Solo exhibitions at the Nairobi National Museum by photographer Byung Tae Kim and painter Mwass Githinji present two very distinctive art styles.
Nairobi-based Kim is a South Korean photographer who established a reputation for capturing alluring images of Kenyan landscapes and wilderness areas. In The Face exhibition, Kim takes on human portraiture and the suffering experienced around the world.
The photos are his observations of Nairobi after three decades of living in the city. The individuals depicted are all wearing black, surrounded by a dark background and their eyes closed as though in contemplation.
Kim photographs his models under minimal light conditions standing in front of dark backdrops. The Face collection, says Kim, is an attempt to manifest souls and spirits beyond faces. In the absence of colour and other distractions, Kim’s distinctive way of expression draws the viewers into an emotive and other-world experience of his work.
“Invisible may be more valuable than visuals surrounded by discrimination and bias.”
Who We Are is Mwass Githinji’s first solo exhibition. His distorted pictures of people are an exploration of the human condition and his fascination with how society shapes perception. Identity, self and social pressures are some of the topics that interest Githinji.
Working in acrylics, oil and pastels on canvas, he captures moments of frustration and struggle, partly drawn from his experiences, and the broader complexities of human existence.
The crooked people in his paintings, with bulging eyes and misshapen forms, are often set against a black background. They evoke a sense of anguish and combined with a determination to overcome.
The paintings from his Journey Man collection are especially focused on the lower classes and emancipation from the cycles of poverty. Paintings from his other series explore more solitary forms of anguish and emotion, hinting at a sense of beauty even in painful times.
Githinji studied at the Buru Buru Institute of Fine Arts in Nairobi and refined his skills as an illustrator in the publishing industry.
Through his artwork Githinji, who claims not to be very good at writing, invites the viewer to contemplate their own journey or views about societal landscapes.
His masterful techniques have achieved critical notice with a nomination for the Norval Sovereign Africa Art Prize 2023.
The Face and Who Are We exhibitions continue until 30th November.