African Homestead

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African Homestead hangs at Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. Created by Kenyan artist Avni Shah with help from her local community, and under the tuteledge of mosaicist Jim Anderson, it depicts an African village scene. Here, Avni writes about its creation.


I was privileged to learn mosaics under the tutelage of London-based mosaicist Jim Anderson. He was invited by Juhudi Children’s Club, a Kenyan non-profit organisation, to partner with them on a project to change the myth that hospital environments are foreboding by creating mosaics with cheerful activities and a kaleidoscope of colors. The projects I worked on were at the Drug Rehabilitation Centre and Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi as well as Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge in the UK. The mosaics lift the spirits of the patients and visitors alike and remind them of the existence of a vibrant world around them. Participating patients and local people found the activity therapeutic. Jim and I hit off immediately as his mosaics feature realism and so does my art.

Avni Shah pictured with African Homestead at Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi

African Homestead is an eight by four-foot mosaic that hangs at Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi, depicting an African village scene. The project began with visits to various tile and glass dump sites for “treasures in the trash” that would go into producing the mosaic. Earlier in my children’s art camp I had used a theme “best from waste” and the concept of this project rhymed well with it.

I prepared large sketches of the main subjects and transferred them on to medium-density fiber board. The tiles were hammered into fragments and the pieces for the main subjects trimmed using a clipper and then segregated according to different shades of each color. We glued the tiles and glass pieces to the board, filling in the background last using random sizes of fragments. To get a flatter finish, we used fragments of similar thickness. Printed tiles were used to create special effects. I chose black grout to give a defined effect.

I did the project in my home’s courtyard and all the neighbors, young and old, joined in and had loads of fun helping out (some are pictured above). The courtyard became a beehive of activity and a party atmosphere prevailed.

About Avni Shah
Kenyan born Avni Shah embarked on an art career under the guidance of Keith Harrington, who inspired her to paint East African coastal scenes. She has a Teachers Training Diploma in Art Education from Sir J. J. School of Art, Mumbai. She is a multimedia artist and her styles and themes have evolved over the years but still maintain an African trait.

Instagram: @african.artist.avni