Global 'No Boundaries' exhibition puts Kenyan art on the map

An excited Daniella Wanjine displays her artwork during the exhibition. [Emmanuel Mwendwa]
In Kenya, young budding artists endowed with potential sketching skills are often compelled to nurture individual muses on their own.

This is prompted by the fact that visual arts is still not an examinable subject in most Government schools.

Fortunate ones gain significant talent growths options when they join private schools, whose set of study courses incorporates learning rudimentary artistic know-how. The institutions have an array of measures that aim to introduce young learners to basic drawing and artistic skills.

The benefits of exposure to art at an early age are immense. Opportunities to showcase their formative creations goes a long way to spur those keen to pursue art in the long run.

One such platform tailored for young artists is the No Boundaries International Art Exhibition. This year marks the annual event’s fourth edition, whose call for entries is ongoing until June.

"A Drop of Water" is the theme this year, which entails participants exploring, through their artworks, the relationship between human beings and water.

Open to children

This global showcase is open to children and teenagers currently in kindergarten, primary and high schools from around world, and who can submit coloured drawings and art using different mediums.

The selected artworks will be displayed in galleries open to the public in the host cities of Beijing, Paris, Nairobi, New York and Rio de Janeiro later in August and at the United Nations Headquarters.

Last year, Kenya was represented by varied creative drawings, which were submitted by pupils of Riara Springs School. The Columbia Global Centres Nairobi hosted the exhibition under the theme "One Tree, One City".

This marked the first time the young artists’ event was held in Africa since its inception in 2015. An estimated 150 artworks drawn by two eight-year-olds served as the toast for the showcase.

Kenyan children aged between seven and eight years – Anita Sanyu Kitonga, Sassie Kofi Araba, Joshua Mutua, Precious Shanelle, Shasha Nungari, Gerald Garang, Terrell Agina and Nelly Karimi – took part in the event.

Other participants were Imani Wairimu, Alexis Chepkemoi, Nathaniel Buluma, Maryann Mbiya, Ryan Mwenda, Daniella Wanjine, Sharlena Wahome and Mwikali Kyale.

Their colourful drawings were featured alongside pieces by children from USA, Brazil, China, France and Hong Kong-based Art programme WABC (World of Art Brut Culture) dedicated to artistic projects tailored for children with special needs.

Since July last year, the collective artworks were displayed alternately in galleries open to the public in Beijing, Paris, New York, Rio de Janeiro and Nairobi as the last stop.

The Columbia Global Centres regional hubs offered exhibition space in partnership with the No-Boundaries Committee. Through art, the "One Tree, One City" theme sought to address the bond between cities, trees and nature.

“This international art event empowers youth to pay attention to environmental protection awareness. They express thoughts through the power of art, whilst finding their place in an increasingly globalised village,” says Pauline Muthoni, Programmes Officer, Columbia Global Centres, Nairobi.

A non-profit organisation established in New York in 2015, No Boundaries is at the forefront to enhance global awareness and social responsibility through visual art education, programmes for children and young adults.

The event founder, Yan Baitong, rolled it out as an exhibition and not a competition. This international artistic, educational platform cultivates socially caring and responsible global citizens, who can impact the future with nuanced perspectives through visual arts education, he said.

“We hope that through shared art, they (children) learn to understand, respect and cherish each other's differences. In the future, No Boundaries will every year invite one country or region to join in, connecting children and youth to the world and growing the next generations,” said Mr Baitong.

Power of art

The "No-Boundaries" tagline originates from the concept that art has no boundaries, irrespective of different countries. The global platform utilises the power of art education and visual arts to enhance social responsibility and awareness in future generations around the world.

For Riara Springs pupil Ryan Mwenda, the event was an eye-opener. “This is the first time to attend an art exhibition and submit a set of my artistic drawings for public display. It was very exciting and educative,” he recalls.

Although invitations for submissions were sent out to various schools, the response was not as enthusiastic, perhaps because the arts are not within their core curriculum study work.

“It was evident that most schools do not have specialist Art Teacher(s) in lower primary levels (ages seven to 11). This is a disadvantage to nurture or identify budding artists at an early age,” notes Pauline.

Nonetheless, “It was fascinating to see different interpretations of the One Tree, One City theme across different countries. Through use of crayons, varied colourful shades, simple illustrations, those visiting exhibitions experienced unique global aspects through the children's eyes,” she adds.

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