Born in Kenya in1960, Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga first studied art at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, before continuing her studies at UCLA, USA. She now lives and works in San Antonio, Texas. Gakunga has been included in several exhibitions in the USA, UK, France, Brazil and Poland.
Gakunga’s works are predominantly wall-hanging sculptures ingeniously created from tin cans, steel wire and oxidised sheet metal. While the techniques Gakunga uses are common to the fibre arts across many traditions, her chosen materials are not; corroded sheet metal, rusted tin cans and stainless steel wire all follow the concept of Jua Kali, a Swahili adage which translates literally as ‘under the hot sun’ and refers to the serendipitous outcomes born out of discarded and weathered materials.
Mabati, or galvanised sheet metal, is ubiquitous in Kenya. Used mainly for roofing and building walls, this sheet metal is particularly associated with the Mabati Women's Groups and their empowering community housing projects of the ‘60s. Gakunga observed the success of their efforts, the harvesting of water from the new roofs and the consequent ageing of the material itself. Mirroring these weathered effects in her own artistic process, she deliberately saturates rolls of sheet metal in water, a process that oxidises the submerged surfaces, occasionally adding dyes to create different colours and other more complex effects. Tushauriane – Let’s Talk About It pushes Gakunga’s practice further, by consciously adopting new diverse materials that intertwine with her core material Mabati, she visually articulates the concept of dialogue.