PORTRAITS: Mwiti uses pen and ink to illustrate effects of coronavirus

Thursday May 14 2020

'Silence' by Anne Mwiti.

'Silence' by Anne Mwiti. PHOTO | COURTESY 

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In these days of social isolation Kenyan artist Anne Mwiti has found ink and pen the most versatile medium to work with. “It renders itself to the organic process, which is, I can sit listening to music as I draw,” she says.

This the first time Mwiti has shown her pen drawings, and she has received positive responses to her daily posts. The drawings depict a highly virulent disease.

Touch of Death shows a skeleton hand gingerly holding an oversized coronavirus, its spherical surface coated in spikes. In Invasion, a cloud of viruses floats ominously towards a small, lonely figure sitting in a bed. A barcode is imprinted over a single coronavirus in the piece Lost Existence.

A number of her works have dense repetitive patterns like circular shapes, layers of scales, multiple eyes and gaping mouths.

“The patterns represent a process of adaptation to the isolation,” explains Mwiti. She says that recurring designs are also a means of dealing with the stigma associated with the virus.

Mwiti interrogates the emotionality associated with lockdown and social distancing. The drawing Seated Woman shows several floors of houses tightly packed together. Drawn in thin close-fitting lines with crosshatching that deepens the tone, the feeling of confinement and anxiety is palpable.


Silence is a true picture of desolation, in which a solitary black crow looks out over an empty landscape and roads lined with rows of electricity poles.

Currently, Mwiti can only show her works and interact with viewers on social media, using hashtags like new normal, adapting and isolationism.

“The artworks gave comfort to many, and an interpretation of what they are going through, a sort of voice to their emotions,” says Mwiti who has seen her digital audience grow recently.

Once things get back to normal, she is considering holding an exhibition. “I definitely have enough work for a solo show,” says Mwiti.