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For the love of art

By Mwangi Muraguri | February 17th 2016
Yona Wanjala (right) with Male Events Chairman Philip Mae and a friend hold some of his paintings at their offices in Mombasa. [PHOTO: KELVIN KARANI/STANDARD]

Monetary gain was the last thing Yona Wanjala expected when he presented a painting during an Epilepsy Afro-fashion fair exhibition in Mombasa.

That was in October last year and since then, Wanjala has sold five paintings depicting the myelin sheath - an insulating layer found on nerves, at Sh20,000 each.

“I never anticipated the painting would command the kind of attention it got especially from persons willing to learn more about Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and other nervous system disorders,” says the 22-year-old.

Wanjala says the painting was inspired by a number of his friends who have defied challenges of frequent seizures from different brain and nervous system disorders to become successful artists.

“One of my friends, who has refused to be put down by seizures from his condition, is a painter who also makes ornaments and grows cereals and vegetables,” he says.

The artist says the idea behind his paintings is to show the beauty of brain cells and to inspire hope for persons living with epilepsy, MS and different nervous system disorders.

He says the painting he presented at the exhibition has provided an opportunity to sensitise the public on nervous system disorders.

It has also provided conversation around an array of genetic factors and environmental risks such as cigarette smoking, viral infections and exposure to harmful radiation linked to development of these disorders.

In human anatomy, the myelin sheath is an insulating layer or sheath made up of protein and fatty substance that form around nerves including those in the brain and spinal cord and which if damaged, causes various nervous system disorders.

“I only use oil based paints for my work which aims to capture more emotions than realism in the object,” says the artist who describes his work as abstract.

Wanjala, who is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree at Kenyatta University - Mombasa campus, says although being an artist is rewarding, it requires one to invest long hours coming up with unique art pieces.

“I spend most of my time coming up with artistic concepts and thinking of the best ways to implement them. I also make sure that my work is unique,” he says.

Wanjala envisions setting up his own art workshop and exhibition centre in five years time.

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