Art Highlights of 2016

To shape the future, we must understand the past, to make changes in the present.

1. Dennis Muraguri creates visual art that makes the viewer think. Post-colonialism, neo-colonialism, capitalism, urban studies are all themes discussed in his work.

Dennis Muraguri’s exhibition at Circle. I would highly recommend reading this interview (page 9 of the exhibition catalog) with artist Jackie Karuti  I wish I could purchase the installation, ‘Dream in Alien’ Dennis Muraguri 2016, made from plastic toys.

Dennis Muraguri

‘Dream in Alien’ Dennis Muraguri 2016, plastic toys.  Photo:      Maral Bolouri / @maral_bolouri Instagram


Detail: ‘Dream in Alien’ Dennis Muraguri 2016, plastic toys/ Photo: Evans Gichuki  @darity100/ Instagram

It’s joyous and funny.

But I also want to know what the artist considers about the significance of these little found toys. – pondering consumerism, capitalism, Disney- type hyper-real? … and what does alien mean?

Jackie the Third (Jackie III) In The Case of Books an ongoing performance work is based around the communal ritual of dusting, cleaning and arranging library books. A key part of the performance is around the conversations that happen on the anatomy of knowledge, place of books, relevance of libraries, and the myths and rituals within participating individuals and the organisation or institution. Please see here.

  •  Installation at The Goethe Institute Nairobi in a solo show titled Where Books Go To Die
  • These images below are screenshots of that installation from videos by Mark Kiarie and David Githonga

Cyrus Ng’anga Kabiru –  TED Fellow 

  • These sculptures are situated in the bounderies of performance, wearable sculpture and commodity objects
  • Artist Cyrus Kabiru constructs narratives through photography, sculpture and rumour – each set of glasses has its own story – its own title.
  • Collaborations with: TED, Tuska Beer, Guinness, Milan Fashion week, and curators in London, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bilbao, Barcelona, Nairobi and Kampala. Kabiru’s recognisable unique work has been re-produced on the internet, it is not an exaggeration to say, millions of times.
  •  What is rarely described, but is actually the most fascinating part of these artworks, are the titles of each of these glasses. Each of these has a unique narrative, yet are rarely referenced on Instagram, news stories or video interviews.
    • The series on prisons; ‘Haiti’ (the most overcrowded prison in the world); ‘Madiba’ (concerning Mandela’s detention on Robben Island); ‘Manyishi Wundanyi’, (where Kabiru’s grandfather was imprisoned as a Mau Mau ‘rebel fighter’, now re-termed ‘freedom fighter’, as part of the recognition that Kenya, as a nation, has for the Mau Mau uprising during colonial times;
    • the series on African leaders; title such as Mugabe, or The Dictator;
    • Individual titles such as: Texas Windows, 2009; Yellow Fever, Chinese Train.



Dennis Muraguri –  Handmade woodcut prints, acrylic paintings, mixed-media installations. PLS SEE TEXT BELOW FROM 2013 NEWSPAPER ARTICLE by Zihan Kassam

  • Socially engaged, urban subject of the Matatu that naturally brings up questions around power, street performance, economics…the list is endless.

(Photo credit Audience member viewing the installation during the exhibition ‘Matatu Games’ Wachira Mwangi)

Muraguri tells us about his fascination with matatu culture. He sees the positive, comical side. He describes the manamba (conductor) hanging off the matatu or dancing in the street as the matatu keeps moving only to jump back on the bus just in time to speed off. “It is street art,” he shares, “It’s unorchestrated, unchoreographed street theatre. You ask yourself why one matatu gets a passenger and another doesn’t, even if they charge less. It’s because they know how to flirt to get the attention. It’s all part of the business.” Muraguri discusses matatu laws; laws that are happily ignored. As he engages the guests, they sit together cozily surrounded by two mixed media-sculptures; two vibrant woodcut prints depicting matatus in all their crooked glory; three partially painted-over photographs of a red matatu with the word ‘Neocolonised’ sprayed across the back, and a giant painting that is mostly black and white with some bright colours for dramatic effect. The painting ‘Matatu 4 Governor’ portrays the manamba hanging out of a matatu, one arm raised high as if vying for presidency. The vehicle is decorated with a jumble of popular iconography which includes an image of Kenyatta International Conference Centre and State House. Your eye is drawn to the mandatory yellow band that is legally required of them. It must state starting point and the destination. Bold text along the bottom reads, “Manyanga. Music. Mischief & Mayhem.'” Alluding to the rigged elections Kenya is famous for, there is a big ballot box with a voting slip painted on the bottom right of the painting. “It’s all kind of self-explanatory,” says Muraguri. With a ‘Matatu 4 Governor’ slogan across the top it’s hard to miss the point; the matatu driver epitomizes Kenya in all its wonder and dysfunction. Muraguri’s art is meant to be provocative and humorous but it’s also highly intuitive. He portrays matatu men as relentless artists (decorate their vehicles despite the laws) and voyeurs (always on the road and know where the city is headed). He addresses the decay of Kenyan society and the tragedy of sleaze that permeates this town. A good conversation with Muraguri reveals that he is still cheeky but it’s definitely the good kind of mischief. The kind that makes us question the world around us, rather than just staying stagnant.

Text credit: Zihan Kassam

Video featuring Muraguri, (artist featured at 7min30).