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Healing art at Pumwani

Beyond the colours, shapes and patterns, art in hospitals has been shown to serve as a positive distraction for what the patient is experiencing. Call it the healing power of art.

With this in mind, 13 visual artists have donated artwork to Pumwani Maternity Hospital.

Apart from demonstrating the necessity and utility of art in public spaces and places of wellness, it is part of the [email protected] Celebrations that will see ordinary Kenyans contribute positively to society in this unconventional way.

This being his second hospital art project, the first being Mater Hospital, Tonney Mugo, a stained glass artist donated a piece called New Beginnings.

“I feel that art plays an important part in healing,” he said.

His screen in the main walkway is one of the 18 art pieces that will be hung in the building.

There is also a functional sculpture in the form of a bench called Tulia on the lawn next to the building, by Kuona Trust artist Kevin Odour. The hospital where Oduor was born.

Beautiful Delivery

Wambui Wamae Kamiru (a conceptual artist) headed the Pumwani Art Project, A Beautiful Delivery.  Photo\ Mwikali Lati
Wambui Wamae Kamiru (a conceptual artist) headed the Pumwani Art Project, A Beautiful Delivery. Photo\ Mwikali Lati

Wambui Wamae Kamiru, a conceptual artist, who spearheaded the project, said it started last year with her, but later included Tonney and Kevin.

“We then got funding from Kuona Trust and Mondeas.

On seeing that we could do more, we decided to make a general call for all visual artists in Kenya to donate their work.

Six artists have given us some pieces they already had, while others worked on new ones specifically for the hospital,” she said.

The Pumwani Art Project, A Beautiful Delivery, began when Wambui was invited by a doctor at the hospital to see her place of work.

Pumwani delivers about 100 babies a day and performs 50 C-Sections, making it the busiest and largest maternity hospital in the country.

“I was inspired by the wonderful work they did here at the hospital. Initially, the doctor wanted three pieces from me to hang at the antenatal clinic. But I felt it needed more to show that art can have an impact on people’s outlook of the world. The pieces needed to be seen everywhere. I love art and the work that this Pumwani doctor does. And I love children, so naturally, this is something to work towards,” she said.

She has also invited Peter Kenyanya to do a two-metre graphite sculpture and Juhudi Children’s Club who will do a mosaic near the main entrance.

“I chose mother and child, giving life, nurturing and inspiration as themes for the pieces. Everything from the bench to the glass panel to the paintings fit within these themes,” said Wambui.

She would love to do other hospitals in Nairobi and elsewhere, but her wish is for  the corporate world to get involved.

Amazing sculpture

“There is this amazing sculpture by Gakunju Kaigwa and I would like a company to buy that sculpture for a hospital. It is a woman joyfully raising her child and it is more than seven feet tall,” she said.

She thanks Samani Construction which installed the pieces for free.

“They are an example of a corporate supporting art. There is value in having art in public spaces and although these are donations, some pieces are valued at between Sh80,000 to more than Sh280,000.

The artists who created them took time out from paying projects to work on these for the hospital. Think children’s homes, roundabouts, hospitals, airports — the possibilities are endless,” said Wambui.

She is curious to see what Kenyan artists can do for Mathare and Kenyatta National hospitals.