Art Speaks, I Listen.

Art speaks

Let me for a minute, assume that you love art.

That you are one to walk into an art gallery on a whim. This could be at any of the galleries in the city; say, Kuona Trust on Dennis Pritt road, or…anywhere, it could be anywhere.

Let’s say you walk in and you are met ever so diligently (and courteously) by this expanse of a room that appears empty but is not really empty. It is empty only if you expect furniture to fill the room (and why the hell would you expect to find furniture in an art space!) It is far from empty if you are hankering for the art pieces that decorate the wall – which is precisely what you should be looking for, seeing as you are here.

The room is therefore full. Brimming with art; paintings, drawings, sculptures.

Other art lovers stream into the room with you. They talk as they walk. Some with drinks in their hands. Sipping as they talk. Glancing at the images on the wall. Taking a minute or two to allow the art pieces to speak to them in whatever language they understand best. A second. Two. Or three. A minute. Two. Or three. And you move onto the next one.

“This is a good one” you might mutter under your breath

“It is.” I might agree with you.

“I wonder what the artist had in mind” you will now look at me. Eager to hear what I think.

“What do you think he had in mind?” I will throw it back. I always throw them back.

“Mmmh…” will you squint your eyes? Take a closer look? Ok, I will watch you do that.

“He is holding something in his hand…is this a knife?” you will point with your finger

“Do you think it is a knife?” I’ll do it again, sorry.

“Looks like it.”

I will take the time to look at the painting in question.

“I think it is a flower” I will say.

“Really?” you will move closer to the painting. Willing yourself to see the flower in the knife.

I will tilt my head, try to see the knife in the flower.

We will remain quiet for a while. Have separate conversations with the same painting.

It will speak to me in my Swahili, my English, my Kalenjin and that little bit of neglected French.

“Ok…I see what you mean…” you might say eventually.

We will touch the piece. Feel its texture. I will keep seeing the flower. You will keep seeing the knife. We will concur that it is indeed a good piece of art. We will have trouble pulling ourselves away from it.

We will sip our drinks.

Shuffle our feet.

Move around.

Maybe you will move on to the next piece. I might just opt to look around and focus instead on the people who occupy the room. These art lovers who throng these four walls.

That is when I will spot him.

He will be wearing black slim-fitting chinos, a black crew neck t-shirt with a fitting grey coat that has patched elbows. On his feet will be brown apron loafers.

He will walk into the room and everything else will cease to exist for him, from the moment he sets foot at the door.

He will move slowly from one frame to the next. A pair of glasses will dangle in his hands and he will, occasionally, twirl them around absentmindedly. Once in a while, the pointed end of his glasses’ frame will find its way between his lips as he pauses to stare at a painting.

He will get lost on a piece that might have looked mundane to others before him. This is the man whose attention will be piqued, grabbed and kept by a piece of art throughout the duration of his presence in this room. He will not look anywhere else, will not see anything else, will not hear anyone speak to give their opinion on any painting.

This is the one person who will be unperturbed by movement around him. Not even the ladies who will eye him for the candy he is will be noticed. He will be oblivious to the looks that will be exchanged by them and the “O My God!” mouthing that will be going on behind his back. Literally.

He will stand glued to this one frame and even as others come and go, fill their glasses and drink, analyze and pick, ogle and giggle, he will stand lost in a world of art, not interested in being found.

This is he who allows art to speak to him. And he is debonair because when art speaks, he listens. Really listens.

And I want to be that guy.

I want to shut out all the noises around me (and there’s been lots of it lately) for a while and allow art to speak to me. Out of a room full of people, I want it (yes, selfishly!) to speak to only me! And that is why I will attend this year’s Kenya Art Fair from Friday 13th (spooky?) to Sunday the 15th.

This year’s Kenya Art Fair will include Wasanii exhibition. An exhibition that has been termed ‘groundbreaking’ and is to feature 200 paintings, original prints, photographs and sculptures by both established and upcoming artists from Kenya and around the region including Uganda, Zanzibar, Sudan, Ghana.

I will be that guy. I will ignore the chatter. I will stand before a piece and interpret it however I please. I will be one of those people who sees the painting of a pipe with the words “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” written underneath it and gets it. I will get it not just because I understand basic French, but because through that painting, French understands me.

So yes. I plan to get lost this weekend. You might be tempted to think that since this art exhibition will be held at Sarit Centre Exhibition Hall, that you can find me when you need to?

Well, don’t be too sure. While I might be lost, it doesn’t mean that I will want to be found.

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