Best known as a sculptor and printmaker, Chelenge Van Rampelberg has, in a career spanning almost four decades exceptional works in painting, printmaking, engraving, and sculpture. ‘The Long Way Home’ marks the first-ever exhibition to cover the entirety of her career, inviting attention to Chelenge’s artistic methods and the subjects with which she has been preoccupied all through – the concept of home; our connection with the natural world; motherhood and family; and the position and power of women in our society.
This exhibition chronicles the evolution of Chelenge’ practice, commencing with her initial forays into painting with oil on paper, and wood sculpture in the early to mid 1980s. This phase was succeeded by her exploration of printmaking, a transition that began after her participation in a printmaking workshop at the French Cultural Centre in Nairobi, organized by Gallery Watatu in 1992. This, in turn, paved the way for her embrace of engraving, a technique for which she has gained recognition.
A masterful storyteller, Chelenge weaves narratives that are deeply rooted in her own life experiences. Her artistic approach shuttles effortlessly between keen observation and abstract interpretation, enabling her creations to serve not only as personal chronicles but also as profound reflections on the circumstances of our being in the world.
Born and raised in Kericho, Kenya, Chelenge Van Rampelberg (b. 1961) began working in the mediums of painting and sculpture in 1984. Whilst Chelenge received no formal training in art, her upbringing exposed her to a variety of indigenous practices of making, and these formed the foundation of her creative expression. An autodidact for the most part, Chelenge added to her skills by participating in artists’ workshops, especially in the early years of her practice when she took part in sculpture and printmaking workshops at Gallery Watatu, Ngecha Artists Association, and the French Cultural Centre in Nairobi. Chelenge taps into her personal experiences and memories to create works that reflect human behaviour and the fragility at the heart of the human condition. Today, Chelenge Van Rampelberg resides and works in Tuala, on the border of the Nairobi National Park. She is renowned as one of the foremost sculptors in Kenya.