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GALLERIES: Prizes for talent? Here’s to next time!

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By FRANK WHALLEY
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Happy anniversary! Manjano, the art competition that welcomes all comers this month reached its 10th edition — so congratulations to the GoDown Arts Centre of Nairobi that organises the event.

For anything to last that long in the East African art world is a triumph in itself and particularly happy returns are due because of the encouragement this competition gives to young talent.

This year entrants were invited to explore human interest in Nairobi; a yawning brief into which any artist could fit just about anything. The temptation to lift and dust an existing work must have been overwhelming.

Of the 196 entries 50 were hung and they can be seen in the exhibition area hived off from the first floor car park of the Village Market, Gigiri, until April 22.

From those lucky 50, ten finalists were chosen and the judges then awarded three prizes (first, second and third) for each of two categories; Students and Practicing Artists.

Except that they didn’t.

Their choice for first prize in Practicing, it turned out, had previously been submitted for the 2015 Manjano, and thus was disqualified under the rule that all submissions had to be of works made in 2018.

What was that about lift and dust? Oh, the shame of it!

So, no winner in Practicing, just a second and third; although why they did not simply shuffle everyone up a peg I do not know.

Second placed was Andrew Chege with a huge (around 6ft by 4ft) cityscape called DYU See It? … two angled skyscrapers in indigo set against a turquoise sky and with burnt orange reflections of the setting sun against their sides — a distinctive piece that lives in the memory. Certainly it deserved some recognition.

Third in Practicing was an equally large view of an orator orating an oration with a few wananchi slumped around his podium. Called Compassion and notable for its flaming, headache-inducing palette, it was by Allan Kioko.

Winner of the Student section was Florin Mmaka with From my angle — The City, a small collage of a figure in which the head was replaced by a luscious red mouth.

Second was a view of traffic lights called Direct Orders by Gohole Otto while Third was Taabu Munyoki’s rows of 42 faces in different colour combinations that paid too much homage to Andy Warhol and his Marilyn heads.

One of the great joys of a juried exhibition is to disagree with almost everything the judges decide.

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Did Manjano’s three judges — Beatrice Wanjiku, Maggie Otieno and Wambui Kamiru Collymore; excellent artists all — tippy-tap their way around the show with little white sticks?

Of course not, yet this year they seemed to get most of it completely, hopelessly and gloriously wrong.

That said, I must in fairness acknowledge that previous Manjano judges have a fine record for spotting talent.

Past prize winners include a Who’s Who of the Kenyan art scene: Samuel Githui, Onyis Martin, Elias Mung’ora, Michael Musyoka, Dennis Muraguri, Andrew Mwini, Paul Onditi, Dickens Otieno, Florence Wangui and many more.

The many more include Peter Walala, who won in 2015, came third in 2016, third again last year and in my view should have won this year by at least 10,000 kilometres.

His wall hanging Nairobi Under Pressure was of 430-odd tyre pressure valves, neatly stitched together and framed. It should have been a shoe in, with wise judges regarding any untypical minor imperfections in finishing as subsidiary to its overall brilliance.

Walala is well known for his pithy comments on consumerism in which dozens, if not hundreds, of fashion labels taken from mitumba are carefully stitched together and framed. The effect is beautiful and strangely uplifting.

Nairobi Under Pressure, although sombre with its dark grey rubber tyres, glittered with the polished brass of hundreds of pressure valves and it achieved magisterial authority.

It was also by far the most expensive piece on offer at an equally authoritative $14,000. (The cheapest was a delightful little print of a matatu by Kelly Kinyua at just $20, already framed. A snip.)

Michael Soi, another previous prize winner, was also cast into the darkness.

Acclaimed internationally for his combination of comic book simplicity, social commentary and biting humour he was not even a finalist.

His painting Separation of Church and State, with its collision between the established Church and gay rights was nonetheless cheekily placed on the outside wall of the exhibition space in the expectation no doubt that it would attract the crowds.

With it hung a couple of landscape sketches by the ever-improving Coster Ojwang’ and a splendid view of the National Archive by Nelson Ijakaa.

Other delights included Conductor’s Chair, a decorated bench by Evans Ngure, a cityscape called Concrete Jungle by Leevans Linyerera, the almost lifesize tin wall sculpture Housegirl Basking on a Verandah, by Mike Kyalo and two finely made clay chess sets Power 1 and Power 2 by Moses Sabayi.

So, possible winners galore but not a prize for any of them in this year’s anniversary show.

Eleventh edition, here we come…

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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