Montague Contemporary is pleased to present Gathering of Small Fires, the first solo show for Kenyan based artist Elias Mung’ora.
The exhibition features an entirely new body of work from the artist, reflecting on the upheaval over the past year and how our collective behavior highlighted both promising coalescence as well as disheartening social fracturing.
At first glance, the works seem to capture peaceful streetscapes, moments of impromptu gatherings, and snippets of daily urban life in Nairobi. However, upon closer inspection, we start to recognize the symbolic nature of these moments and Mung’ora’s contemplation of social space. Inclusive access to common spaces and collective areas has been hindered historically in Nairobi, due to the historically unjust ruling elite; more recently, social spaces have undergone a dramatic transformation due to private land development. These new developments breach into the existential landscape of the cityscape, taking up every inch of available land and in some cases overstepping into the public domain, designed to maximize profit and leaving the underserved populace wandering the streets looking for respite.
The parallels of the collective experience during the recent COVID-19 pandemic and Mung’ora’s investigation into our fractured cityscapes is not lost. We have been, in many cases, stranded alone in our homes - physically removed from social gathering spots where we can assert our collective will. Mung’ora wants to remind us of the persistence and power of collective action, even in the face of obstacles beyond our control.
Mung’ora’s works also capture the fleeting lived moments of social spaces - with main characters often kept out of focus or partially completed, as if lost in the flow of time, calling out the embedded histories of each place. His use of transfers from the Kenyan Historical Society, line drawings, collage, and glazing all manifest into a living time capsule, create a hybridity in each work by infusing present day spaces with lived memories and cultural and historical experiences.
“Elias Mung’ora: Gathering of Small Fires'' opens on August 5 and runs through September 11. The gallery is open to the public Thursday - Saturday, 11am - 6pm.
About The Artist
Elias Mung’ora is a member of Brush Tu, a Nairobi-based artists’ collective, and has participated in several exhibitions including The Ghost in The Machine, Montague Contemporary, USA (2020), Kikulacho, British Institute in East Africa, 2018; Remains, Waste & Metonymy II: Sensing Nairobi, British Institute in East Africa, 2017; Stranger Times, Circle Art Gallery, 2017; Young Guns, Circle Art Gallery, 2017. Solo shows include Journal Entries, Little Art Gallery, 2016. He was the winner of the 2016 Manjano Art Prize in Nairobi, and a top ten finalist in the 2018 edition of the Barclays L’Atelier competition.