“I am Kenya’s first woman sculptress,” Chelenge says, as we step through a low, thatch-roof verandah and into her light-filled home studio— a sprawling bungalow where rooms flow effortlessly into one another, like a river. The walls are an immaculate whitewash and the cement screed floor is painted with red oxide, creating a perfect backdrop for Chelenge Van Rampelberg’s rich collection of paintings, and her own wooden sculptures—some nearly touching the ceiling, others at eye level.
As we meander among the sculptures I am struck by the expressions on the carvings – alive, serene, defiant. Some lips are upturned into small smiles. Many of the figures are missing something… a breast, an arm, both legs …
“What’s up with the disabilities?” I ask Chelenge, and spark off a monologue.
“I believe the ugliest thing in the world is the most beautiful.
“See this cripple here? He’s too, can give a nice, strong hug to this beautiful girl he loves.