Ngene Mwaura’s collection dubbed ‘Reclamation’

The Art of Brokenness — An exhibition on reclamation

There is a courage in embracing brokenness that inspires others to do the same

Living. The thing about life is that we do not appreciate it until it’s gone. Until we are in the final moments. When we face the inevitability of mortality. When we realize the finality of time.

To live is fatal. It ends. A simple truth. Infinite hopes and dreams nested within a finite realm of time and being. The humanity dilemma. Our energies beg for a higher expression of themselves but are dimmed. We allow them to dim down and eventually die out. Merely existing. A worse fate than death.

Reclamation. The redefining of self and exploration of who you are. This was the theme behind the exhibition by Ngene Mwaura at the Art Space, Nairobi. He is an artist who recently moved back to Kenya from 12 years in California. Although his reason for returning home is sad, he took his tragedy and turned it into beautiful works of art.

Ngene Mwaura talking about reclamation

When you examine the pieces of you, the fragments that make who you are as a person, many things come into play. Your DNA, your thoughts, your choices, your beliefs. Life in itself is a miracle. The sum totally of a fusion of two souls and a cherry on top. We have fragments of each other within us. Some more than others. Probably why you sometimes feel an unexplained bond towards a stranger. The mysteries of life that we’ll only know once we meet the author of our genesis.

Ngene Mwaura was wrought of the union of a deeply religious mum and a free spirit atheist dad. A curious child who learnt diplomacy from infancy. Knowing what to say, whom to say it to and when to say it.

The project began after the demise of his mum in 2014. The pieces inspired by this time evoke deep contemplation. With their darker hues, earthy tones and intricate patterns, you can’t help but get an essence of who she was. Of what she represented in the family. She was the rock that held them, the voice of reason and practicality.

His dad was the storyteller, the dreamer and he followed his wife into eternal sleep shortly, in 2015. Ngene Mwaura, then returned to Kenya to stay in the village in which he grew up. The tranquility of the Kenyan countryside and the need to re-calibrate led to the creation of the rest of the pieces in the collection. The work representing his father is colorful and radiant with the same intricate detailing and patterns, probably representing the presence he radiated in his family.

In hindsight, people are either idealized or demonized. Or both. Ngene spoke of the heart wrenching reality of never having the chance to ever speak to his parents again, but also of all the lessons that stood out looking back. All their flaws that gnawed at him. All their virtues that now fortify him.

He chose to use masks as the medium in his pieces because faces tell tales that words need not reiterate. Each scar, each line, each dent has a tale. The stories of our lives are told in the canvas of our faces.

The beauty of art is that it reflects emotions that words cannot substantiate. It embodies a depth that words can’t express. It’s highly personal. There’s a courage in embracing brokenness that inspires others to do the same. When you realize the liberating ability of vulnerability, you can never be trapped inside yourself.

This is definitely an exhibition worth attending. The pieces are still showing until the end of this week so make your way down to the Art Space. Buy some pieces for your house or office.

It’s a bit confusing to find the Art Space, so here is the simplified version. As you drive along riverside drive off Waiyaki way, just past the Chiromo campus gate, take the left turn just before the footbridge. The only gate to your left is it. Dear Art Space humans, some form of signage would be great. Maybe a sculpture or a semblance of art to give a taste of all the fantastic art inside? That said, check out the Art Space Facebook page and be on the lookout for their new website launching soon. See you at the next exhibition.