Thresholds | Anita Kavochy

by Esther Kariuki



Thresholds is a continuum of introspection-filled self portraits that gradually unfold, eventually losing the artist’s form to develop a more abstract expression. The 14 works displayed in Kavochy’s first solo exhibition are collectively drawn, painted and marked with gripping scribbles of raw diaristic text.


The self-portrait is a most introspective choice of work with the artist faced with the task of choosing what to show, how to show it and perhaps most daunting, why to show it. The choice of; in Kavochy’s words; what to cover, uncover, recover, discover, reveal or hide. For an exploration of transparency, semi naked nudes seem an apt choice by the artist.


In contemporary art the naked nude, coined by Frances Borzello, is confrontation on the ideal standards placed on the human form and are bound to cause viewer anger and/or embarrassment. It is a shift from the traditional sanitized nude as well as relief from the glamorized depictions of the human body. The semi-covered portraits in Thresholds are beautifully unapologetic even as they diminish further back with the progression of the series.


One of my top picks from the show is a painting with the artist’s image- chocolate caramel toned skin and neck-length locks swaying back- in a background of earth tone greens and mustards. This artist’s impression is streaked with streams of white and brown, just ever so slightly veiling it. The background itself is a myriad of geometrical shapes, each shade a different blend from the next. It is through these lines and boxes that Kavochy’s curious eye interrogates the notion of thresholds. Interaction with others, with the environment is not merely instinct of the outer self. What we choose to cover or uncover, reveal or hide is subject to the subconscious. The inner self through thoughts, emotions & desires situates and steers us.


To be in the thresholds is to be in the space between the conscious and sub-conscious; it is pausing in your step to face whether to cover or uncover, whether to reveal or hide. This tapping into the subconscious; the hidden, underlying emotions present in our relationships, also features as a theme in Kavochy’s previous series of work, particularly Ni Nyumbani (an installation from the project, Nyumba Moja was featured in a group show mid last year).


Another piece from the work, There is Light in Plain Sight drew me in. The painting is adorned with several handwritten texts, some discernible, others not. I picked out lines that are references to previous work; Funika Funua and Ni Nyumbani? It is punctured with three rectangular gapes, an exciting play that allows the light in sight to seep through.



Thresholds is showing at One-Off Pop-up Gallery, Rosslyn Riviera until March 10, 2019. Kavochy is a member of Maasai Mbili Artists Collective and her work can be found at the Kibera studio.