Nairobi art world alive with veteran and visiting artists

'The Career Woman' by Pascal Chuma. Photo/MARGARETTA WA GACHERU
The Career Woman by Pascal Chuma. Photo/MARGARETTA WA GACHERU 

Timothy Brooke is a veteran on the Nairobi art scene. While still a student at St. Mary’s Secondary School, in the early sixties, he figured he would be a painter.

After secondary school he went to the UK, the Farnham School of Art, to further his education and had his first professional show in 1967 in Surrey.

He returned to Kenya in 1980 to take his place in what is considered ‘the early days’ of contemporary Kenyan art, although those ‘early days’ actually began decades before.

His current exhibition at One Off Gallery is untitled but if I could, I’d name it ‘Beyond the Demons’.

He once wrote an essay entitled ‘Why I paint’ where he confessed that since his return to Kenya, his art had been haunted by his childhood ‘demons’.


Those demons were his vivid memories of exquisitely colorful skies, expansive landscapes, city streets filled with multi-hued people and creatures both wild and domestic that he’d felt compelled to paint as a way of clearing his mind.

Most of his exhibition is inspired by these beautiful demons. He also has some work inspired by contemporary events that expose a whole other side of Timothy Brooke.

For instance, in Lampseda he paints a striking portrait of four veiled women who are illegal immigrants arriving at the most southern side of Europe.

The painting is inspired by a scene he saw in a press clipping and he wanted to give color and immortality to these otherwise nameless women.

Before the Acid is another anomalous image inspired from the media and moved him to recreate the ephemeral image of the Bolshoi Ballet director just moments before he had acid thrown in his face, leaving him disfigured for life.

Having two sisters who are professional ballerinas made Brooke especially sensitive to such a violent attack on a fellow artist.

The other post-demon painting commemorates the 2014 centenary of the First World War, however, which in a sense is haunted by the memory of his grandfather who served in the war and whom he knew when a young boy.

Yet one hopes Brooke hasn’t dispensed with all his demons as they have appealed to a wide range of art lovers for decades. What’s more, some of the most beautiful paintings at One Off are luscious landscapes that capture the brilliant rainbow colours of Kenya’s skies.

National Museum

Meanwhile, Nairobi’s thriving contemporary art scene is almost too much to talk about in one story. There’s Justus Kyalo’s abstract art exhibition entitled Portals and Trails at Alliance Francaise in which the artist has arrived at the open portal leading into his people’s history and has just begun to peer into their past.

At Banana Hill Art Gallery, the paintings of Kepha Mosoti, the Kuona artist best known for his sculpture, are currently on display while the works of Pascal Chuma, of Bobea Gallery, is being showcased at Dari Restaurant,Karen. Both shows will go on through the end of May.

At the National Museum, Chilean artist Josefina Munoz has an eclectic exhibition of entitled Transient which was inspired by her time staying with the Turkana.

Kuona Trust is exhibiting British artist Catherine Morland on-going series of artworks entitled From Fossils to 4x4s.

Anthony Russell has just exhibited his one-of-a-kind photographs at the exclusive Capital Club in Westlands.

A specialist in shooting the Big Five, beautiful women and African exotica, Russell learned his craft from his father who successfully switched from shooting big game to shooting iconic images of Africa.

What makes his photography unique is his ability to transform a high resolution image into a mixed media work of art by fixing everything from feathers, copper trade beads, old coins and kitangi cloth onto his image, and then possibly splattering several drops of paint strategically to add the final effect.

Russell also loves layering his images so that one may find a beautiful woman juxtaposed with a lion or a female’s eye artfully overlaid with images of leopard and zebra.

And while the photo-shop process may sound surreal, the effect has allowed Russell to mount successful shows in London and New York as well as in Kenya where his images can be found at or at Lisa Christoffersen’s gallery in Runda.