For Kavochy, home is where the art is

Saturday July 7 2018

Untitled watercolour by Anita Kavochy. PHOTO | KARI MUTU | NMG

Untitled watercolour by Anita Kavochy. PHOTO | KARI MUTU | NMG 

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Anitah Kavochy is intrigued by her environment.

Kavochy is part of Maasai Mbili, a collective of artists based in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, where she was born and raised. She investigates people’s feeling about home.

“Homes are not just structures over our heads; to me, home is a feeling that we carry on a daily basis,” says Kavochy.

Some of her work was recently shown at the Polka Dot Art Gallery, and I was drawn to her mixed media watercolour paintings on paper. The illustrations formed part of a larger series called Ni Nyumbani (It’s Home), an expression of the places she grew up in.

An untitled watercolour shows a dense hodgepodge of a building with several TV masts rising from the rooftop. The brushstrokes are light, the colours are layered and blend into one another.

Kavochy says she gets ideas for her paintings from wall textures and iron sheets used for roofing. “I create old-feeling textures and sketches, as expressed in the installation of Nyumba Moja,” she said.

Another untitled watercolour painting is also of structures, this time a set of neatly defined buildings painted in dark shades with patches of ruby red.

The colour choice perhaps alludes to the darker side of the neighbourhoods she captures, and the watercolours temper the cityscapes with an understated charm.

Kavochy also draws pencil portraits and installations with recycled materials.

At the exhibition was an installation of three whitewashed drawers attached to a dark bed frame, titled Nyumba Moja; Father, Mother, Son. She described it as an expression of the emotional security of home while evaluating the roles played by the parents and children.

Going back to the watercolours, I find these more exciting and would hope to see Kavochy expand her choice of subject matter here.

Kavochy studied at the Buru Buru Institute of Fine Arts in Nairobi and joined Maasai Mbili four years ago as a student intern, working under more experienced artists. More of her work can be seen at Maasai Mbili.