One Off Gallery’s first art exhibition of the decade will be a feel-good fundraiser similar to the silent auction held last year to raise cash to cover the cost of running the new mobile veterinary clinic that “tracks, neuters and releases” (TNR for short) stray cats and dogs.
The exhibition will be part of a larger event organised by One Off’s founder-curator Carol Lees and the TNR Trust’s founder Amy Rapp, whose idea it also was to create a mobile vet clinic that could go all over Kenya and address the multifaceted issue of what Carol calls “loosely owned” dogs and cats.
“They’re called ‘loosely owned’ because somebody might feed them occasionally, but without permanent homes they are liabilities to especially low-income communities,” she says.
TNR was founded to both vaccinate these animals for rabies and neuter (or spade) them so they do not keep proliferating.
Carol herself has five rescue dogs. These are animals picked up primarily in police ‘swoops’ and scheduled to be exterminated if they aren’t claimed in good time.
The larger event that Kenyan artists like Dennis Muraguri, Florence Wangui, Thom Ogonga and Olivia Pendergast, among others, are participating in is called a “Second-Hand Jumble”.
The Jumble is meant to be a fun day where lots of ‘bargains’ will be available, including artworks by some of Kenya’s leading contemporary artists who will be getting a percentage from the sale of their work while the rest goes toward covering the operational costs of taking the clinic to low-income communities to vaccinate and run daylong educational programmes for kids.
“TNR now has a full-time veterinarian who vaccinates and neuters (or spades) the animals. It launched its mobile clinic in 2018. But it was early 2019 that the programme took off with the arrival of a qualified vet, Dr Desmond Tutu. Since then, TNR has vaccinated nearly 5,000 dogs and cats for rabies and educated over 1,300 children in animal welfare and how to deal with aggressive dogs.
Besides explaining such things to children, Amy and Carol created a Kiswahili children’s colouring book for use in teaching dog-care. The four artists whose drawings were selected to be in Kitabu Kuhusu: Kuweka Mbwa were ‘Bertiers’ Mbatia, Alex Mbevo, Samuel Kimemia and David Opiyo.
“Wherever the clinic goes, the colouring book is shared with the children we teach. We also give them coloured pencils so the little ones can be entertained,” Carol adds.
Speaking of entertainment, from noon until 6pm on February 16 at One Off, the TNR fundraiser will include music by the Kenyan band Hope plus food and drinks as well as the sale of art for “no more than Sh50,000.”
Meanwhile, the Second Hand Jumble will be selling “lightly-used” household items and books but no mitumba clothes.
“It will be a sort of ‘blankets and bulky wallets’-type thing,” says Carol, whose current exhibitions are one by David Thuku and the other a group show featuring many of the gallery’s favourites.
Thuku’s “Still in Motion” exhibition is his premiere as a contracted artist with One Off. The Loft Gallery, just a level below the Stables, features works by Okello, Muraguri and Florence as well as Peterson Kamwathi, Fitsum, James Mbuthia and others.
The gallery’s new outdoor Sculpture Garden will also be wide open and where much of the Second Band Jumble will be displayed. But the books and artworks will be available on the terrace. There, none of the art will be second-hand. It will all be original work created especially for the TNR fundraiser.