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Relationships that give satisfaction...

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From left: Crab, by Harrison Mburu, Cuddle… Untitled woodcut by Thom Ogonga, Cow, by Ehoodi Kichape, and Shoeshine Boy by Michael Soi. Photos/Frank Whalley

From left: Crab, by Harrison Mburu, Cuddle… Untitled woodcut by Thom Ogonga, Cow, by Ehoodi Kichape, and Shoeshine Boy by Michael Soi. Photos/Frank Whalley 

By FRANK WHALLEY

posted  Friday, July 5  2013 at  10:12

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  • A fascinating, joyful exhibition featuring four of Kenya’s leading artists celebrates excellence in its various guises and one that will repay repeated visits, offering something new each time.

It is not money that makes the world go around, it is relationships — those slippery, slidey, serpentine things that we spend 90 per cent of our lives trying to form, strengthen, mend and then let go.

And it is relationships that form the basis of a fascinating, joyful exhibition in Nairobi, featuring four of Kenya’s leading artists.

They are Michael Soi, Thom Ogonga, Ehoodi Kichape and Harrison Mburu.

For Soi and Ogonga, relationships are the interactions, the glances, games, touches and lies between adults.

For Kichape, they are about finding his place in the urban chaos that surrounds us. And for Mburu his relationship is — and has been for the past 40 or so years — with his material, sheets of tin found in scrapyards.

Mburu, unlike most metal sculptors, does not weld his work. Instead he caresses, teases, bends, extrudes then uses rivets to assemble the malleable sheets to produce the fluent lines that hallmark his animals, birds, reptiles and fish.

A monkey hangs from a balcony outside the exhibition, at the One-Off gallery in Nairobi’s western suburb of Rosslyn (until July 24). Inside a goat leaps across a wall while on the other side of the doorway, helping to frame the exit, a large crab prepares to scuttle to safety.

Mburu was one of the stars of the Gallery Watatu in the 1980s and has been working quietly away in his studio near Banana Hill ever since. His relationship with his material is clear. It has to be love.

Lust, not love, is the theme of most of Soi’s comic strip style paintings. He has around eight on show and all deal with various levels of passion and deceit.

Sometimes it is overt, as in the Traffic Cop who stares longingly at the bouncing bottom of a passing girl, or in the Shoeshine Boy who uses his low vantage point to peer up the skirt of a woman whose ample thighs and improbable breasts are provocatively on view.

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