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The glass art of reflection

By - George Orido | October 26th 2012

By George Orido

?While many artists prefer paint, brush and the canvas as their medium of expression, Edwin Kwalanda’s mainstay is the mirror.

Looking at his works, one gets this closeness, seeing yourself with the artwork, together, in a relationship so intimate that the message derived from the art creates an immediate echo of your own life.

The works, such as Opportune Time and The Tree of Life, are a vindication of Kwalanda’s knack for detail to bring objects to life and manifest as if they were in their natural setting. In Tree of Life, the focus is this baobab tree that that has shed off its leaves in dry season. The Baobab is able to survive the season by reducing its ability to transpire water already absorbed, thus in death life pulls through.

“If we all went the Baobab tree way we would only use what is needful and conserve our environment,” says Kwalanda, whose frames are made of recycled wood and painted in mahogany to bring a strong contrast to the mirrors.

His mirror art, Anticipation, depicts very high expectation of baby Surval Cats from their mother who has ventured out to hunt and fend for them, is a symbol of how parental care is crucial in the survival of the young ones. The pair is alert atop a cliff in the Savannah grassland awaiting the bountiful return of their mother.

However in the wait lies some potent danger from dangerous preys in the wild out there.

Loving father

The artwork is a vivid reminder of just how our children look forward to our return from work with food and other goodies that makes sense in their lives. Yet as we leave them home in the care of maids, relatives, teachers or guardians, the children are exposed to harmful interactions including violence and possible sexually explicit media and literature.

“We have to work hard to disengage our children from video games and instead motivate them to read books and enrich their minds with creativity,” says the 42-year-old father of a 13-year old daughter, Melissa.

The Ostrich is an artwork that depicts an Ostrich’s long neck that raises the bird’s ability to see far and enable it protects its eggs from possible preys.

“I really love this art for it reminds me of the care we receive from both our parents and seniors at work but it also remind me of many of the same who have neglected and abused their young ones,” observes Judy Njeri, a journalism student at the exhibition.

Never averse to political statements, his work in the Gentleman, is a paradox of a rhino ready to charge and maul anybody he can smell or see in sight, a depiction of our leaders who pretend to be nice to voters during campaigns but turn their backs on them immediately they assume office.

His unique artwork leaves many an art enthusiast appreciating the delicate skill and deft touch necessary when handling glass.

From plain glass to art

The once plain glasses from factory are transformed to become antiques that can be passed from one generation to another.

Corporate awards, wedding ceremonies, anniversaries, annual events, family and individual portraits have not been left behind.?

Born in Nairobi, Kwalanda was keen about his natural surroundings since he was young.

Just like any other child, curiosity and adventure was the norm. He loved insects and grass.

His favourite insects were the grasshopper and ladybird (red, with black spots).

“The grasshopper was the fiercest of them all, because of its powerful hind legs for hopping and protecting itself from potential enemies. The ladybird was gentle and friendly,’ he recalls. He grew up in an era when art was the least of subject that parents would want to hear their children take up as a career, but nothing deterred him from pursuing his dream to be an artist.

His resolve couldn’t have been more resolute than when he met his teacher and mentor Paul Kisenyi, a Ugandan.

“When in the 90’s I met a British artist Philippa Simpson she introduced me to the art of glass engraving and I have never looked back,” says Kwalanda who hopes to exhibit his works in Europe soon.

Apart from the mirror art, there are beautiful bags made from African prints by Kwalanda’s partner Maurine Akinyi at the Kuyanza Glass Art and Deco.

The handmade bags have been selling like hot cake by the many art lovers coming at the exhibition.

“I try to do something with my creative faculties after I got inspiration from my partner Edwin,” says Maureen who doubles as Kwalanda’s manager.


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