Ngene Mwaura Exhibition
"A Love Story" – This painting is a tribute to the person that helped me the most when my Mother passed away. That person is Nadia. Many beautiful things flourished from my Mother’s passing. One of them was the intimacy that developed between Nadia and me during my time of extreme sorrow. The story this painting tells is about being open to receive love and acknowledging the beauty that comes with tragedy.
"Mama" – The original title of this painting is Black Angels Have Red Wings, initially this piece was to commemorate Nobel Peace Prize winner, Wangari Maathai after her death. She was the head of The Greenbelt Movement and worked for environmental conservation and womens' rights in Kenya. My Mother’s illness continued to worsen and I stopped painting this piece and put it aside. Months later, I came back to it and I re-envisioned it with my Mother at the heart of it.
I am the youngest of three siblings and I was indeed a Mama’s boy. I love my Mother dearly and that love has shaped the person I am today. As a little boy, Mother and I used to walk together to church. Even as a teenager when your friends begin to mock and tease you, I was still very attached to my Mother and continued to walk with her to church. Even after I stopped attending church services I would still walk my Mom to church and continued to do so until the final day I left my village for America. When my Mother passed, it had already been 8 years since I last saw her in person. I remember vividly the last time I saw her; it was at the airport in Nairobi. I was very devastated when I could not be there with her during her final moments.
This painting and many of my other paintings illustrate how I remember her. In this work, the three birds symbolize her three children (my two siblings and I). I portray the family as birds because she was a care taker always making sure we were alright, always wanting us to be together, just like a Mama bird does with her young ones. I aimed to give this painting a Cathedral look and feel to it and made Mama’s wings look like a stained glass window. I worked at it very hard. I worked it and reworked it until it recreated that “Cathedral feeling” in me. Notice that I did not give her hands and instead made them running water. I did this because I didn’t want her to be contained and constrained in a body but instead she is flowing constantly and regenerating herself, like water.
“The Guardian and the Vine” – This painting is also about my Mother and remembering her. She was a farmer and loved plants. You can say she had a green thumb. She also loved tending the cattle, that’s why I gave her horns in this painting. Sometimes my Mother would go into town and be gone for long hours but as soon as she was back home and the cows heard her voice they would respond and come running closer to her as if to greet her, as if they were happy to see her. It is such a lovely memory to see how even the animals loved her and admired her. My Mother was very observant. For those who knew her they would immediately recognize in my painting the expression in her eyes: they would immediately recognize her stare. I am very happy with the way I captured it in this piece.
"The Guardian and the Soil" – This is another illustration of my Mother. I was working with a very close friend during this time. Her name is Lee Adams. Lee was very much into growing her own food and gardening. I could see lots of qualities of my Mother in Lee, she however had purple hair and somehow her hair color influenced this painting hence the purple background. In this painting the plant becomes my Mother’s garment, because my Mother would always say “Be grateful for the soil because the soil provides not only the food we eat but also the clothes we wear”. If you notice the bright and colorful circles around this painting, those represent Skittles, I was influenced by what was all over the media during that time which was the Trevon Martin case and I wanted to commemorate what we as a society were all experiencing at that time.
"Bold" – This painting is about me. I did the sketch while on the phone with my Mother while she was at a hospital for heart surgery in India. My Mother was my best friend and I would often talk to her about my struggles here in America. She was my best cheerleader always giving me advice and cheering me on. I could hear her now saying “Ngene, you have to be bold” “be bold..” “.. be bold.” “Be bold” that was a very constant thing she would say to me. During my struggle of losing her I could hear her saying to me “be bold”. I gave myself the body of a chicken and the head of a warthog for reasons which I will let you, the viewer, interpret. As you can see I gave myself strength with a puffed out chest and horns of a Rhinoceros. In real life a Rhinoceros has a big horn first and then the smaller one but in my illustration I reversed the order and also made them appear detachable, to symbolize me. I am not a confrontational person, but I can change that if the situation calls for it. By the time this painting was done my mother had already passed, that’s why I started putting flowers everywhere, that was my way of bringing flowers to her grave.
EastAfrican - 2-13-2016 - An incisive artist with unique style
Preview of Works
Click thumbnail to enlarge and scroll through all images
Limited edition hand printed 2016 Calendars
Paper, 62 x 48 cm
Exhibition openings are usually on the last Saturday of every month, excluding December. The gallery remains open on Sundays allowing anyone who missed the opening to catch the exhibition the next day. Do join our mailing list so we can add you to our invitation list.