Giving Kenyan artists a lifeline
Posted Thursday, July 12 2012 at 18:40
Curator enlivens Nairobi’s art scene with monthly popular exhibition at the Nairobi National Museum
The Nairobi National Museum is not a Kenya National Art Gallery such as was envisioned by the former Vice President of Kenya, Joseph Murumbi.
But since Lydia Gatundu Galavu became the Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Museums of Kenya, the art scene both at the museum and in Nairobi generally has enlivened considerably.
A fine artist herself who majored in sculpture and painting before she helped start the Hawa Women Artists Group, Lydia as the museum’s first Kenyan curator has given fresh hope to local artists who have struggled to find popular venues to exhibit their art.
The fact that art exhibitions rotate on a monthly basis at the museum has opened up opportunities for local artists to show their work publicly as never before.
Nonetheless, it is still hard to believe that a museum made world renowned by the Leakey family for its fossils and old bones would become one of the busiest art venues in the country.
The current showcase of exhibitions at the museum is the clearest sign not only that the place is opening up opportunities to Kenyan artists.
It is also illustrative of the fact that the Kenyan art world is thriving, not just in the capital city but around the country.
The month of June was especially active as no less than four halls of the museum were filled with visual art.
There were two one-man exhibitions up, one by Justus Kyalo entitled ‘‘Hiari-Option,’’ the other by Edward Mwaura Ndekere entitled ‘‘Without Style.’’
There were also two group shows, one by the Lake Basin Artists Group from Western Kenya, and the other by Aboriginal artists, organised by the Australian High Commission in Nairobi.
What was most striking about the four shows was the sheer diversity of the artwork. Kyalo’s work is purely abstract, semi-geometric and powerfully painted on monumental canvases in thick layers of oil paints.
Meanwhile, Ndekere’s exhibition only hints at what the Kenyatta University lecturer is capable of artistically since most of his artwork has been shipped to China where he’s the focal point of a Kenyan art exhibition about to open in Beijing.
He has already exhibited his work widely in China, with one of his paintings recently sold at a fundraiser for a China-African charity for the equivalent of Sh22 million!
The Lake Basin Artists Group’s show is a stunning reminder that local artists are actively engaged in creating works of art, not only in Nairobi but countrywide.