Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder to most people but artist Beatrice Ndumi appears not to be going by this adage. Otherwise, poses OGOVA ONDEGO, how does one explain her transformation of ordinary objects into beautiful utilitarian art?
For instance, she turns calabashes and gourds into baskets, lampshades, chick protectors, and ornaments. Her favourite mediums are mixed media, mirrors, pots, and beadwork. Her themes are varied although she saysshe uses daily life as her guide.
Many of Ndumi’s mosaic items have landscapes (seas, forests, deserts, cactus). “At times I am guided by clients who commission me to do work for them,” she says, adding that her work is self-explanatory. “What you see is what you get.” Ndumi, who is working on tree stumps to create tables, says she thrives on experimentation.
Experimental art makes her tick “As experimenting in groups is worthwhile, I prefer sharing my knowledge with interested people as I also learn from the experience,” says Ndumi who dropped art in Form Two in order to concentrate on “important” subjects without realizing that her future would revolve around the former. Saying she enjoys sharing her knowledge with individuals and groups, Ndumi’s long-term plan is to found a school of mosaic art. Meanwhile, she instructs groups like the Kyanika Self-Help Women Group in Kitui District. Ndumi’s artistic inspiration camefrom Nani Croze of Kitengela Glass. “I used to communicate with her through a children’s magazine called Rainbow and I would visit her during school holidays. Nani is my mother in art as she motivated me more than I can adequately express in words,” says the soft-spoken Ndumi who also works in stained glass.
Beautying city walls with mozaic art. However it was not until 1993 that Ndumi seriously embarked on art after school. I was the only one who didmosaic at Kitengela Glass as people did not like it.
“I was forced to learn it on my own,” explains Ndumi who hastens to add that she not only enjoys the art but hardly ever gets bored while practicing it. Unlike most people who do art on part time basis, Ndumi is a full time artist. Her consolation and secret of survival, she says, is that not many people practise mosaic and so the field is not as crowded as that of painters or sculptors. She also creates smaller items whose price is minimal so they may sell faster.
“This is a difficult discipline calling for skill and painstaking patience. Instead of just making big objects and pricing them highly hoping to make lots of money at a go, I also make smaller ones to sustain me during lean times. Otherwise I would starve,” confides the largely self-taught artist who works from her house. Never satisfied with working on pots made by other parties, Ndumi has now learnt pottery “in order to shape and mould them the way I want.”
Ndumi also makes beadwork besides painting murals. Her work, which she says is “Pottery mozaic art
liked by the public, is sold through many outlets among which are Product Designs and Development Centre in Nairobi. She is a dedicated member of Hawa Artists, a group of artists empowering women.”