Nairobi 47 Reloaded: Dazzling photo exhibition outside National TheatreFriday January 20 2023
Steve Nderitu came up with an ingenious idea late last year. It was to create his own art gallery out of thin air.
“There are many professional photographers who wanted to exhibit their work but had nowhere to go,” he tells the BDLife.
Quite a few of them had been part of the ‘Nairobi 47’ exhibition that Karakana, a collaborative artists’ platform, curated back in 2017.
It is they who are among the 17 Kenyan photographers exhibiting in the “Nairobi 47 Reloaded’ showcase that you can still see if you pass by Kenya National Theatre today.
It opened on January 2nd and runs until the 20th.
The showcase is outside, in the open air. It has been hung under the giant maple tree that’s still standing between the Theatre, Ukumbi Mdogo, Cheche Gallery, and the Conservatoire.
All 60 images have been matted and attached to weather-proof ABS board, after which they were hung on mesh wire attached to soldered metal pipes, all designed by Nderitu working with fellow creatives.
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The photographers exhibiting include Evans Ogeto, Ronny Onkeo, Otieno Nyadimo, Stephen Ouma, Antony Trivet, Lucas Maranga, Derrick Milimo, John Gateru, Mutahi Chiira, Beks, Alex Kamweru, Humphrey Gateri, Kesh Nthamba, James Gitonyo, Alfred Mwangi, and Chintan Gohel.
The idea of the exhibition was to visually explore Nairobi from all different angles.
For instance, wildlife, which used to be the main focus of photographers in Kenya (remember the Big Five), is rarely portrayed except as they look like prisoners held inside the confines created ever since the SGR train line was channelled through what was meant to be the animals’ once-expansive home in Nairobi National Park.
There is also a fascination for skyscrapers and cityscapes in the collection. It’s seen both from the ground level and from aerial perspectives.
There are views of Nairobi by night and Nairobi by day.
And there are photos that are obviously photoshopped and others that are not, like Ronny Onkeo’s image of ‘Matatu art’ (where the tout swings like an acrobat in and out of his flying steed) and Onkeo’s Tailor (mistitled as a ‘Hairdresser’ despite his stitching intently behind his Singer sewing machine.)
There are also several action photographs of sportsmen in ‘Nairobi 47 Reloaded’, including one footballer intent on blocking a ball about to score a point for the other side.
Among the photoshopped is the most mysterious image in the show.
It is one I had to ponder for a time before I could see one man’s image duplicated and layered several times to create what looked almost like a human centipede.
Cultivating the craft
At a time when almost every Kenyan who has a smartphone fancies him or herself a photographer, it’s fun to see creatives appreciating the importance of still photographs fulfilling that old adage that ‘one picture is worth a thousand words’.
In fact, many people are cultivating the craft of photoshoots and also videos with their mobile phones.
But it still takes some training to move from being an enthusiastic amateur to becoming a professional photographer.
It seems that Karakana appreciates them both since ‘Nairobi 47 Reloaded’ features both aspiring amateurs and professionals.
It’s a show that merits seeing before it’s gone this weekend.
“The main reason we wanted the exhibition held outside was so that more people could see art,” Nderitu says.
“We could have taken the exhibition to many indoor spaces, including galleries. But we want art to be more accessible to people who might never set foot into an exclusive art gallery,” he adds, noting that Karakana plans to pay more attention to public art in the future.
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Since Karakana has been in the business of finding ways to encourage and promote the development of up-and-coming as well as professional creatives of all kinds, Nderitu has been curating a variety of events in assorted spaces, from Alliance Francaise and Cheche Gallery to Uhuru Park.
Among those events other than art exhibitions are public forums and dialogues that Karakana has been running since 2018.
“We have been holding discussions on a wide range of topics,” Nderitu says.
“One of them will be held today, [January 20th in the Cheche Gallery] at 5:30. The topic will be on ‘NFTs and Tech’.
The panellists will include Ngina Ndelo, an experimental digital and NFT creator, Tony Onkeo, a visual artist, Edmond Nonay, an audiovisual artist, and Chris Evans, a visual artist.
Among the topics they will discuss are ’making money for visual artists through NFTs’.