KUONA Trust Arts Center – Nairobi’s Own MoMA

Now everyone who knows me knows I am an art enthusiast!

Art is the best form of expression in my opinion. After writing of course, which is also an art form as well but who’s counting.  A few weeks back I took a trip to one of the eclectic Art galleries we have here in Nairobi and was more than pleasantly surprised by what I found there. KUONA Arts Center is basically Nairobi’s own MoMA. For those who may not know, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City is one of the biggest and most popular art museums in the world and its wide collection of visual and contemporary art are what made me liken it to the works I saw at KUONA.
The KUONA center, located on Denis Pritt Road in the Kilimani area, is a center that is specifically dedicated to cultivating and promoting innovative, contemporary and visual art practices here in Kenya. Just as you pull up to the main gate, you cannot help but notice the immense detailing and creativity that is seen on the wrought iron gate alone; quite impressive. 


Upon entering the gallery, you are greeted by vibrant paintings hanging on the corridor leading to the first room – the exhibition room. Here various performance artists put up exhibitions of their work and the exhibitions are left on display for a week, with each new week comes a new exhibition or performance piece. I was fortunate enough to visit during the showcasing of the Matatu Gamesexhibition. The project, done by mixed media artist, David Muraguri, focused on the urban matatu culture and its influence on society. That exhibition may be done now but be sure to catch Jua Kali, the photographic and sculptural installation exhibition that will be running till July 27th.

The gallery sits in a 2-storey townhouse, with showrooms and an art shop on the first floor and the administration on the second floor. Mini trailers surround the backyard forming a quad of makeshift artist studios. KUONA Arts Center is not only an art museum but is also a home to several local and international artists who may not have their own personal studios. Visiting artists as well also make use of these studios to learn from other residential artists and vice versa. As I passed each studio, I could not help but notice the vast differences in the genre of artists who come here to hone their craft. From sculptors, painters, carpenters, graphic designers, photographers and glass makers- yes, glass making is an art form too. 
The center has grown since their relocation to Kilimani. They were at the National Museum first and then at the GoDown center in South C but soon moved to their current location because they saw a need to solely represent the visual arts, as opposed to compiling all categories of art like most museums do. The KUONA Arts Center is not only a brilliant but yet intimate gallery, it is a learning space, a place where creativity is nurtured, grown, and spread across a fast growing artistic audience in Kenya. 


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