Nestled in a basement, below the Da Place Lounge and Restaurant, in the Parallel Four building, Ardhi Gallery is a space pulsating with energy, youthful promise, and ambition. The newly established gallery, a hidden gem in Nairobi West, is anything but quiet on this Sunday evening. Ardhi Gallery’s vibrant spirit is palpable as it hosts an enchanting classical music concert that transcends expectations.
Ardhi Gallery, owned and founded by Christine Oguna, a dedicated young Kenyan lady with a fervent passion for the arts, is a beacon of contemporary art in Kenya. It’s more than just a gallery; it’s a sanctuary for emerging and underrepresented artists from diverse disciplines to showcase their talents alongside established creators. Unlike many galleries that tend to favor established artists, Ardhi Gallery is a platform for the marginalized, the youth, and those longing to break into the professional art space.
During a candid conversation with Christine Oguna, she articulates the gallery’s unique approach: “Emerging artists, especially from marginalized communities, face immense challenges in penetrating the professional art scene.” Indeed, the walls,I observe hang a healthy dose of artworks from Kibra-based artists Ardhi Gallery not only exhibits artwork but also serves as a hub for creative minds to gather, inspire each other, and gain the exposure they deserve. Christine’s driving force is to foster an environment where Kenyans embrace their own culture, appreciating the value that’s homegrown rather than searching for it beyond borders.
The mission of Ardhi Gallery succinctly encapsulates its essence: “Create Value through Art.” Since its inception in April of this year, the gallery has already flourished with a bustling calendar of events. Weekends are packed with dance performances, musicals, artist talks, and documentaries. Upcoming plans include art fairs like the anticipated Esho Funi Exhibition on Recycled Art.
As a new enthusiast of classical music, I had the privilege of attending a memorable event hosted by Ardhi Gallery on Sunday, August 20th, from 5 to 6 p.m. The event was a collaboration with Classical Music Kenya, an opera ensemble composed mainly of vocalists and a pianist. The spotlight shone on the talented performers of the evening: Hilda Juma (Soprano), Karoli Mwanyalo (Tenor), and pianist Robert Oyuga. Adorned in formal attire and matching ornate face masks, they graced the stage with their presence around a quarter past five.
The ensemble’s mission is clear: to acquaint people with the wonders of the Kenyan classical music scene and to kindle a greater appreciation for opera. After his captivating performance, I had the privilege of conversing with tenor Karoli Mwanyalo, who unveiled the band’s formation earlier in the year. He shared, “Each of us has been involved in classical singing and performances for quite some time individually.” When I asked about his proficiency in Italian, he humbly confessed that despite performing an Italian aria, he doesn’t speak the language fluently. “It’s not as easy as it looks,” he confessed. “Mistakes happen, but the key is to keep going as if nothing occurred. If the audience remains unaware, that’s the art of perfection.” He revealed that he has been singing the repentance hymn ‘Pietà, Signore’ for nearly two years, making it feel more natural over time.
The evening’s repertoire also included other iconic pieces; ‘The Prayer’ by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli, ‘All I Ask of You’ by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and ‘Never Enough’ by Lauren Allred. The soprano, Hilda Juma, graced the stage with her solo performances of ‘Orfeo ed Euridicie’ from Christoph Willibuld Gluck’s 18th-century opera ‘Che Farò Senza Euredicie’ among others. The performers exhibited an astonishing mastery of their craft, delivering breathtaking high notes with unwavering poise.
The collaboration between Classical Music Kenya and Ardhi Gallery is set to continue, with performances scheduled every month. This partnership is a testament to Ardhi Gallery’s mission of expanding its outreach and providing a platform for classical music enthusiasts to converge. For upcoming performances in collaboration with the gallery, keep an eye on their social media platforms for dates and details.