The exhibition room at the Alliance Francaise in Dar es Salaam was awash in ambient yellow light on the opening night of Memories of the Unknown, early this month.
The exhibition featured works by Tanzanian artist Safina Kimbokota and Kenyan Eltayeb Dawelbait.
Kimbokota presented life size metal sculptures representing motherhood that dominated the room. Dawelbait’s paintings lining the walls were bold with messages of identity and beauty in forgotten spaces.
Kimbokota’s sculpture Breaking the Barrier has an inscription that reads: "Often when I am alone without my child, people are fascinated by the art I make. But to be proficient in my work I must practice a lot. When I exercise, I must have my baby too. And once I want to breastfeed I want to have that freedom too.”
She says that her pieces zoom in on the natural yet hardly celebrated process that women undergo from conception to birthing a child.
“In Tanzania, fathers are absent or aloof in the taking care of pregnant mothers until the baby is born,” said Kikombota.
Her inscription confirms her sentiments that women’s bodies are sexualised to a point that they’re made to feel uncomfortable to breastfeed babies in public, a practice that was once normal in Tanzania.
Her artworks in this exhibit ooze a cinematic elegance, with sculptures made with steel wire as the predominant medium, mixed with African fabrics, plaster, elastic rubber, even hair.
Beauty shows a pregnant woman with angel wings, in plaster, steel and a mesh of African fabrics. It speaks to the intention from the artist of celebrating the expectant female form.
Dawelbait’s artworks are etchings with paints on discarded materials from demolished buildings, mostly wood.
They depict a tranquil rugged beauty, with portraits that are distinctly abstract and almost violent in their doodling expressing a strong personality. They show his extensive experience as a fine artist, having exhibited extensively in Italy, UK, Germany and Canada.
“Our idea is to have thought provoking artworks which is why at our gallery we’re happy to exhibit works that we hope to sell and at the same time bring dialogue and conversations that are meaningful.
Our first priority is to give artists a platform to explore ideas freely,” said Asteria Malinzi, the curator for this exhibition from Rangi Gallery.
Rangi are the co-curators of this exhibition together with Alliance Francaise.
Dawelbait’s Spirit of Faces (one square metre) was sold for $4,000.
Although the prices are high for the local market, the gallery supports the artists’ decision in their pricing because the works are of international quality.
The exhibition runs until November 20.