The Hub Karen unveiled ‘Under The Kahawa Tree’ to the public on Thursday, 23rd February 2017, a monumental sculpture in the lower piazza of the mall put together by local artist, Peter Ngugi. Encouragement of local artists and crafts people has always been at the core of The Hub Karen’s ethos.
The mall’s management partnered with Judy Ogana from The Go Down Art Centre to bring the piece to life. The idea was born from the observation that the coffee plant has played a major role in shaping the livelihoods and prosperity of many Kenyans. The colloquial expression of ‘the coffee is ready’ signifies payday in Nairobi urban culture and is commonly used in everyday conversation to mark personal moments of arrival, celebration and accomplishment.
Judy Ogana says, “As a society we have limited connection with contemporary art. The idea to have this art installation was conceptualized in 2013 to recognize innovation and creativity of exemplary talent.”
At a towering 32 feet, the art installation symbolizes the people who have been educated through proceeds from small scale coffee farming in different parts of Kenya. The unique figure is made up of over 9000 stainless steel spoons forming the canopy of the giant coffee tree. Spoons are the most basic item used in Kenya to eat what has been harvested. The delicately dominant tree also comes studded with over 3000 berries, a soft glint of ruby red, all ready for harvest signifying good times ahead. The mediums used by Peter Ngugi are predominantly stainless steel and aluminium.
In African culture, occasions of significance such as town meetings, baraza’s, ceremonies and celebrations are also shared under iconic trees. The people below the coffee tree represent everyday Kenyans, and are symbols of success in education, business and family values. The sculptures will also be dressed by a different retailer every week, displaying The Hub Karen’s support of its tenants.
Peter Ngugi says, “It is every artist’s dream that one day they would have their work in a public space surrounded by such beautiful architecture. This is indeed a dream come true for me. I am delighted when I see people interacting with the installation, taking picture with it and posting on social media. It is a noble thing that The Hub Karen decided to bring art from within the walls of a gallery and so close to the public.”
The artist also made a conscious decision to include different electronic devices to the sculpture e.g. the tablet, mobile phones and head phones, to mark an era, an era where information is received and shared faster than ever before.
Jonathan Yach, The Hub Karen mall manager adds, “It is not often that we celebrate art and artists. At The Hub Karen, we are committed to support local talent and the community around us. The Kahawa Tree breathes life into the mall. We want this piece to be a legacy to the people of Nairobi – they can touch it, interact with it and take pictures”.