Art auction: Gems go on sale for animal welfare

Mshano Mzuguno’s ‘elephants in a vineyard’ during the exhibition at the Spinners Web in Nairobi on May 22, 2024.

Photo credit: Margaretta wa Gacheru | Nation Media Group

There is a gem of an art exhibition that has been continuing all this past week at Spinners Web. It will continue this coming Saturday night with an art auction at Muthaiga Club featuring nearly all the same artists and several more.

Both group shows were curated by Philippa Crosland-Taylor who knows nearly all the artists personally, so the selection is essentially her personal choice. Fortunately, she has excellent taste and a keen eye for up-and-coming talent, no matter if they are Kenyan, which most of them are, or from somewhere else.

The ones from outside are either from elsewhere in Africa, from Uganda, Tanzania, Congo, Nigeria, Sudan, or Zanzibar, or from Europe, from either Belgium, England, Germany, or US, or India.

And the Kenyans are from all over the country from either Laikipia, Ruiru, Teso, Ngecha, Nyanza or Banana Hill. Nonetheless, most are currently based in and around Nairobi where we are currently witnessing a spate of beautiful new artworks and emerging artists springing up ever since the Covid-19 lockdown was lifted and one found her/himself living in a different, new Kenya (for better or worse).

The two exposes are essentially fund-raisers for the KSPCA (Kenya Society for the Protection and Care of Animals) which is Kenya’s leading animal welfare body, and a society that Philippa has been a supporter and advocate for many years.

“I’ve been fostering more dogs than I can count and finding them new homes, for as long as I’ve been here,” she told BD Life on the opening day of the Exhibition. “Now I own two rescue dogs who don’t appreciate all these strange dogs coming in and out of his home, so I’ve had to slow down. But I love being in support of KSPCA which operates wholly through the support of private individuals,” she added.

Valerie Rusina's 'gaze of Gaia' during the exhibition at the Spinners Web in Nairobi on May 22, 2024.

Photo credit: Margaretta wa Gacheru | Nation Media Group

Philippa also loves Kenyan art, which is how she came up with the idea of the exhibition and auction. Most of the funds raised will go towards facilitating the merger of KSPCA with the TNR Trust. Both bodies are committed to animal welfare which has been particularly challenging since the outset of the Covid-19 lockdown. That’s when many animal owners fled Kenya, leaving behind their dogs and cats to fend for themselves. That’s when KSPCA was inundated with animals who had nowhere to go other than the street or KSPCA which has tried to accommodate them all.

TNR is in the process of linking up with KSPCA since both bodies are committed to both animal and human health and wellbeing. But TNR is especially concerned that animals do not transmit Rabies or have too many babies. So they periodically head out to communities where stray dogs and cats are Tracked, then Neutered and vaccinated for rabies, and finally Released back to their neighbourhoods where they are no longer a threat to human beings.

Mary Collin's 'gardens at Fairseat' during the exhibition at the Spinners Web in Nairobi on May 22, 2024.

Photo credit: Margaretta wa Gacheru | Nation Media Group

TRN has had Kenyan artists supporting them in the past. One Off Gallery has helped organize those fundraiser exhibitions. This time round we’re seeing a whole new blend of artists including well-known names like El Tayeb, Xavior Verhorst, Mary Collis, Sophie Walbeoffe, Abusharia Ahmed, Yassir Ali, Bezalel Ngabo, and the late Timothy Brooke and Yony Waite. And among Kenyans, you will see works by names like Patrick Kinuthia, Samuel Njuguna Njoroge, Sebastian Kiarie, Mike Kyalo, Derrick Munene, Evanson Kangethe, and Morris Foit.

Plus there are new-comers to me that I was excited to see for the first time or else after a long time. They included artists like Mshana Mzuguno, Martin Kamuyu, Elias Bahati, Nannelle Sole, Peter Kenyanya, Hussein Halfawi, Achieng Owino, Solomon Muchemi, Issam Halfiez, Valerie Rusina, and Harrison Karanja who was introduced to art by graffiti artists Bankslave and Swift 9.

Spinners Web 5

Samuel Nuguna Njoroge's matatus during the exhibition at the Spinners Web in Nairobi on May 22, 2024.

Photo credit: Margaretta wa Gacheru | Nation Media Group

It’s a glorious mix of what is essentially a global exhibition. Fortunately, both the public art show at Spinners Web and the auction were not confined to only images of animals, be they wild or domesticated. There are plenty of Zebra, the most fun and funky are by Elias Bahati and Elijah Oolo (which is on the catalogue cover of the open exhibition), while there are several charming perspectives of elephants starting with Sophie Walfeoffe’s ‘Mother and child’ on the catalogue cover for the art auction. It’s followed by Patrick Imanjama and ones by Mshana Mzugumo. One will also find guinea fowl, and water buffalo. Birds of all types, and a whole herd of [her] camels.

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.