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Evans’ beautiful junk art gets attention


Art

Evans’ beautiful junk art gets attention

Evans Ngure. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Village Market in Nairobi may have had a premonition when they called artists to present their works over this past weekend during an event they called ‘Art in the Open.’
  • Artists from the Kenya Visual Artists Association, Kenyatta University and Mukuru Art Collective, a few representing private businesses, and others solo, filled the space with their works.
  • They brought everything from colourful handbags, brass and leather bracelets, and original Kenyan comics to stickers, children’s books and toys, a multitude of paintings and few sculptures.

Village Market in Nairobi may have had a premonition when they called artists to present their works over this past weekend during an event they called ‘Art in the Open.’

“They had already planned for us to follow safety protocols before we got word that there would be lockdowns within five counties,” says Evans Maina Ngure who was among the artists who filled the open-air venue at the Village Market with their cultural wares.

Artists from the Kenya Visual Artists Association, Kenyatta University and Mukuru Art Collective, a few representing private businesses, and others solo, filled the space with their works. They brought everything from colourful handbags, brass and leather bracelets, and original Kenyan comics to stickers, children’s books and toys, a multitude of paintings and few sculptures.

Ngure is a specialist in the ‘other’ type of semi-abstract sculpture, the kind that arrested curious passers-by last weekend. Previously known as ‘junk art’, it is defined as recycled art or upcycled work. Ngure still collects what other people consider trash and transforms it into incredibly original works of art.

All the pieces that he tastefully displayed in his open-air space were three-dimensional.

Ngure had been a painter for most of his days at Kenyatta University. He then met his lecturer Anne Mwiti who suggested he try his hand at creating art out of junk. His life and his art were transformed from that moment on.

Now even his jewellery is made from found objects. Best described as wearable art or miniature sculptures, it is his pendants that attracted attention last Sunday afternoon.

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Evans Ngure’s Ant sculpture at the ‘Art in the Open’ exhibition held at Village Market in Nairobi. PHOTO | POOL

For instance, the necklace he named ‘Chains’ is a miniature assembly of assorted items (junk) all attached to a hand-carved wooden comb (from Gikomba) with a Champagne bottle wire (from a friend).

It is both the density of design and the diversity of materials that Ngure layers atop the comb that aroused people’s interest. For instance, how could he think of assembling the mini-mother board from his old ‘kabambe’ cell phone with a mini-suitcase padlock, tiny electrical fuse, and four glass eye beads, all tastefully wired together with thin knitted copper thread?

Among the other pendants that led to inquiries from curious onlookers was an elongated piece that featured a sea shell (not cowrie), a pre-Independence Ugandan coin and the metal part from a plug-in adapter.

All three elements were wired together with another thin copper thread that gave these incongruous items a cohesive feeling of unity.

But then, one takes a look around his booth to find Ngure has got full-sized sculptures, one of which can double as a 3D mahogany wood-and-junk wall hanging, while another has a more sci-fi feeling reminiscent of the Dr Who TV series.

The polished mahogany piece was my favourite since what is comfortably seated on the wooden slab is a chameleon. Entitled the ‘King of Discards’, possibly because he is assembled with such a rich amalgam of elements as to make him extra special. For instance, his shiny spiral tail, affixed to the wood, was originally a water heater coil.

His face comes from a gas burner. His eyes are ordinary flattened bottle tops; and a pair of spoons stand-in for his legs and feet. Then comes the rest of his body which is a mix of a digital padlock, clothes pin, rummikub tile, piece of a cell phone charger, a red bicycle reflector, and a bit of dazzling costume jewelry.

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As eclectic and strange as the whole mix might sound, the way Ngure put the whole piece together is indeed a work of art.

Little boys seemed to like his big black ant which Ngure constructed with a speaker from an old-fashioned rotary telephone and wires made of copper, brass, and binding wire for his antennae and spindly legs.

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