As Sunday the November 12 faded into afternoon, the blistering sun resisted the urge to find solace in the clouds that had started invading the sky. Defying the heat, I walked to Polka Dot Art Gallery at the heart of Nairobi’s Karen Estate. My main aim was to meet a university don with a certain disdain towards only the spreading of abstract thoughts from the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and the rest of renaissance art in the four corners of the class, but actually practices what she teaches. The name of the Lecturer is Ann Ntinyari Mwiti.
As I made my way into the gallery, I was greeted with a cool breath of the sashaying trees and the calm audience that came leisurely to immerse themselves into the meticulous art. ‘The Perfect Fit’ exhibition is a solo exhibition by Ann Mwiti a Kenyatta University Lecturer department of Fine Art Design. As of present, she is the only art lecturer in Kenya who practices her craft as well as teach it. Fascinating enough is that she designed the course that she lectures, an achievement she is proud of.
The exhibition at Polka Dot represents the way we view people from various levels of society. It is our perception that has inspired the amiable lecturer to create her images in varying sizes. For instance, her pieces ‘I am A King’ (115x86cm) and ‘The Hero Dad’ (122x92cm) are bigger than the ‘Driver’ painting which is 40x40cm. This represents the value we instill in hierarchy. Ann evokes a bigger debate that is our everyday judgment of the characters around us. Her work questions basic communal relationships and segregation that have been the hallmark of national tribalism façade and international racism. Her art ponders why there still exists stereotypes when the global village has become the norm. She establishes the adage that every individual in society is part of that society irrespective of position and social status and they need to be treated with the respect and importance that their role represents because without them the society will descend into chaos.
Ann’s work is not that easy to interpret, unless one is curious enough to question the colour, the size, the material and the brushstrokes, finger strokes and every other piece of fabric that goes into building her work. It is such deftness and abstract expressionism that puts her in the class of renaissance artists and better still, gives a very distinct angle to what she does.
Ann is the 2014 winner of the World Citizen Award for her work ‘A Stitch in Time.’ World Citizen is a global organization which aims to promote social awareness through art. In 2014, the theme was “Compete for Peace – Not War.” It is within this confine that Ann created a mixed media piece that was evaluated for a very long time before it was chosen as winner. In fact, the organizers changed their mind at the very last minute. Ann learned that she had been chosen winner while attending the exhibition of the top ten works of the competition at the Belgrava Gallery, Mayfair. Meanwhile she had previously been told that she was second place. The complexities of her works perhaps?
Ann divides her day between teaching and working on art. Her dedication has seen many young people realize their potential. Furthermore, her inimitable energy and passion has led to an increase in the number of young people who take Visual Arts course at their under graduate and graduate level. However, she is disturbed that Art is not taken serious in Kenyan lower levels of education forcing universities to design courses that can fit those who have art background and those who don’t, which according to her is not appropriate.
The Perfect Fit exhibition ends November 30