ART: Charting her own colourful, unorthodox path

Friday December 06 2019

'The Crown' by Wini Awuondo. PHOTO | KARI MUTU | NMG


The first thing that strikes me about Kenyan artist Wini Awuondo’s art is how different and unorthodox she is: She paints on hardboard.

Awuondo’s figurative images are bold both in colour and subject matter.

Cradle of Life is a vivid painting of two people clutched in a tight embrace. The outlines of their bodies are in smooth curves and arches, and their heads mould into one face that stares brazenly at the viewer. It echoes Awuondo’s objective of rousing people to put their “authentic, vulnerable, real, raw selves out there”.

Awuondo studied fashion at Parsons School of Design in New York City, which could explain the background patterns in her paintings that resemble African print fabrics. But instead of attaching printed pieces of cloth, Awuondo paints the designs in painstaking detail. It takes a while to notice that she has used acrylics and not textiles.

Equal but Separate has two faces covered in fabric patterns and looking at each other, but one face is upside down. It resonates with Awuondo’s eccentric nature; she questions “our need to conform to societies’ narrow parameters of beauty, brilliance and success”.

Patterned fish in fabrics of pink and salmon swim in a turquoise blue sea filled with seaweed and other ocean plants in In the Deep. Unlike her more provocative work, this painting creates a calm and quiet ambience.


Her figurative works include The Crown, which has four female portraits in eye-catching pinks and deep blue.

The women are drawn in the style of traditional African noblewomen with carefully coiffed hair styles, flowery patterns on their skin, surrounded by geometric designs, looking elegant and poised.

Awuondo’s vivid imagination is seen in a dark blue woman with plant patterns on her skin, in the The Throne, sitting on a ceremonial chair that is actually another woman contorted into the shape of a stool. I was absorbed by the bold colours, shapes and severe looking faces that make up this satirical artwork.

“It’s all about charting your own path and embracing your unlimited potential,” said Awuondo.

She is currently exhibiting at Karen Country Club in Nairobi, and has more work lined up for next year.