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  • Writer's pictureStephen Nderitu

Ardhi Gallery-Nairobi's Newest Art Gallery and Creative Hub

Around two months ago I bumped onto a few posts on Instagram about an upcoming art gallery somewhere off Mbagathi Road (Raila Odinga Road by the way!) With every passing day I told myself that I will head there to see because, from the photos online, it was looking like an artist’s nirvana.

So this past weekend I finally got there, precisely Sunday evening when they were having a poetry and story-telling session on mental health. Remember May is mental health awareness month, although I still do not understand why there are two mental health observances. The World Health Organisation has October 10 as the World Mental Health Day. Anyway, though the turn up for the poetry event was very low (there were a handful of us), I finally got to see Ardhi Gallery!

Mavin Kibicho on stage having a sublime discussion with Emily Millern who is a poet, actor and playwright.

Ardhi Gallery is Nairobi’s latest contemporary art gallery, having opened its doors in April 2023. Ardhi, meaning ‘ground’ in Swahili, is a thoughtfully curated space showcasing emerging, underrepresented and outsider artists alongside leading established artists who have a passion for nurturing the arts in society.

The ongoing art exhibition is a true representation of that. I must state that I am yet to see such a huge art gallery in Nairobi, I guess it must be around 10,000 to 12,000 square ft of space. Important to note is that the gallery also has an event space that is available to associations, collectives and artists, according to the founder, Christine Oguna. You will need to get in touch with them to see how you can have your event there. The gallery is in partnership with APA insurance.

Ardhi Gallery is a huge space in the basement of Parallel 4 off Mbagathi Way, Nairobi.

Ardhi aims to expand the wider communities’ exposure to and appreciation of art and creative works which reflect the diverse everyday life of Kenyans, and the role creativity and the arts play in transforming hardship into something of meaning and beauty. Ardhi holds regular and pop up exhibitions, poetry nights, talks on mental health and safety in society, and art classes for children and adults- instructed by artists represented in the gallery.

Some of the ten or so who turned up for the poetry and story-telling event on Sunday evening.

Christine, the founder, told us that she named the gallery Ardhi, because it’s about starting from the ground — from where we are, and it strips us from the societal hierarchies of status and elitism—we’re all at the same level from a fundamental perspective, we’re all equal, and we all have something unique to say. Ardhi’s mission is to provide a space for that discourse to take place.

The on-going art installation features painted corrugated iron sheets from nearby slums by the celebrated Adam Masava, school lesson books as a backdrop to images of youth by Isaiah Malunga , upcycled detritus transformed into beauty by emerging artist Saviour Juma, breathtaking acrylic Kenyan landscapes by the young Vincent Kimeu, and rare stunning works by Brush Wanyu, recognized as one of East Africa’s founders of contemporary art.

One end of the Gallery has a flexible event space. Ardhi Gallery is open for collaboartions with like-minded artists, associations and art collectives.

Other exhibiting artists in this first show at Ardhi Gallery are Akani, Bulimu, Edward Diez-caballero, James Mwangi, Brian Kimani, Stephen Ndavi, Esther Nyambura, Anne Mumbi, Amina Marther, Fredrick, Musyoki, Denis Oduor, James Mutugi, Rusina, Alphonse, Kelvin Nzioka, Solomon Powell Macharia, Ian Weswa, Robinson Omweri, Cyprian, Nyaanga, Openda weche, Kimberly Njoki, Alex Mongare.

You can visit the gallery during working hours at Parallel 4 building at the junction of Ole Sangale Road and Mbagathi Way, just opposite the mosque or AP Camp, Nairobi. Below are some additional pictures for your enjoyment.

Painted corrugated iron sheets from nearby slums by the celebrated Adam Masava

The visual art collection is a complete experience, with a number of traditional art and furniture.

You may notice the small logo on the display box-the gallery is in partnership with APA Insuarance.

This coarse-styled art by Vincent Kimeu was one of my personal favourites.

If contemporary art was a person, then these pieces represent exactly that.

An African chair on the foreground and other six traditional door designs carefully hanging with chains on the background.

What do you call this instrument?

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