Birds of a feather perch at Village Market's gallery

Adam Masava's 'Chicken Lady' (left) and 'Mama Mboga' at the Village Market rooftop gallery on June 15, 2024.  

Photo credit: Margaretta wa Gacheru | Nation Media Group

Adam Masava and Andew ‘Crae’ Chege are like birds of a feather despite their coming from very different backgrounds.

One comes from a comfortable Christian home outside Ruiru, Kiambu. The other was born and raised in Mukuru, a part of town not nearly so secure as Crae’s. Yet the two are united in their love of art which transcends the material differences of class and culture, race and tribe, and even gender and age.

Crae and Adam met at one exhibition opening. Crae started spending time at Mukuru Art with Adam, even as he was nearly finished being a fourth year student in the Fine Art department at Kenyatta University (KU).

“I’m glad I got my Bachelor [of Arts from KU], but I’ve learned so much from Adam, especially about how to be a professional artist, stuff I wasn’t taught at KU,” Crae tells the BDLife.

Anthony Chege’s ‘Desired Destiny’ (left) and 'Boat analytical Transformation' at the Village Market rooftop gallery on June 15, 2024. 

Photo credit: Margaretta wa Gacheru | Nation Media Group

“KU took a more academic approach to art so I learned a lot about different materials and techniques of painting, but not about making art a professional career, which is invaluable stuff,” he added.

Adam himself wasn’t at the Vibrant Hues exhibition at the Village Market rooftop since he had other shows popping up in various places around Europe. “We had been planning on having this exhibition for a long time, but when we were finally able to secure the gallery, we’d still have to wait a year,” Crea explained.

But Adam had mapped out his side of the exhibition well before he went overseas. Plus he had several of his most dedicated students looking after all aspects of the show, from surveillance and sakes to curatorial and administrative aspects of the exhibition. Several were even given a corner of the gallery to show their work.

There are several other things that Adam and Crea have in common. One is an attention to perspective and ways of enhancing different vantage points with different materials. Adam does it using different kinds of variegated cardboard to illustrate a more three dimensional view of Kibera’s mabati rooftops, some in the foreground of the work, others behind crafted with a sort of flatter cardboard meant to be further background.

Crae used to paint scenes in the slums somewhat similar to Masava’s, only he didn’t work with anything but acrylic on canvas, that is, until recently when he started painting on glass, or rather, the glass-like plastic called Plexiglas.

But not just one plate per painting. Let’s talk about four plates per painting on which Crae paints on both sides of one plate. So for one painting, Crae uses four plates of flexiglass to create eight different paintings. It might be difficult to imagine how four plates of ‘glass’ can hang together well, particularly when the four are stacked and then sealed tight.

It’s rather like what silkscreen artists do when they are printing several colours, one precisely on top of the other so that the finished picture is intact with the colours laid out just as the artist intended.

Crae has half a wall filled with monochrome cityscapes that display his skill as a draftsman drawing assorted areas of Eastlands and urban life. So when we had gotten round to the far end of the show and saw his ‘Desirable Destiny’ we were taken aback. This was definitely a new Crae.

More experimental, daring, bold, and beautiful. It was a basic garden scene, fertile, green, and abundant with many shades of green plants. But the greens only featured on one side of every plate.

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