STATE OF THE ART

You may judge a nation’s rank in the scale of civilisation from the way they treat their women.

So much happens in our lives, sometimes fast or slow, we forget to feel, love, live, laugh… If you are keen enough, sometimes you hear your body speak. Your friends will a couple of times mention how fat you are, thin, glowing, sad, chubby, stressed or happy. Well most times your body is trying to have a conversation with you. Listen to it, and listen carefully.

Patrick is about 5’6, or 7, a thick bundle of dreaded hair with white patches hang comfortably on his head. On his face, sits a thick black beard with grey patches. His small eyes have a little glitter on them, as if he has a different view of the world from the common man. I bet he does. If you stripped off his shirt, trimmed the beard and cuffed him he’d pass for Kimathi. Dedan of course.

Patrick Mukabi

He’s been painting for the last twenty years. His favourite tool; the human body. He works a lot with what the human body feels. ‘Everyday subjects and the language they chose to speak’ he says. You will find him taking long walks around markets, public spaces, observing women and children mostly. He then saves a mental image or two and gets to his lab. Most of his work has lots of sketches. These, he insists, are to create compositions to explain his art.

Every sketch has a story line in his art. “Women and children…,” he discovered, “create a vivid visual explanation of the society. The vital agency of womanhood in the generation and the progress of a race, community, tribe…is conceded before it is even stated. The influence of the woman on social progress is one of their most powerful tools. Man, on the other hand is a weak being. And consciously before took measures to suppress women. He still is, consciously and unconsciously.”

Patrick works hard, he even quotes Bob’s ‘Ten Thousand Hours’. On his pieces, he works mostly where the light falls, giving his background a fading shadow. That is his trademark. ‘I haven’t made it there yet. So I’ll keep working.’ He says. On a good day, he’d make close to half a million Kenyan Shillings. He then invests half his profits back into his art. He is renowned in the Kenyan art scene. Art has earned a living for him for a long time now. He even had to slow down a bit and spend some time at home, and get some little rest.

His explanation of women reflecting the state of the society takes me to Ursula Le Guin’s ‘The ones who Walk Away from Omelas’ . Omela is a Utopian city where everyone has everything they need, and they are all ‘happy’. The city though, depends on the unending misery of a single child. Every inhabitant upon reaching adolescent is informed about the child and taken to see it. They are shocked, disturbed and some; few, the ones who walk away, choose to leave the city. Most, not surprisingly enough come to terms with the injustice as the price to pay for their perfect society. Sounds familiar yet?

Patrick showcasing his Art Gallery at The Den Pop Art Gallery, Nairobi

Almost everyday, you take a matatu to town and sit quietly as a donda hustles up a young lady, an old woman, either hurling insults, catcalls or abuses. Almost everyday, you sit by, watch a woman get humiliated for being a woman. You act or think in degrading ways towards them. We men all have; I have. I regret it, and I am learning. I will walk away when I have done something about it. To all the women out there… Do not allow anything to conquer you! For Patrick, he will keep fighting for women. And he will encourage them to stand up for their rights.

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