April Kamunde is a painter born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. She works primarily in oils creating paintings that tell intimate and personal stories. Through soft and delicate brush strokes, her subjects, oftentimes placed into a natural, lush environment, radiate a gentle and natural presence. While often working from an autobiographical origin, her work leans into shared experiences, making it relatable across audiences and intending to explore and ignite conversations.
Her recent body of work explores meanings of rest and the pursuit of it, from a personal and feminist angle. The work is driven by personal reflection and response to feelings of weariness triggered by her recent experiences of the pandemic, a rapidly changing world and the endeavor to live a successful and fulfilling life in fast-paced Nairobi, one of Africa’s mega cities:
“I invite the audience to peer into the moments of pause and introspection being experienced by the women featured in the work. I explore what it looks like to choose one’s self, to take up space, to slow down and unburden one’s self in today’s demanding world.”
The Dera (a long Somali dress), features prominently in the series. The dress is usually designed to fit loosely, giving ample room for aeration and movement. In Nairobi, it has grown in popularity, especially as loungewear. To Kamunde, the Dera serves as a “Do Not Disturb” sign for the women who wear it, signaling “me-time” and the reclamation of their energy. The natural fauna, her women are placed into, serves as yet another antidote to, as well as withdrawal from their every-day performances of societal and cultural roles and expectations.
After spending 17 years doing portraiture commissions, Kamunde transitioned into full-time practice in late 2020. Her work has been shown in the group exhibitions Walking the Edge (Afriart Gallery, 2022), Shapes of Water (Afriart Gallery, 2023), and Eastern Voices: Contemporary Art from East Africa (Addis Fine Art, London, 2023). She participated in 154 Contemporary African Art Fair London, Art X Lagos, INVESTEC Cape Town Art Fair and African Galleries Now x Artsy in 2023. In 2022, she completed a three-month residency at Silhouette Projects, Kampala.