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For ‘Let’s Talk about It’, Gakunga fusses native contents, contemporary process

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From discarded sheet of metals, Kenyan artist, Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga generates a form of art that goes through scientific process as well as injects native Swahili culture into contemporary African art.

With such profound melting point for art and science, Gakunga assembles a new body of sculpture titled Tushauriane – Let’s Talk About It, which shows from May 18 – July 29, 2017, at October Gallery, London, U.K.

Based inTexas, U.S, Gakunga who is returning to London for her second solo art exhibition, will be showing what has been described as “predominantly wall-hanging sculptures ingeniously created from tin cans, steel wire and oxidised sheet metal.”

October Gallery statement notes that the techniques Gakunga uses are common to the fibre arts across traditions, but her choice of materials make the difference. “Corroded sheet metal, rusted tin cans and stainless steel wire all follow the concept of Jua Kali, a Swahili adage which translates literally as ‘under the hot sun’ and refers to the serendipitous outcomes born out of discarded and weathered materials. Here, nothing goes to waste and what is considered unwanted material becomes the medium for a new focus of attention.”

The galvanised sheet metal – known in native Kenyan as Mabati – is said to be commonly used for roofing and building walls. It is also “associated with the Mabati Womens’ Groups and their empowering community housing projects of the ‘60s.” The artist, according to October Gallery observed the women’s achievement as well as the ageing process of the material. “Mirroring these weathered effects in her own artistic process, she deliberately saturates rolls of sheet metal in water, a process that oxidises the submerged surfaces, occasionally adding dyes to create different colours and other more complex effects.” With the exhibition, the artist’s strength in material application takes a leap: “…Let’s Talk About It pushes Gakunga’s practice further, by consciously adopting new diverse materials that intertwine with her core material Mabati, she visually articulates the concept of dialogue.”

Born in Kenya in1960, Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga first studied art at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, before continuing her studies at UCLA, USA. She now lives and works in San Antonio, Texas. Gakunga has been included in several exhibitions in the USA, UK, France, Brazil and Poland. Her UK debut solo exhibition, Ituĩka – Transformation, was presented at October Gallery in 2013. She was long-listed for the FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Awards, 2016.On Saturday, May 20, 2017 Wanjiku Gakunga will talk about her new work and creative process.


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Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga

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