Young artists taking the art scene by storm

Sanaa Kay, 17,  with her Lion at DusitD2. PHOTO
Sanaa Kay, 17, with her Lion at DusitD2. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU 

There’s a whole new generation of young Kenyan artists coming up who are in their 20s and keen to catch up with their mentors and branch out on their own.

Many of them have been exhibiting in the past week. Among them are those who exhibited last weekend at the Den at Dusit D2, those whose art covered walls inside Patrick Mukabi’s Dust Depo and outside at the Railway Museum as well as solo artists like Elias Mong’ori, 25, whose first one-man show, ‘Journal Entries’ opened last Saturday at The Little Gallery in Karen and Richard Kimathi, who’s recently out of his 20s, and exhibiting at One Off Gallery.

Youthful artists like Jeffie Magina, Frida Kwena, Nicholas ‘Nikomambo’ Odhiambo, Erick ‘Sticky’ Muriithi and Katana ‘Sanaa’ Kay all exhibited at Dusit D2’s Den in a monthly exhibition curated by Charles Murito, who for his day-job is CEO of Google Kenya.

They are all in their mid-20s, apart from Katana who’s only 17; but her mixed media painting of a lion, whose mane was made from kitenge scraps, was one of the most sought-after artworks in the entire Dusit show.



Jeffie Magina recently had his first one-man exhibition at The Little Gallery in Karen, which is actually where another young painter, 23-year-old Elias Mong’ora is currently having his first one-man show.

He’s participated in several group exhibitions since arriving in Nairobi from Nyeri two years back. But it’s in this exhibition that he vividly reveals his personal perspective on his adopted city, offering a fresh view of the city we may think we already know.

Jeffie was also one of two young artists who featured in the ‘Art Critic Forum’ last Thursday at Goethe Institute.

The programme had an interesting format with Jeffie and Leo Mativo, exhibiting a small portion of their art on Goethe’s walls even as they each spoke about their works aided by a slide projector that enabled everyone present – starting not with ‘art critics’ but with two seasoned artists, sculptress and ArtTouch CEO, Maggie Otieno and award-winning painter-sculptor Peterson Kamwathi — to scrutinise and criticise the young men’s art.

Only the moderator of the forum, Thom Ogongo could technically be called an ‘art critic’ since in addition to his painting, he also writes a blog on Kenyan art.

As the audience was mostly filled with young artistic aspirants, it was fascinating to hear their frank and often thoughtful views. But the evening confirmed that art can easily be misunderstood on many levels so artists would be wise not to take their critics too seriously.

Another 20-ish artist who exhibited at Dusit D2 last weekend was Sticky Muriithi whose skate-boarding self-portrait linked him to another group exhibition since he’d spray-painted another skate-boarding self-portrait on one of the Railway Museum’s brick walls as part of a ‘Street Diaries’ group show that also opened last Saturday at Patrick Mukabi’s Dust Depo.


Most of the graffiti artists who participated in Street Diaries are under 30 years, including Kerosh Kiruri, Elijah ‘Eljah’ Mutua, Nancy ‘Chela’ Chelagat and the other members of Sticky’s team, the Bomb Squad who are based at the Dust Depo.

Bebeto ‘Thufu’ Ochieng, Kenneth ‘Kay’ Otieno and Brian Msale together with Sticky make up one of several ‘teams’ that took part in ‘Street Diaries’, the first group graffiti art exhibition mounted in Nairobi and one that featured more than 20 young painters whose preference is to draw using spray paint rather than brushes, palette knives or ink pens.

A few of the graffiti artists blended spray paint and acrylic paints but most stuck with the spray, delighted that the Railway Museum curator, Mr Baraza had given the group the green light to paint on the Museum walls.