The Apartment is a brand new art venue in Parklands where one can come by appointment.
But once a connection is made between you and the Sudanese-Somali filmmaker Azza Satti, it won't be difficult to find your way to her place where she is currently showing stunning works of art fresh from Khartoum.
She is exhibiting paintings by 14 Sudanese artists, practically all of whom are graduates of the University of Khartoum’s School of Fine Art.
Nairobi is no stranger to Sudanese artists. In fact, right now at Red Hill Gallery, one of the earliest ones to arrive in Nairobi, Abushariaa Ahmed is having a one-man retrospective exhibition. Unfortunately, none of his paintings and prints are for sale since they belong to Red Hill’s founder, curator Hellmuth Rossler-Musch.
And at the Nairobi Contemporary Art Institute, Don Handah and his team selected another Sudanese legend, El Tayeb Dawelbeit, to showcase until the end of the month.
But what's unique about Azza’s selection of painters is that they are all based in Khartoum. They are working and exhibiting there. Their art has only come to Kenya by way of a partnership between Azza and the Mojo Gallery in Khartoum.
“I was visiting the capital and wandered into Mojo where I met the owners of the gallery, Yusuf and Mustafa,” she tells the BDLife a week after the show opened on Fedha Road.
“My background is in the visual arts so we decided for them to send me fresh new works that they liked and I’d select from among them. After that, they send those to me,” she adds.
Receiving 57 works of art by wildly talented contemporary artists posed a challenge to Azza who currently consults for Hivos and has several other projects going as well. But she spent years studying art, in Nairobi at ASK as well as abroad, in Brussels and Paris where her diplomat-dad was based at various times in her early years. She also got degrees in the arts from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. So handling the art of 14 painters was one of the easier aspects of her current life.
“I’m happy to give artists an opportunity to be shown in the best space that I can offer,” she says.
“But I do have a garden where I want to stage an event at the end of the exhibition October 29th. That’s when we’ll have food and conversation, and jazz from several countries and continents,” she adds.
She has tastefully displayed works like Khalib Rahman’s tiny landscapes and Haytham Almugdam's Purple power that is eye-catching, especially because Haytham’s was on Azza’s beautiful poster. Every corner of Azza’s apartment has art that appeals. There are the black and white calligraphic paintings by Jaffar Azzam contrasting the joyfully bold-coloured minerettes backed by a bright reddish-orange sunset glow.
Mohamed Faduli also has elements of calligraphy in his art, only he blends in colour and uses the calligraphic curves in a more semi-abstract style that also mesmerises one’s eyes.
And all the while that Azza is sharing her paintings, she has stories to tell about each one of them. One of the most compelling is one she calls ‘The Wedding of Zein’ which she says is a wonderful Sudanese novel that I must read. A wedding is definitely happening in the large painting. It is centred around the drummer who is ushering in the community to the wedding site.
Ahmed Elnahas’ ochre-toned work featuring figurative characters is another one Azza likes because the story it tells about a young girl whose dreams are things that she shares, translated by the artist into a jigsaw puzzle of colours.
The diversity of subject matter, styles, and colours arrayed in these works are all amazing.