“Lamenting” Art By Brian Omolo @ Shift Eye Gallery Nairobi.

A Night In A Gallery Is All The Therapy You Need

Art convicts. It carries the soul of the artist.

We think and thus we are. We breathe and thus we dance. Cogito ergo sum. Life. This gift that comes dressed as a map. The reward being the journey you choose.

That’s the thing about art. It speaks to us because we connect to the artist’s journey. To their seasons. We affect each other’s tides and at times waves shift to carry you to a current that favors you. But then you resist. Because a shift is never comfortable. A shift is never painless. Pain precedes progress yet we would rather sail through the same current all our lives to avoid it. The bitter sweet comfort of inertia.

Last week I went to a gallery opening at Shift Eye gallery in Nairobi with a couple of friends. I was actually looking forward to the exhibition organized by HAART, a Nairobi based NGO called Awareness Against Human Trafficking, a few days earlier. But it turned out to be a particularly bleak weekend as I was cast into the murky waters of single-hood by my own folly. I have nothing against being single. However, I prefer when it happens by choice. I was broken. A shell holding myself up by duck-tape and copious amounts of juice. Literal juice. I had no appetite and a friend swore I looked thinner in 4 days. Maybe I did. I felt hollow. Desperately imperfect and torn. Given my state of mind, you can imagine why a gallery opening on slavery did not exactly tickle my fancy.

You don’t realize what you have until you don’t. Those words rang true. Especially then. See those friends that you have? Love them. Love them till they drop. Smother them with kindness until they can’t help but smile. Because your one gesture might be all the strength they needed to make it to the next day. They insisted I must go. I didn’t give much of a fight. Loneliness overwhelmed my instinct to hide indoors with my sadness.

An entire 30 minutes in, we were convinced that we were in for a raw deal because all we saw was this cool illustrated story on a wall. It was beautiful and meticulously done but this couldn’t be it. Could it?

Thank fully it wasn’t. Upstairs was where magic lay…

Art has a way of surprising you. Connecting with your deep seated fears. Outing your well hidden reservations. Confronting your most obstinate demons. Art convicts. It carries the soul of the artist. Their tears, triumphs and lessons. Something about sincerity makes it irresistible. The intangible pull that draws you in. Especially when you least expect it.

A couple of pieces speak to you, amuse you and startle you. Others break you. One in particular embodied the state of my soul on that day and I stood stunned for a moment. At times, solemn moments engulf you and beg to be recognized. To be felt. Their sheer weight begs you to bear them, ignoring the fact that you are trying hard to stay composed for you have company.

I’m glad I went. It turned out to be a good weekend. When you don’t know what to expect from an exhibition, that’s when you should go. Because then, you’ll be open to receiving the hearts which poured themselves into the work. And when you feel it, it will hit you straight in the gut. If not, you’ll pay homage to the hard work that went into it. Taking part in the emerging African renaissance.

You’re only free when you realize the depth of your inhibitions. Face your fears and reflect on your tears, for only then can you unhinge your mind from the shackles of yesterday.