By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 13 April 2018)
Evans Ngure is one of the most inventive, resourceful and imaginative young artists working on the local scene today.
That’s saying a lot since there are many Kenyans working industriously in the arts currently. Yet few, if any, would consider creating collage art using spare parts from electric stoves, suitcase wheels, door hinges or bicycle brake pads.
Yet these are the sort of ‘found objects’ used by Evans Maina Ngure to complete the works now in his exhibition at British institute of East Africa entitled ‘Irreplaceable’.
Majoring in painting and fine art at Kenyatta University, Evans says he didn’t discover the artistic potential of found objects until he took a class with Anne Mwiti who suggested he try working with nontraditional art materials. He was already concerned about environmental issues. But ‘Irreplaceable’ is the first time he combines his keen interest in conservation with his ‘found’ paraphenalia.
“When people talk about conservation, they usually think of the Big Five, yet I wanted to show how smaller creatures are also endangered or soon will be,” he told BD Life.
That’s why he created everything from butterflies, ladybugs, peacocks and elephant for this show. “I also want to raise awareness that we need a whole new perspective of our planet; we need to preserve and protect it or we’re all going to suffer,” he adds.
Owls are also endangered species, Ngure notes. However, in most African cultures, owls are a bad omen and a symbol of death. “But in Western cultures, the owl is a symbol of wisdom,” he says, adding that he also hopes to raise awareness of this sort of cultural relativity.
“Even vultures are endangered,” Evans says as he explains how natural food chains can conflict with people’s cultures. “Vultures are diminishing because the Maasai are intentionally poisoning carcasses of cows to kill off lions who intrude upon their cattle herds. But since vultures go after the same carcasses, they are also poisoned.
Ngure hasn’t yet created a vulture collage, but he says he will. “I also want to create a bee series since bees are definitely endangered; yet they’re essential to the continuity of human, plant and animal life.”
Evans had his first solo exhibition back in 2011 at Paa ya Paa Gallery. Since then he’s exhibited at Nairobi National Museum, K1 Flea Market, the Owl’s Nest and Dusit D2 Hotel among and elsewhere.
Evans accessorized his own bag and hat
Best known for his jewelry, especially his quirky pendants, leather wrist cuffs and zip-handled earrings, Evans often exhibits at the Dusit D2 Hotel where a rotating array of local artists show their work every month.
One of Evans' Wind Chimes
But if he’s best known for his jewelry, he’s also notable for accessorizing everything from handbags and jewelry boxes to rabbit hutches and kitchen mops.
Calling his latest kitchen creation “Mop Justice’, Evans says the mop first got painted and then decorated with beads and found objects that he neatly stores in assorted ‘found’ containers.
“It all started when I couldn’t find a [suitably sized] bucket for my new mop. I finally got one at Gikomba [which is where he gets most of his art materials], but it was such a chore to find that I decided it deserved decorating,” he says, explaining where the term ‘Mop Justice’ came from.
Evans admits he has assistance from family members who, like him, are always on the lookout for discarded items that other people define as trash. His mom is good at collecting things at Gikomba and his brother has a motorcycle shop where spare parts get left behind regularly. That explains how a motorcycle gear-changer found its way into Evans’ Fish collage.
It also helps to understand how one can find so many umbrella spokes and handles in his art. The spokes form ‘feathers’ on his owl’s wings and the handles are the fins on his Fish.
Yet Evans’ ingenuity extends beyond the exhibition halls. He creates wind chimes and accessorized flower pots that could be classified as interior design. But whatever you call it, Evans’ artistry includes recycled junk at its best.
Evans with Phillda and Elimo Njau and Bush Bach ensemble