Creation of Indoor Sculptures Using Metal and Glass Inspired by Selected Swahili Kanga Inscriptions

  • Onyiso Sachbear Atieno Kenyatta University
  • Matthews Muoki Kenyatta University
  • Kamau Wango, PhD Kenyatta University
Keywords: Inscriptions, Kanga, Pithy Phrases, Proverbs, Sculpture, Visual Interpretation
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The ‘Kanga’, a colourful printed cloth wrapper, is one of Kenya’s coastal region’s most well-known cultural items and has deep cultural, historic and economic significance. In their creation, the Kangas contain inscriptions on them that propagate sayings, proverbs, and pithy phrases in Kiswahili. The inscriptions are located on the lower border and are frequently surrounded and highlighted by various patterns or background colours. The Swahili inscriptions not only impart specific messages to the viewer but are also used to convey feelings, thoughts, and inspire. Despite sculptures being traditionally used as avenues for artistic expression based on many sources of inspiration, this study found no evidence to indicate that Swahili Kanga inscriptions have been used as inspirations in the creation of sculptures in Kenya. It is envisaged that it is possible to extract meaning from inscriptions and interpret the embedded meaning through a three-dimensional artistic genre such as sculpture from which viewers can draw meaning and visually subscribe to. In view of this gap, this study sought to develop the creation of indoor sculptures placed in public spaces that derived their creative inspiration from selected Swahili inscriptions printed on the Kanga. The sculptures were executed using a combination of metal and glass. The proverbs used in this study were already documented and published and the inherent meaning was therefore already transcribed. Creativity of the artist was applied to generate ‘visual meaning’ based on visual interpretation derived from and responsive, as much as possible, to the meaning contained in the proverb itself. However, the proverbs were purposively selected to best navigate and demonstrate the interpretation process from written to visual. Hence, this study applied an exploratory research design in exploring Swahili inscriptions on Kanga. The paper presents data on sculptural idea development and creation of indoor sculptures


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27 February, 2024
How to Cite
Atieno, O., Muoki, M., & Wango, K. (2024). Creation of Indoor Sculptures Using Metal and Glass Inspired by Selected Swahili Kanga Inscriptions. East African Journal of Arts and Social Sciences, 7(1), 74-95.

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