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November 21, 2018

The next generation of Kenyan exhibitions

Mara Wildebeest Resort, Maasai Mara
Mara Wildebeest Resort, Maasai Mara

An art exhibition is something that we are yet to appreciate in Nairobi. For those who do not understand, an exhibition is a public display of works of art such as paintings and sculptures by artists.

The art objects may be showcased in halls, museums, art clubs, and at times in private art galleries. Some or all of the works are presented for sale, usually in private galleries. Sometimes exhibitions are organised on occasions like anniversary, a birthday, or commemoration.

By showcasing art, it allows people to appreciate it and possibly buy some of the works on display. By so doing, artists are able to get returns for their work, and raise money to meet the costs of the venue. Once upon a time, an art exhibition was a rare event in Nairobi.

This is because it took months, and sometimes years for an artist to create objects that meet a specific standard before they are presented to his or her audience.

With the business dynamics changing, and customers becoming increasingly discerning, young artists have joined the fray. This has led to an increase in the number of art fairs for drawings, pictures, sound, video,performance, installation and interactive art. The events are held at the National Museum, Alliance Francaise, Goethe Institut, Italian cultural institute, Kuona Trust, Paa Ya Paa, Banana Hill and Godown Trust among others.

 I recall an exhibition last year where there was a display of real garbage, packaged as art. After doing rounds in the exhibition hall, I realised that the artist had used garbage to symbolise our lousy lives. This sort of art shocked me because all along I thought art is only expressed on canvas, or soapstones in form of drawings or paintings.

 Recently, I was invited to an exhibition at the Kuona Trust, where Jua Kali artisans were showcasing their wares. Jua Kali, an informal sector in Kenya, contributes immensely to our country's economy. It is, therefore, only fair that we give the artisans the publicity they need to propel their business to a higher level.

If you think about it, there are no specific media under the law that an artist is supposed to use to express his feelings. Neither are there specific venues to hold art fairs. Perhaps, we should take advantage of the loopholes to have a variety of exhibits. Here are some of my suggestions:

 a) The tear exhibition

 In this art fair, we would proudly showcase the tears of Kenyans from all over the country. The tears would be held in vials and displayed in the gallery, and the source indicated.

You would expect to have different shades of tears depending on why the sources shed them. Kenyan coast would probably be the major supplier of 'tear arts' going by weeping of the residents over the loss of lives and destruction of properties following the serial attacks unleashed in Lamu county a month ago.

 Another source of this exhibit would be children assaulted by their parents or guardians to deter them from stealing Sh40. Tears would also come from Nairobians who cry because their significant others have not replied to their Whatsapp message sent days or weeks ago. Parents who have lost their children to the lethal brew would also showcase tears. An epic exhibition that would be!

 b) The timer exhibition

 This exhibition wouldn't focus on time like you are probably thinking as that would be too cliché. Some Nairobians can be quite tardy.

With the advent of cellphones, they have become worse as folks easily lie about their whereabouts. This exhibition would display timelines, which have elapsed, when a project by an individual or organisation would have been completed. You would expect to see “Lady planned to marry by 30” or “Gentleman planned to buy a car by 40”, or “Guy planned to move out of his parents home by 35.” In the company's section, you would see “Promised employee company retreat in 2008” or “Planned to move employees from a cyber cafe to a real office in 2010”. The government would showcase: “Promised to buy laptops for Standard One pupils within 100 days” or “Governor Kidero promised a flyover on Mombasa Road at Bellevue within weeks after a ground breaking in September 2013”.


Venue Review: Mara Wildebeest Resort, Maasai Mara

 Tourism business peaks this time of the year and there is no better time to check out some of the best that Kenya has to offer at a reasonable price.

I took advantage of the peak season and I headed to the Maasai Mara in Narok county to check out a resort in the area called the Mara Wildebeest Resort.

The place isn't that easily accessible as one gets there either by flying to the Mara North Airstrip or by tour vans, usually four by four vehicles.

I took an Air Kenya flight, which was charging US$170 ( about Sh30,000). This would have been a dent in my pocket. Fortunately, I was able to get a discounted flight at Sh13,000.

 When I arrived at the resort, I was welcomed by the staff. My focus, however, was the pub in the place as I happened to be 'very thirsty'. The pub has a “makuti” design that was commonplace in Nairobi in the 1990s. Its roof is thatched with papyrus. The bar counter contained some of the most popular drinks in the market.

They included wines from South Africa, spirits, liquors, whiskeys like Johnny Walker among others. My very cold Tusker retailed Sh300 at the time, although this was an offer price. The barman told me that the prices can shoot to Sh500 at times!

 Despite the high cost of drinks, the pub had more to offer than many other pubs that I have been to in this country. The bar sits on the banks of the Mara River, and from here I could see some hippos frolicking in the river in the early evening.

The environment is serene and has fresh air, free from hustle and bustle in the city that I am used to. It was so relaxing, and I therefore can't complain about their rates.

 Eventually, I retired and I got a banda, which under normal circumstances costs Sh16,000 per person. However, it only cost me US$100 (Sh8,700) because the uptake of tourists is a bit slow this year. I have to say I was quite lucky.

A quick recap of the venue;

Good: Clean washrooms, great service, awesome décor inspired by nature, TV for those who must watch football

Bad: Not easily accessible

My verdict: A night out of town that cost me Sh21,000 in overheads in one of the most sought out travel destinations on the planet. What's not to like?

Poll of the day