In Memoriam:

A journey through Mbuthia Maina's past work

What is in memoriam about? It's about loss and simultaneously gain. What is Mbuthia’s art process about? Can one really answer this? The process is repetitive – something both conscious and unconscious.  In his installations he recreates, familiar spaces – memories of comfort – memories of something that is innate to us sometimes so familiar that we hardly notice it. A smell, a certain constellation of objects, an old photograph of a family event, and through loss does this innate state become conscious. The process of adding, rearranging, removing and the repetition of these actions are key to Mbuthia’s process. He is nomadic – his wandering is a constant – he works where work + people + spaces take him. This repeat pattern often awakes his search for the umbilical cord back home – what is home – who is home – allowing himself to migrate where life takes him. He has the tendency to lose his work, lose himself or perhaps find himself – as he looses his orientation – to regain his orientation.

Mbuthia is working through his past works, revisiting old studio spaces he engaged with, revisiting old works, talking to past and present friends, talking about Nymbura. The journey is not fully represented here. The journey cannot be fully investigated as one is within it. This is merely a fraction of some chosen paths. Some works instrumental to his artistic position and others came about due to a passer-by project. 

His journey stumbles upon the perception of death - the mourning ceremonies - the modes of commemoration alter from person to person from nationality to nationality. Mbuthia’s relationship with death and Mbuthia’s relationship with life could be much the same. There may be no difference between the two. He walked with his grandmother into her death, sent her off and her death ultimately released him to produce Louis in Motion. Hitting the delete button on all images of her but one creating a filmstrip of her hobbling from outside her house to inside her house looped to repeat. The repetition creating a pattern one that is noticeable in all of his processes the pattern of building and tearing down, and rebuilding again. Art is often interfered with - thought of as unrestricted, unregulated financial turf. Artists require redirection, the dependency on survival vs. true expression. Artworks are led down paths for short-sighted benefactors – leaving the artist frustrated – divided within oneself and ultimately alone.  

Clay, fabric, wire, found objects, photographic elements, looped video on colour LCD-display, and lighting




Dimensons variable

Goethe Institut, Nairobi, Kenya. 2012

In Memoriam: Worskops