LONDON - The prestigious £25,000 Charles Wollaston Award has been won by Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga for Wetereire – Waiting in the Royal Academy’s 253rd Summer Exhibition (open until 2 January 2022). Established in 1978 and presented to the ‘most distinguished work’ in the exhibition, it is one of the most significant art prizes awarded in the UK.
Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga’s sculpture is informed by her upbringing amongst the Kikuyu people of Kenya. Working primarily with metal and wire, her unique works are created by combining traditional techniques with contemporary processes in a meditation upon the progression from past to present. Galvanized sheet metal - known as mabati - is intertwined with Gakunga’s childhood memories when grass thatch roofs on Kenyan homes were eventually replaced by mabati. Gakunga’s abstract, wall-based sculpture, Wetereire – Waiting, is made using the dying, weaving and oxidisation techniques that the artist frequently employs in her practice. These processes transform the raw sheet metal producing a range of chromatic effects. The resulting work references memory and experience whilst reflecting upon wider issues such as the passing of time and the movement of peoples.