Village Market opens year with artistic gems

Josephine Wambui's painting of a railway line that runs straight through the heart of Kibera. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

Patrick Kinuthia curates his own ‘Collective Art Show’ in the Exhibition Hall of Village Market at a time when many folks have yet to emerge from their holiday retreats.

Best known for being a portrait painter and gallerist who’s got his own Roweinay Gallery, Kinuthia shares the space with nearly a dozen other painters, several of whom are ‘emerging’ artists and others better known for being part of Kenya’s evolving art world.

“I like giving younger artists an opportunity to show their work,” Kinuthia tells the BDLife as he breaks away briefly from a conversation he is having with prospective clients.

“Actually, they have already selected two paintings that they’ll take away today,” he confides.

His works, be they portraits, landscapes, or still-lifes, tend to dominate the hall.

But one cannot help taking note of a number of large works by Samuel Njuguna Njoroge since his peri-urban street scenes are filled with a wide spectrum of dazzling colours.

Two artists could easily fill the exhibition hall by themselves since both are prolific and their works are gentle on the eye.

But Kinuthia made sure to retain plenty of space for artists like Stickky Muriithi whose charming ‘portraits’ of tennis shoes accessorised with floral bouquets are slightly surreal.

Kennedy Kinyua has only one painting in the show. But he continues to paint in the same vein as Bertiers Mbatia, his one-time mentor who populates his paintings with a wide range of people, often politicians.

In Kinyua’s case, his people are apolitical and undisturbed by the presence of apes in their midst, be they gorillas or chimpanzees.

Kerosh Kiruri's painting of a woman studiously shaping her chapati to fry. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

Derrick Munene has brought paintings to the show that correlate with the one selected to cover both the front and back of the latest Kenya Arts Diary 2023.

They are collages of winning Kenyan runners participating in international marathons.

Munene’s paintings capture that snapshot moment when they are all crossing the finish line, and all are expressing a similar feeling of joy, elation, and ebullient triumph.

Kerosh Kiruri has just two tiny paintings in the show, yet both are gems. Both are women, both seated and busy, and both preparing food.

One mama is studiously shaping her chapati to fry, while the other is peeling potatoes possibly to make chips (or ‘French fries’) or mukimo.

But both look like they are meant to be the lead character in some children’s illustrated books of fairy tales.

John Maina also painted portraits of working people. One is a seamstress working at her sewing machine, the other a shoe-shine man busy polishing a shoe.

Both were painted with what feels like a clear-cut appreciation of those humble skills, as if the artist knows those workers first-hand.

Josephine Wambui is on attachment with Kinuthia at his Rosslyn Riviera Mall Gallery from Buruburu Institute of Fine Art. “I’ve been mentoring Josephine and encouraged her to bring her work to the show,” says Kinuthia.

“She wanted to paint a place familiar to people, so she chose the railway line that runs straight through the heart of Kibera,” he adds.

The other young artist who brought several of his landscapes to Village Market is Vincent Kimeu, a member of the Mukuru Art Club and mentee of Adam Masava, the founder of the art club. “I believe Vincent is somewhere under 20 [years old], but his landscapes are quite popular,” says Kinuthia, who has only one landscape in this show.

Jjuuku Hoods's painting of a wild dog. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

‘Nanyuki’ was painted recently when he went for a workshop on the edge of that town, organised by Sarah Whithey, founder of the Banana Box.

“She is hoping to stimulate wider interest in the arts in that region, and the workshop was part of that project,” says Kinuthia, an artist who often treks around the country, sketching and snapping photos as he did at the old Mombasa port.

“I went there explicitly to take photos of old Swahili doors,” he says, pointing our gaze to one corner of the hall which is filled with paintings of semi-abstract doors that the artist has made to look like prints.

The other artist in the show (besides Patrick) who paints wildlife is the Ugandan artist Jjuuku Hoods. All painted in black and white, his wild dog looks greedy like a hyena, and his rhino looks ready to come after you, having aimed his precious horn squarely in the viewer’s path.

In contrast, Kinuthia paints placid herds of both wild and domestic creatures.

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.