Wednesday, 27 March 2019

MANJANO AWARDS IGNORE INNOVATION IN ART

                                                                      Dickson Nedia

 By Margaretta wa Gacheru (27 March 2019)

Manjano Exhibition and Competition 2019 which opened and announced winners last weekend at Village Market was in some respects one of the best Manjano showcases of Kenyan art displayed since the competition began in 2010.
As GoDown’s managing director, Joy Mboya noted when introducing this year’s judges, Beatrice Wanjiku, Wambui Kamiru Collymore and Maggie Otieno, Manjano grew out of the former Nairobi Province Visual Art Exhibition, previously organized by the Ministry of Culture. But since GoDown took charge of the exhibition, the Kenyan art scene has grown by leaps and bounds. And Manjano has played its part in accelerating that growth process.
                                                                                       Mbuthia Maina

What made this year’s showcase special was the striking array of innovation that one could see in works that ranged from Kevo Stero’s Kibera Board Game (‘Kibera Tours’) to Moses Sabayi’s chess board-like clay sculptures (‘Power 1 & 2’) to Peter Walala’s metal-on-rubber ‘painting’ (entitled ‘Nairobi Under Pressure’) which was made with recycled bicycle pressure valves that the artist had carefully kept encased in a rubber square cut from each valve’s original tube.
                                                                                                 Moses Sabayi

But that was only the beginning of the innovative works that were featured in this year’s Manjano.
Dickson Nedia’s ‘Form ni Gani’, despite being hung in the VM’s parking lot in a far corner of the show, was still a crowd-stopper with its six super-realistic Kenyan faces, each sporting a pair of sunglasses which reflected a dozen scenes (two per pair) coming straight out of everyday Nairobi life.
Taabu Munyoki’s Third prize-winning painting (in the student category) also played with faces. Only she made hers multicolored and in 43 separate pieces stitched Mosetogether symbolically, given 43 is the usual number given for how many nationalities exist in Kenya.
                                                                                      Taabu Munyoki

Then there was Evans Ngure’s creation of a ‘Conductor’s Seat’, assembled out of various found objects, including two sets of bicycle wheel rims and spokes plus part of a bed frame. Evans wasn’t the only artist in the show to make creative use of junk. Mike Kyalo who normally paints in acrylics on canvas made a portrait of a ‘Housegirl Basking at Veranda’ using recycled tin cans on plywood. And James Dundi designed a ‘Kaunda Suit’ using recycled stitched metal.
The one artist who mixed turmeric with acrylic paint to create two monochromatic paintings, one the ‘Plight of Hawking’, another, “Marikiti Market Day” was Samuel Kamau Kariuki. His wasn’t the only artwork that illustrated street scenes (or elements thereof) in the show which is not surprising since artists’ interpretations of Nairobi is normally the theme of Manjano.

Others who were inspired to paint aspects of the city’s vibrant street life  included among others, Kelly Kinyua who humbly priced his paintings, Manyanja Road and Tom ‘Mboya Street’ affordably at Sh2000 and Sh4000 respectively; Andrew Chege whose ‘Dyu See it? (what got nicknamed ‘The Leaning Towers of Nairobi’) won second prize in the ‘professionals’ category. In the student class, Gohole Otto also won a second prize for his ‘Direct Orders’. Ironically, the street light he painted is rarely heeded in Nairobi.

This year’s exhibition was smaller than in year’s past, despite the number of artworks submitted topped 200. The judges did not award a first prize in the ‘professionals’ category because the one they’d selected got disqualified. They didn’t feel compelled to find a replacement among the remaining works, which didn’t seem quite fair. But as Joy put it, “It was their call.” But that meant no artist won the Sh300,000 first prize this year.
The second and third prizes in the professional class were Andrew Chege and Allan Kioko respectively.
First, second and third prizes in the student class went to Florin Mmkaka, Gohole Otto and Taabu Munyoki.
                        Michael Soi exhibited in Manjano 2019 and several years' back he won the 1st prize, Sh300,000

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