings, this painting emanates a visual narrative. This artwork intricately weaves together themes of education, government, and their enduring impact on the lives of Kenyan citizens. Employing a range of mediums, Njihia’s work delves into the dynamic interplay between observers and the observed. He adeptly encapsulates the essence of social dynamics within the Kenyan context.

Same Old Story, 2023. Oil On Canvas. 109.7 × 159.3 cm. Image courtesy of NCAI

“I believe society comprises two distinct categories: those wielding power and those without, thus fostering an element of hierarchy and observation,” Njihia remarks during his interview with AKKA Project.

Transitioning to the adjacent space, Peterson Kamwathi’s “Kumbusho la Chombo” from 2013 captures one’s attention. The 12-foot canvas installation resonates with the collective voices of the marginalized, by serving as an embodiment of their call for transformative change. Peterson depicts the subjects as protesting against a particular entity. Because there is no specific depiction of the entity, the audience is free to come up with their own interpretation.

Peterson Kamwathi. Monument to Vessel, 2013. Mixed media on paper. Image courtesy of NCAI

As the exhibition concludes, the audience is redirected to Morris Foit’s sculptures. These wooden sculptures emerge as profound reflections of richly experienced life. They embody eloquent narrators of pivotal life, moments and intricate interpersonal bonds. As such, they compel us to explore our connections and contemplate the intricate processes that have shaped Kenya’s cultural identity. Foit’s sculptures offer a glimpse of optimism, holding the promise of a brighter tomorrow.

Morris Foit sculptures, 2021. Wood. Variable dimensions. Image courtesy of NCAI

“Common Ground,” captures the vibrant tapestry of Kenyan artistic expression, with each artist lending their unique perspective. The exhibition unfurls like an intricate mosaic woven from diverse threads, weaving a compelling narrative of Kenya’s contemporary art landscape. It beckons viewers to delve into the intricate web of societal interactions and individual stories, serving as a poignant testament to the transformative potential of art in encapsulating the essence of human connections.

Through the artistic lenses of Kamwathi, Mung’ora, Njihia, and Foit, visitors are invited to navigate the shared terrain of identity, society, and collective experiences. As their distinct works converge, they illuminate the shared ground upon which all individuals tread. The exhibition is open till September 23rd. Be sure to check NCAI for updates on the show.


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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