Last year, I fell in love with two things. Pumwani Hospital and the work of Dr. Wambui Waithaka and other committed and energetic doctors like her.
Pumwani Hospital is an Obstetric and Referral Hospital for delivery of expectant mothers in Nairobi and adjoining districts. Pumwani also caters to HIV+ mothers through its PMTCT program. Daily normal deliveries are 50 – 100, and Caesarean Sections are 10 – 15. It is the largest maternity hospital in Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa.
I was told that I should become a doctor, pilot or architect when I was growing up and because it was important, I suppressed my dream to follow what I actually knew I was – an artist. The last half of 2013 was about actively getting back to that place: Africana
It is in this time that serendipity crossed my path with the other Wambui’s – I can’t even remember how. Then somehow, I found myself at Pumwani with Wambui. And somehow, I heard myself committing to creating art pieces for the antenatal clinic.
Somehow the project took a life of its own. Then Kuona Trust put some money for materials, towards supporting the project through it’s Outreach Programs Grant. Then it seemed befitting to have more artists from Kuona be part of the project. Then Tonney Mugo made a stained glass panel. Then Mondeas decided to support the project further and Kevin Oduor said he wanted to make a sculpture garden bench.
Tonney Mugo’s stained glass panel in progress.
Somehow the project has continued to grow. Wambui Waithaka challenged me a little by asking why only a few pieces. So through Kuona Trust, I made a call to contemporary visual artists to donate art pieces. In the last couple of weeks we have been collecting art from all over Kenya.
It is powerful to see love extended in this way.
I have been selective about which pieces to include and the theme is around nurturing and hope and/ or mother and child. The pieces are by some well known Kenyan artists and they are of the same quality that you would expect from a private hospital that has a budget to commission artists.
Artwork in hospitals can serve as a positive distraction for what the patient is experiencing. It is the ultimate way to demonstrate the healing power of art and its utility beyond aesthetics.
In 2004, a clinical study* showed that placing original artworks within the healthcare environment had the following benefits:
- Reduction in levels of anxiety, stress and depression
- Reduction in patients’ length of stay within the hospital
- Reduction in the use of some medications
- Increase in staff morale
*Public Art in Health Spaces: http://www.publicartonline.org.uk/resources/research/healthcare_research_evaluation.php
It is because women like Wambui Waithaka exist that change can be effected through unlikely synergies. It is because of artists that we can bring joy and healing through something as underestimated as art.
We need more artists in this, our beloved Kenya. More artists alongside the doctors, pilots and architects.
In a couple of weeks, we will handover the art pieces to Pumwani Hospital and hopefully this will be the start of more projects that put contemporary art in healing places.