As the world grapples with COVID-19, artists have been reflecting this new reality in their work. One artist in Kenya is creating thought-provoking pieces, aimed at fostering hope for Africa’s future.
From the brush strokes the figure takes form.
A woman nursing her children in normal times isn’t anything out of the ordinary.
But the mask the African woman in the picture wears adds a twist to the tale.
And those are the details that spark the discussion that Dale Kotengo is trying to start, in a world battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Years of practice have led him to this moment.
“My earliest memory of painting was when I was 13 years, when I was being mentored by my mum. I worked on that for a little while until I went to college and studied graphic design.”
Dale went into theatre designing sets and then into film as a creative director, for 14 years
Then he decided to return to his roots.
Dale Kotengo- Artist: “I was telling other people’s stories in film and basically in theatre. I felt that at this point I needed to come back to my art and tell stories that actually impact on life.”
Now in his workshop, he weaves tales about issues close to his heart.
And when the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world, Dale decided to speak about it through his art.
The woman with the mask is one of his most recent pieces.
She represents the African mother, showing the continuity of life during what is a turning point for both Africa and the world.
“My discussion is how the African people have actually learned from this experience and right there and again something that after this pandemic will never go away. It’s more of the education of the African people, the fact that our lives are valuable.”
Through the use of bright colours and colourful African fabric, the artist promotes African scenery and the vibrant culture of the continent.
And through his art he also hopes to convey the message of resilience-and Africa’s ability to overcome COVID-19 if its people work together.
“That painting combines all these things together, talking about the pandemic itself, the risk platform, the understanding of the African people and its culture,” Kotengo says.
Wherever his pieces find a home, he hopes they will inspire changes in how the continent views itself and how it approaches a crisis.
And he hopes these changes will last beyond the pandemic.
“An artist will tell you that the message behind the artwork is whatever meaning you the viewer, assign to it. However, for this artist, during this period, it is important that his pictures paint a picture of hope and transformation during this time of COVID-19.”