Resurrecting the dead in Kenya through arts…the inspiring story of four African artists

Stephen Nartey August 05, 2022

It may be a bizarre pursuit, but, that’s what four artists in East Africa’s nation of Kenya set out to unravel. That’s how they found closure after their encounter with death. They decided to translate the grief they felt in losing a loved one into an art that can be seen, touched and reminisced about by the public. It was a journey of walking through the burden of grief in their lives.

Their art sought to answer the metaphor that best paints the feeling of grief when one dies. Moses Nyawanda, a painter, lost his eight-year-old daughter to terminal illness. This grief was only shared by his family and friends. It was bottled inside him and became his dark secret.

He decided to paint the emotional phases the family reeled under in four frames. The first frame captured a family standing strong in grief. The second frame displayed a family dealing with the challenge of their dying child with a terminal disease. The third frame placed the spotlight on many families dealing with similar issues and the need for the world to help them heal. The fourth frame exhibited how the family has survived the grief and how they are looking into the future with optimism. He exhibited this hope for the future with bright and sunny colors to indicate that he is down but not broken.

Moses said he feels stronger celebrating the life of his eight-year-old girl than the impact her death has had on the family.

The sculptor, Elkana Ong’esa, also lost his wife. This experience was devastating for him because of the affection both partners held for each other over the years of living together. Kenyan media Business Daily Africa reported that he called the wife affectionately ‘baby’. He carved a sculpture to depict how he was emotionally connected with his wife. This art has given him the partial liberation he always sought after.

For songwriter Iddi Achieng, he chose to relive his grief in his music. He was emotionally broken when he lost his mother. He used a musical video with themes of helplessness and hopelessness to express the state of grief he was in when he lost his mother.

Being a poet as well, Iddi kept a journal in which he eulogized his mother. He asked the curators to frame his letters to his mother for the public to have an insight into the strong bond that existed between his mother and him. That was his way of sharing his mom with the world.

Illustrator and animator Musa Omusi weaved a big batik with many colors in a bird-like form. He didn’t want to settle on his own grief but create a piece that connected how he felt with those who had lost a loved one in one way or the other.  The bird signifies the ability to fly at some point away from the pain people endure as a result of death.

This unique bizarre art enthralled many art lovers at Nairobi Westlands when they displayed their creative works at a gallery dubbed ‘Dream Cona’. One of the curators at the exhibition, Suzanne Miieko, said the artists were connected by the misery that hit them.

According to her, they sought to immortalize the state of their grief through art. She explained that, no matter how painful the exit of a loved one, they can be forgotten at a point in time. That’s why this project was important.

She added that it couldn’t have been done better than artistically exhibiting it.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: August 5, 2022


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