Young Guns

Circle Art Gallery, 7 June – 7 July 2017

Young Guns plural noun (informal). Def: People, especially young men, who have lots of energy and talent, and are becoming successful.

This exhibition features new drawing, painting, photography and video from 26 emerging artists in Nairobi. The artists work mostly in collectives and communal art spaces across the city. They are the new guard; politicized and pushing boundaries. Exploring their identities; local and global concerns; war and peace; law and disorder; issues of masculinity and the artists’ role in society.

Following a series of exhibitions at Circle featuring artists from Tanzania and Sudan, it was important to re-focus on Kenya and what is happening in Nairobi right now. In the last five years, the dominance of Kuona Trust as the artists’ studio space, has been challenged by alternative spaces and collectives established by emerging artists or their mentors to offer new working space and workshops.

This exhibition was conceived during a series of studio visits to Wajukuu Art Centre, Brush Tu, Kuona Trust, the GoDown Art Centre, Dust Depo, Masaai Mbili and other private spaces in Nairobi. Though there are still young artists working in more conventional ways, the landscape is changing. Bold fresh voices have begun to make their presence felt by pushing boundaries, organizing alternative spaces to reach audiences, experimenting and influencing each other.

Painting and drawing are still the dominant media, largely for economic reasons but these artists are exploring their medium of choice, researching and learning and whilst much of the work is experimental – confident and surprising discoveries are being made.

More controversially, and for the first time at the gallery, this exhibition features all male artists. This did not begin as a conscious intent, it was simply an exploration of new works by young artists, but during the studio visits, all the artists I met were men, the collectives were established by men and the art that I saw in each space was by men and this became relevant. It raises the question as to why there has been this vigorous surge in young male artists, and equally for future investigation to find the hidden female voices.

Who are they these ‘Young Guns’? Where have they come from? Who are their mentors? What are their concerns, their dreams, and their inspirations?

Artists: Alex Njoroge, Boniface Maina, Churchill Ongere, David Thuku, Denis Mubiru, Dennis Muraguri, Dickens Otieno, Elias Mun’gora, Emmaus Kimani, Ian Mwesiga, Isaiah Mwangi Maina, Joakim Kwaru, Julian Manjahi, Joseph Waweru, Kaloki Nyamai, Leevans Linyera, Lemek Tompoika, Lincoln Mwangi, Michael Musyoka, Mosoti Kepha, Mwini Mutuku, Ngugi Waweru, Paul Njihia, Peteros Ndunde, Sydney Mang’ong’o, Waweru Gichuhi

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