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Art

Museum bans works by three of Kenya’s finest artists

Bertiers Mbatia’s spouse beating sculpture (left) and Patrick Mukabi's painting (right) which were banned from Museum Day. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG
Bertiers Mbatia’s spouse beating sculpture (left) and Patrick Mukabi's painting (right) which were banned from Museum Day. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG  

The fine art of three of Kenya’s most acclaimed visual artists have just been censored by the management of the National Museums of Kenya.

The exhibition of works by Patrick Mukabi, Michael Soi and Bertiers Mbatia was meant to open yesterday, coincidentally with the National Museum’s celebration of the International Museum Day.

The irony of the museum management’s decision is that the theme of the day is Speaking the Unspeakable in Museums. So for the museum to tell the artists on the day before the exhibition opening that their artwork is essentially ‘‘unspeakable’’ is contradictory to say the least. On social media, the museum management’s decision was more precisely called “hypocritical”.

But the Museum’s argument is that its main audience is school children.

Their decision is apparently based on the notion that the art would be ‘‘inappropriate’’ for children to see.

As I was informed by the Museum’s Creativity Gallery curator Lydia Galavu that all the art was packed up, so I couldn’t see them first hand.

But whatever the works contained that caused the Museum management to take the drastic action of banning the art of three of Kenya’s most esteemed artists, there was clearly a breakdown of communication between the Museum and the artists. What makes matters worse is that all three artists were specifically asked by the Museum to create art especially for International Museum Day.

THEME

According to Mukabi, they’d been encouraged to feel free to create works that were in keeping with the theme, which made the last minute decision to effectively ban their art even more disturbing.

Michael Soi says he spent a good month preparing for the exhibition.

One can only hope the artists’ works can be shown elsewhere so the public can see what three outstanding artists envisage as ‘‘speaking the unspeakable’’ in any venue other than the National Museum.

Meanwhile, on the performing arts front, tonight through Sunday, Moliere’s Tartuffe (The Imposter) will be staged at Ukumbi Ndogo.

Then, tomorrow the Point Zero Book Club meets from 11am to talk about books and see The Performance Collective dramatise those same books.

And Kenya Cultural Centre’s new Performing Arts Academy’s registration is still open to fill the last few spaces for this semester.

Finally, the European Union’s 26th Film Festival runs through Sunday at Alliance Francaise and through Tuesday at Louis Leakey Auditorium.

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