November 26, 2022 - January 28, 2023
April Kamunde, Boniface Maina, Elias Mung’ora, Florence Wangui, Lemek Sompoika, Onyis Martin, Paul Onditi & Peterson Kamwathi
Walking the Edge is a group exhibition
showcasing eight artists from, and currently based in Kenya. As diverse as
their artistic practice is, they are, however, united by their extraordinary
ways to explore their subject matter intellectually and poetically, and
courageously pushing boundaries of the known and familiar for themselves and
Pushing boundaries, here, may be
perceived as entering a liminal space (‘liminal’ originating from the Latin
word līmen, meaning "a threshold"). This exhibition suggests the
concept of liminality, of Walking the Edge of comfort and familiarity, as well
as the experience and interrogation of it, as a lens to engage with the
artworks on show – and last but not least with the process of art-making
A state of uncertainty, loss of
control over one’s life, or feeling as if one is not the same anymore during a
career change, moving to a new place, a breakup or divorce, pregnancy,
menstruating for the first time as a young woman or shaving a newly grown beard
during puberty, or simply while passing through an airport transit – this can
present experiences of a liminal space. All these situations are inherently
periods, moments, or spaces of transition, of being in between what was and
what will be. One of the most challenging examples of liminal space might even
be in the creative process for an artist.
This state and its implications on
individuals and groups – even whole societies or humanity as a whole – have
been conceptualized as liminality by anthropologists, psychologists, and
philosophers since the early 20th century. More recently, it has also been
applied to entire societies that are going through a crisis or a “collapse of
order”. This could be during the rise and fall of colonialism, or the experience
of a pandemic, war, or revolution.
Liminal spaces, in all their facets,
can have both destructive and constructive effects and can lead to significant
personal and social change. There is uncertainty, crisis, and disruption but
also opportunities, possibilities, and open-endedness.
Kamunde’s recent body of work explores meanings of rest and the pursuit of it.
The work is driven by personal reflection and response to feelings of weariness
triggered by a rapidly changing world and the endeavor to live a successful and
fulfilling life in fast-paced Nairobi. Here, rest becomes a space of liminal
experiences requiring courage and acceptance of chance.
Maina’s intricate works on paper are surreal, at times cryptic, yet figurative.
He is interested in questioning societal existences among places, things, and
activities that inform everyday decisions and effects that follow. His work
leaves a wide and intentional margin for interpretation by the viewer.
Mung’ora works along inquiries of personal and national archives and memory. It
becomes a space to interrogate the non-static nature of memory, its inseparable
relationship with the present and future, and how it is, in fact, a liminal
space of indefinite meaning and knowledge production.
Wangui’s paintings ooze a melancholic, fragile yet powerful, and graceful aura.
Her astonishing portraits show predominantly women in deep introspection,
seemingly nearly turning the figures’ internal psychic realities and their
physical bodies inside out. Her figures are placed in a surreal space
surrounded by metaphorical elements.
Sompoika is a Nairobi-based artist who grew up in a rural Massai community.
This contrast in his biography drives his work, which perhaps guides us to the
ambiguity of identity and the fact that it does not merely exist, but is often
continuously and painfully disputed within liminal spaces.
Martin tackles shared global experiences such as migration, human trafficking,
and consumerism, yet also leans towards an introspective departure point in his
work. Using his personal life experience and connectedness to urban
contemporary culture, both physical and identity-related mental displacement
are dominant features.
Onditi’s richly layered paintings may invoke a sense of uneasiness in the
viewers’ eyes. He is a master of visually creating imaginary worlds, placing
figures into a meticulously fragmented space, in which there seems to be no
beginning and no end.
Kamwathi’s prolific practice, materialized mostly in thematic series, questions
the individual vs. as well as within the collective from multiple angles. He
poetically masters to examine holistic social, political, economic, and
cultural questions by visually breaking them down on a micro-level. His iconic,
conceptual and highly symbolic interrogations mirror his ongoing artistic and
intellectual debates with global relevance.