Most times, art has been confined to galleries and private collections, but the aspect of public art has been around for quite sometime.
In Kenya, there are quite a lot of spaces for public art, ranging from parks, hospitals and halls, among others. It is from this perspective that artists from Kuona Trust decided to donate a variety of art pieces to the Pumwani Maternity Hospital, Nairobi, in a project termed as 'A Beautiful Delivery.'
Wambui Kamiru, the project lead, considers art one of the best ways to contribute to making the world a better place.
“I think each of us can contribute to make the world a better place through talent and what we do. We do not have to wait for someone else to do this when we can,” she says.
The inspiration to start this project started when Wambui was invited by her friend, a doctor at Pumwani, to go and see how she works. While at the ante-natal clinic, she found that the walls were too stark, like a blank canvas, and that's how she decided to start the project.
The main aim of the project is to demonstrate the need and utility of art in public spaces. With the presence of art in hospitals, the patient is able to be distracted from their experience, and thus benefit from the healing power of art, beside its beauty.
She adds that one of the main reasons they chose Pumwani Hospital was because art can have an impact in a healing space, as it not only increases staff morale but also creates an environment where the patients feel more secure and creates a sense of faith in the institution.
One of the things that stood out in the paintings donated was the the calmness they offered. From realist to abstract, most of the paintings give a sense of tranquility in their subjects and the use of colour.
Pascal Chuma, one of the artists, said the project is one of the best ways to create awareness for art. He was one of the many artists that responded to the call to donate their art to the hospital.
“Artists can now give art to the community to make the ladies (at the hospital) not stare at blank walls but instead get art therapy to help them forget their pain and not to see life as a punishment,” he said.
Chuma runs the Bobea Art Centre in Donholm, donated two pieces of his art as well as three more pieces from the students at the centre, namely Sarah Kaloki, Victor Opiyo and Duncan Odeny.
“We nurture talents in the youth and children so that they can take it as a real job,” he added.
Kevin Oduor's contribution was a double-seater metallic bench with tree trunks as legs. To make it useful, not only is every part of the bench detachable to make it easy to transport, but also the tree trunks are treated to prevent termite attack. Oduor is known for the Dedan Kimathi's statue in the CBD, and is a renown sculptor with a variety of works both locally and internationally.
Tonney Mugo, who has worked with glass art in a variety of religious institutions, also contributed stain glass installation to the hospital. Brian Omolo, an illustrator, donated his poster art pieces. Anne Mwiti, known for her use of colour and line to highlight mystic and sensual exploration in paintings, contributed two pieces as well.
According to Sylvia Gichia, the director of Kwani, the project is one of the ways to bring out art to the public while at the same time encourage artists to go back to the community and create their art. For them, it is also a way to give mothers the chance to interact with art and enjoy the beautiful space offered.
According to Wambui, she was impressed by the type of response she received from the artists.
“It was a privilege to have the art work here,” she said, adding that more artists are willing to give artwork, and that there needs to be an organised structure such as partnering with the government to provide public spaces.
“I am grateful to Samani Construction, who supported us by installing the pieces, and I would do it again if more corporates step up to support the cause.”
The project does not stop there as there are quite a number of projects in store, including the painting of a mosaic at the hospital by Juhudi Children's Club, which had also worked on a mosaic at the Kenyatta National Hospital and Nakuru General Hospital. There will also be a granite sculpture of a pregnant woman almost about to give birth, placed right in front of the hospital.
The facelift will change the plain images of the hospital walls into something interesting, aside from the educational posters on child care. It has also brought out a lot of conversations around art and the function of art as well as the spaces available for the art.