Tiny Art Gift Show opens its floodgates

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One of Peter Ngugi's 32 pigs displayed at One Off Gallery in Nairobi on December 10, 2022. PHOTO |  MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

Now is the time to make one’s way to One Off Gallery as it has become a delightfully crowded domain filled with a vast and varied assortment of creative ideas, many of which are well suited for giving as gifts over the holidays.

As of Tuesday, December 6, without any fanfare or major social media marketing, the ‘Tiny Art Gift Show’ opened its floodgates.

Full to overflowing with miniature masterpieces, there are works by veterans of the One Off team, like Anthony Okello and Peter Ngugi, as well as newcomers to Carol Lees’ committed coterie of artists, Patrick Karanja and Elias Mongora.

There is also a whole batch of new artists in the Gallery, young’uns who responded to One Off’s online call to get involved in making miniatures, like Nunde Bulima and others.

What is still more impressive about this multifaceted collection is that there seems to be no limit to either the quality or quantity of the art that has arrived at One Off gallery.

It posed a few challenges to the curators, as when Peter Ngugi brought more than 40 of his tiny colourful pig paintings made with stencils and filled in with the artist’s multicoloured pallets.

Ngugi has also given his pigs a three-dimensional effect to enhance their charm. But they still could not all go on display at once.

“We only had room for 32 of his pigs,” Carol told BDLife as we counted four rows of eight across on one wall that Ngugi shared with everyone from Sebawali Sio, Zephania Kukamba, James Kamande, and the Yegonizer to Benard Musyoki, Edward Muratha, Patrick Karanja, Ndunda Bulima and many more.

The problem of space was ultimately sorted out effectively since Carol, (who has been curating even before One Off was born back in 1994) is a master of wall space.

She managed to hang the miniatures efficiently so that nothing looked squeezed, despite having one long corridor wall on which now hangs most of the miniatures.

“There’s another wall around the corner [at the entrance of the Stables],” Olivia Howland told us as she ushered us to see her four linocut prints of incredible insects, including a Picasso beetle, which she had drawn with meticulous attention to the bug’s elegant wing designs.

Yegonizer's mini-series at One Off Gallery in Nairobi on December 10, 2022. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

One other printmaker whose dry point etchings made it to that same wall was Abdul Kipruto. Coming with him from the Brush tu Artists Collective were Lincoln Mwangi and Michael Musyoka.

Patrick Mukabi’s paintings were also there as were those of Leo Mativo, Ango Joe, Tracy Thomas, Mike Obanda, Tony Bulimu, Baraka Samia and others.

Back along the corridor connecting One Off’s two exhibition spaces is a long table where more miniatures, mainly sculptures, reside.

Some do not remain there for long as I watched as Beni Rumasha’s sweet coster-size paintings were bought. The buyer blushed when someone opened up his beautifully packaged set of Rumasha’s works for no reason other than to snoop and find out the price — Sh2,000 each.

“I just got them ‘cause I think they are the tiniest paintings ever exhibited at One Off,” James Muriuki told BDLife while failing to mention they were probably meant to be Christmas gifts.

Also on that long table were three small plate-like oil paintings on paper-thin wood by Rashid Diab who created them last week while he was visiting Kenya from Khartoum.

He had come for the opening of his solo exhibition at Red Hill Gallery, which is still up. Then, right next to Rashid’s painted plates came Ato Malinda’s painting of a classically red poinsettia leaning on a mini-easel.

And further down the table lay a series of recycled bike-chain sculptures by Simon Muriithi. Then, in the same stylistic vein, an artist named Napster used recycled car parts to create a welded reindeer.

Meanwhile, in the main Stables continues the solo exhibition ‘Liberation’ by Ehoodi Kichapi (aka Jesse Nga’nga). His is an exuberant and colourful proclamation of his freedom.

Asked what he’s been liberated from, Kichapi is quick to name the demons that have been cast out of his life. “Alcohol is the big one,” he tells BDLife.

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Ato Malinda's Poinsettias in miniature at One Off Gallery in Nairobi on December 10, 2022. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

“I was going to die, I was told by my doctor if I didn’t stop drinking,” he says. It wasn’t easy at first since he had been looking for means to escape his depression and paranoia.

“But I defeated the demons with loving support from family and friends,” he adds.

Also having a solo show in The Loft is Annick Mitchell whose animal portraits are entitled ‘Horn of Change’.

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