Artistes ‘sensing the self’ through their art

By Ramadhani Ismail

By Ewen le Clec’h

On Saturday, March 12 Nafasi space art launched their first grand opening exhibition at Mikocheni industrial area, in Dar city showcasing Nafasi academy self-portrait arts with the theme of essence. The event started at six pm despite coming late but my expectation was to see a different exhibition compared to last year.

The event was very pleasant, accompanied by a buffet of snacks and drinks. The exhibition was well received by the many interested visitors.

It was a grand opening of the first exhibition from Nafasi Academy class. What fascinated me was the large number of young people at the exhibitions.

Indeed, an art exhibition about 14 young artist had been presented. The main topic of the evening event was to question art essences.

That’s why, to begin with, a debate and a video were presented to the public. The main idea was to understand what it could mean to be an artist. Thus, purposes of art were questioned. This was an important theme for the young artists of the Nafasi Academy, which allowed them to identify the precise origin of their approaches. To be able to question oneself and one’s art is essential for an aspiring artist.

After that, Academy’s visitors had been invited to the youngsters’ masterpieces exhibition. First creations of the artist were exposed there. Linked to the ideas of what are art’s aims, the approximatively twenty paintings on display were linked by the idea of ​​introspection. Topics such as emotions, religion, identity, personal history, and family were imprinted in the works.


Through a variety of manners, the young artists founded ways to voice themselves.

The opening week for this year is themed on the senses and characterized by running threads of observations, conversations, exercises and games addressing the senses both as a vehicle for navigating the wolf and a guide as to how we might live through it.

Speaking with Jesse Mpango the facilitator of the Nafasi academy, he narrates that the exhibition features the third cohort academy artists for 2022, whereby each of them were to exhibit their self-portraits as part of their first module.

”Sensing the self’, explores the artist’s identity and personal story as the foundation for artistic practice. The Academy consists of five modules which involve contemporary arts, African arts history, concert development, public arts and the last one is about professionalization which means involving in creating the CV and other stuff,” says Mr Mpango.

He adds that, the lessons were free

At the end of their academic career, their work will be introduced into the national museum for the exhibitions and given opportunities that they will be able to connect with different artists.

The exhibition involves different types of portraits whereby each one of them tells the story about the artist who represents that art, Barnabas Mnamba sharing the portrait of an oil lamp to explain that the artists need to use the arts to illuminate their community as whole.

Mnamba says, “The oil lamp is used to illuminate at night, this shows as an artist. I should use my art to illuminate the community as a whole openly and with great energy as I convey my messag to the community,”

To Mnamba showing his ability and selft-confidence as an artiste is important me my place the

Erick Tesha, provides us with the art about ‘the gift of the spirit’, the art talks about the mother as someone who has been a teacher, nurse and counsellor since she was a little kid. According to her, love made her become the person he is today.

Another student is Rebecca Nyabusu, she portrays the arts of the colorful lion, in her statement she narrates that, and the lion is the symbol of courage, power, strength, nobility and royalties.

“I reflect the lion because it is good at making decisions and is very goal oriented, she enjoys challenges, difficult assignments and opportunities for advancement,” she explains to Ms Nyabusu.

Vanessa Saul on the other hand is also one of the students who got my attention when explaining the types of portraits she made, as her first exhibition she takes the emotional, love, and into arts but all in using nature as her art.

She says, “The butterfly inside the painting is me as my name ‘Vanessa’ originated from Ancient Greek means ‘Butterfly’ but in Hebrew it means a star. The whole process of a lava becoming a complete butterfly represents my life, I love nature and I love how butterfly looks.”

In her painting, we observe the metamorphosis process from a lava stage to a butterfly, Vanessa says it also represents the circle of life and going through all the struggles, the moments and creating memories in the process.

Another eye-catching art masterpiece from Barnabas Mnamba, had his face painted like someone viewing oneself from a mirror.

Another piece of art that got my attention was an art of the cross with a growing flower at the bottom painted by Kelvin Shayo.

The creative artist, Shayo said he created the art to reflecting Jesus Christ as his redeemer because for him, he is the source of new life to him, “The cross is a symbol of remembrance salvation through the death of the Lord Jesus,” narrates Shayo.

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