Bold exhibition explores the pain of Substence misuse

Before you step foot into the Kuona gallery (an exhibition space willing to take the risk on edgy exhibitions) you will likely know the theme of the exhibition, from the leaflets and posters advertising the show. ‘Enjoy Responsibly’  is a universally a well-recognised phrase.

Coincidentally, in the past weeks the Kenyan press has shown impounding of 385 different brands of apparently illegal, sub-standard liquor. This is due to a number of people having died at the mercy of these sometimes 70% proof spirits.  Many favourite spirits banned, and public figures ‘Chiefs / Assistant Chiefs’ exposed and sacked for profiting on these brews.

Curated by Thom Ogonga this show also includes established artists such as Peterson Kamwathi who shows a video, Anthony Okello, and Kamicha.  As well as newer to the scene artist Maral Bolouri, who investigates cultural values and cross-cultural differences.

The art work It is John Kamicha’s work that successfully interrogate the title in all its pain and complexity.

Although I do like Anthony Okello’s rather wonderful green men and women diagram piece, Radioactive Chain seems to be saying:

  • Surely this is about a collective responsibility? Find solutions in working together as society not blaming individuals

In the depiction of Boys wa mkali – ‘The bad boys’ we see a playful but serious pun on the boys who drink alcohol for breakfast. Spirit bottle labels are folded into milk carton shaped triangles, implying that instead of Chai for breakfast, alcohol is on the menu. These Boys wa mkali cut out in sculpture with warped almost bird like face features, are conjoined together by an orange river of warmth.

Anthony Okello, ‘Radioactive Chain’ Paper cutout
Anthony Okello, ‘Radioactive Chain’ Paper cutout
Anthony Okello, ‘Radioactive Chain’ Paper cutout
Anthony Okello, ‘Radioactive Chain’ Paper cutout

 

Detail: Maral Bolouri ‘Untitled’ Photocopy transfer, Pen, Watercolour, Paper
Detail: Maral Bolouri ‘Untitled’ Photocopy transfer, Pen, Watercolour, Paper
Detail: Maral Bolouri ‘Untitled’ Photocopy transfer, Pen, Watercolour, Paper
Detail: Maral Bolouri ‘Untitled’ Photocopy transfer, Pen, Watercolour, Paper
John Kamicha ‘Boys wa makali’ Mixed Media / Ply Wood
John Kamicha ‘Boys wa makali’ Mixed Media / Ply Wood
John Kamicha ‘Boys wa makali’ Mixed Media / Ply Wood
John Kamicha ‘Boys wa makali’ Mixed Media / Ply Wood

Their legs consist of collage of found images on DVD, reminiscent of religious paintings by masters of The Renaissance. The artist referencing ideology of our culture, making popular DVD characters into possible religious figures.

John Kamicha ‘Boys wa Makali’ Mixed Media / Ply Wood
Detail: John Kamicha ‘Boys wa Makali’ Mixed Media / Ply Wood

In Instead of the war on Poverty we got the war on Alcohol features painful looking colourful staples in a visually beautiful pattern joining Lesso materials together. Possibly a metaphor for Kenyan multiple identities. The mask head is a reflexive comment on the tradition of African culture, and reminds the viewer of their assumption of ‘african art’ by modernising it with some specs.

 Detail: John Kamicha ‘Instead of War on Poverty, They Got War on Alcohol’
Detail: John Kamicha ‘Instead of War on Poverty, They Got War on Alcohol’

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