‘The Soul of my Sculptures’ - A Contemplative Analysis of The Work of Naftal Mageto Momanyi
Despite the significant resurgence of expressive creativity through works of art in various disciplines particularly painting and sculpture, the underlying inspiration and subsequent endeavour for self-expression by artists, be it derived from experiences, observation of events and occurrences, imaginative compositions or even from the subconscious mind or surrealism, is often not very well articulated among the artistic audience or general public. This is in view of the general consensus among creative artists that works of Art are composed or created to be inherently expressive of something and hence should be given the opportunity to be seen and appreciated. It has been observed that often the artistic audience or general public only superficially examine the works of art in passing without necessarily delving into the expressive essence of the work itself. Hence the genesis of the expression, thought patterns or the philosophical foundation that underscore an artist’s inspiration and subsequent creation of that work is therefore just as often missed. If any work of art is not accorded adequate exposure and does not receive a fair amount of interrogation in terms of its creative and expressive substance or in terms of its contribution to the development of style, technique and application of materials, then that artwork runs the risk of being redundant. In addition, if this interrogation is not brought to the attention of the relevant artistic audience or articulated to the general public through exhibitions, relevant artistic fora, such as seminars, workshops and conferences, then the work amounts to a missed opportunity of its original purpose. There has been of course the debate about the nature and extent of participation by the ‘audience’ including the public and whether this audience bears the prerequisite qualification to interrogate or critique works of art including sculptural pieces. This paper does not, however, deal with this particular query. The focus of this paper is to demonstrate that sculptures are not mere embellishments but are a fundamental tool for commentary about pertinent societal issues in selected areas of endeavour. They, therefore, epitomize the artist’s point of view (POV) or opinion that underscores his or her sense of individual self-expression and hence lends credence to each piece. The paper, therefore, examines firstly, the origins of African sculptural tradition and the development of self-expression as a key tenet of form/content appreciation; and secondly the purposeful derivation of ideas from broad themes as well as the composition of specific subject matter as an avenue for the sculptor to address the retinue of societal issues. The paper covers six sculptural pieces seen from different angles created by Naftal Mageto Momanyi, a prominent Kenyan sculptor who works mainly using granite, wood and soapstone.
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