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The East African : Nov 7th 2015
The EastAfrican MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 7-13,2015 VII um afte≥ Smithsonian debacle The Avocado Tree with movable parts, by Indian artist Parkash Chandar. Picture: Joseph Ngunjiri the real sense, communicating with myself but then, the ‘conversation’ is inspired by the appearance of the stone.” There are also instances where a chase it to the tune of 50 million)?” he says. y Americans who had elephant, went to the eum to see it but of r delivered. s not given up on his eum he has started, y its old name of Deltants, sits on a threeland in Kisii town, isii University, where t art. is dotted with a sculptures done by us parts of the world. mple, a granite piece ee, done by Parkash tor from India. The many removable parts, any facets of life, aca. n granite piece titled one by Stacey Gillian is eye-catching piece uare coloured glass rtists had the freedom h various materials to that caught their fanesa. pieces by artists from China, South Korea and Zimbabwe, among others. The pieces were done by the artists when they attended a symposium dubbed “African Stones Talk” last November sponsored by the New Yorkbased Lambert Foundation. Ong’esa is the founder chairman of African Stones Talk. “The artists come here with their tools, technology, stories and cultural expressions and we enter into an artistic and cultural dialogue,” he explains. “The highlight of last year’s event was when Chandar took over the kitchen and made spicy Indian food. Everyone enjoyed the culinary experience.” The Makerere University-trained sculptor explains that the title of the symposium, “African Stones Talk,” is inspired by the “dialogue” artists have with the stones before they start carving. “Different stones have different per- sonalities,” he says. “There are instances where before I start the carving process, I engage in a ‘discussion’ with the stone, depending on its shape and texture. For example, looking at a stone, I can see parts that already look like they can be shaped into an arm, or a head, and I will therefore not cut it off. I am, in his othe≥ sculptu≥es Among Ong’esa’s art installations scattered around the globe includes a seventonne, Kisii soapstone Enyamuchera (Bird of Peace) at the Unesco headquarters in Paris, done in 1978, a 30-tonne granite sculpture, Her Mother, a bronze monument done in 2006, which is on permanent display at the Changchun Word Sculpture Park in Jilin Province, North Eastern China. sculptor has an express idea in mind and in such instances, Ong’esa says, they will overrule the “voice” of the stone and go ahead with the project they have in mind. The beauty of the African Stones Talk symposiums — they have held two so far — is that whatever the artists produce, is left behind as part of the museum’s heritage. Thus visitors to the museum will be able to see art pieces depicting diverse cultures from around the world. The “museum” also provides a home for the various pieces Ong’esa, who is a Masters degree holder from McGill University, in Canada, has done over the years. “I have been travelling with my sculptures everywhere I went in my long career as a teacher. The pieces are now finally home,” he says with a smile. Incidentally, the museum used to be Ong’esa’s family home. He has since relocated his home to Tabaka, a few kilometres from Kisii town. The “action” takes place inside the museum structure, where the really valuable pieces are exhibited. For example, there are two pieces, depicting a woman carrying a sick child, visiting a traditional healer. This piece, Ong’esa explains, was done by his uncle Alex Mogendi. “I drew my sculpting inspiration from him,” he says, adding that a number of people have expressed interest in buying these two pieces that were done in 1973. “There is no way I can sell them, they are priceless,” he says. There is also a piece done in honour of First Lady Margaret Kenyatta and the Beyond Zero Campaign she champions. In the piece, made out of Kisii soap- stone, the First Lady is depicted administering immunisation to a baby. Ong’esa’s son, Samson Mogendi, named after the uncle, is also a sculptor in his own right. He showed us a piece he has done titled Grandfather Frog, among other pieces based on Kisii mythology. The younger Ong’esa said the high- light of his artistic career was when he accompanied his father to the illfated Smithsonian Fair in Washington last year. Ong’esa also shows us two of his pieces, which he explains are very close to his heart; Masked Hero, made of granite from Kitui and another one of Dedan Kimathi, the Mau Mau freedom fighter. The Kimathi piece was an entry into a competition organised by Kenya’s Ministry of Culture. The eventual winner — done by Kevin Oduor (based at Kuona Trust, in collaboration with art students from Kenyatta University) is the statute of the freedom hero installed at Kimathi Street, behind Hilton Hotel, in Nairobi’s central business district.
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Nov 14th 2015