‘Ashes to Ashes, Art to Art’: Kenyan artist blends old and new

While we may never know the complete meanings and intentions behind prehistoric art, it still forms a bridge to the past for us today. It is inspiring to contemplate the worlds that existed at the time the art was made, and the worlds that these first artists created through their art. Kenyan born artist, Mwini Mutuku, explores this connection through his art today.

making rock art contemporary

Inspired by the endangered state of African rock art, conversations with TARA founder, David Coulson, and by the work of TARA, Mwini created artwork that blends ancient and contemporary art and makes commentary on the state of rock art today. His piece is named ‘Ashes to Ashes, Art to Art’. He explains,

“The piece is a floor installation depicting a “mass grave” of human figures taken from African rock art imagery accessed from TARA’s vast database of endangered rock art sites around Africa. The piece attempts to set up a simultaneous relationship between Art and Mortality.”

making rock art contemporary

Photo credit, Mwini Mutuku

Mwini hopes to tap into the human capacity for empathy in this work that aims to resuscitate genuine concern for the preservation of fast disappearing Rock Art Sites. He considers their neglect an alarming indication of a disregard for early human artistic expression. In ‘Ashes to Ashes, Art to Art’, the viewer is invited to imagine the role of a researcher analysing well preserved relics of a past civilisation.

The work has been selected for one of Africa’s most prestigious art competitions – the Barclays L’Atelier Competition, which rewards young visual artists with the opportunity to develop their talents abroad. For the 2016 competition, artists within the visual arts, including sculpture, painting, digital, installation, printmaking  from 10 African countries were invited to enter. The best 100 works of art will be exhibited in Johannesburg South Africa.

making rock art contemporary

We at the Trust for African Rock Art are excited to see this meeting of two worlds as it were, and wish Mwini all the best in the competition!

by Wangũi Kamonji

All photos by Mwini