By Dominic Muwanguzi
Maria Naita’s name on the local art scene is synonymous with artworks that dwell on the woman and children. Her current solo exhibition, Abakyala leero, at AfriKotemp Art Gallery aka AKA gallery maintains this attribute. The artist is showing 20 paintings in acrylics that celebrate the woman in a critical way. Her work focuses on the achievements of the woman, especially the urban woman, who has managed to scale the corporate ladder. In the process, she may have lost her parental role.
The images show parentless children. This solitary aspect is symbolised by the shoes that are employed as a motif to allude to the authority and power handed onto them by their own parents. One painting, `Return the Honour’ is of a toddler trying on her mother’s red high-heeled shoe with car keys dangling in its (toddler’s) left hand. It invokes the neglect the children have to endure day to day as their parents go out to work.
“The woman today is working outside the home environment and is contributing to the family income. However, her children are left on their own. This exhibition is meant to raise some of those issues that are often forgotten when we are celebrating women equality at the workplace,” Naita says.
In pursuit of the women emancipation, the artist is of the opinion that women need to be united and not stand alone. `One Voice’ is a painting of women holding intimate conversation, an allusion to holding heads together and planning, which features in the exhibit.
“As men are planning, we too should be planning,” the artist says.
The artist juxtaposes her advocacy for women rights and their need to be respected with themes from her Christian faith. In `The Journey’ she paints a woman carrying a cross; symbolic to Christian biblical teaching. It evokes the burdens of contemporary society and how women should endure them.
The visual permeating narrative of this painting is strong and direct. Every woman working today relates to it: the hustle of juggling family with a demanding job is overwhelming. Yet the artist employs a bright palette to lull the audience’s moments of desperation and frustration. Blue and white infuse the paintings in the exhibit with a sense of calmness and intimacy. As you walk through the exhibition, you are serenaded with joy, peace, and love.
“Everything is possible with peace and love,” she says gaily.
Coming from a background of sculpture, Naita’s compositions on canvas have a quality of depth that is characteristic of sculptures. The images are tangible and immediately lure the audience into discourse. The artist supplements this technique with the choice of women in the paintings. They are young and attractive women who figuratively represent hope among the women.
This solo exhibition by a woman artist is timely in the month when the world celebrates International Women’s Day. Despite the problems faced by the woman on the African continent; like poor maternal health, discrimination, poverty and illiteracy, the woman can still afford to be hopeful of the future.
The exhibition now open until April 10, at AKA gallery, formerly Tulifanya Art Gallery, on Hannington Road.