Having just celebrated his 50th anniversary since he first came to Africa in 1967, it’s about time to appraise the impact of Alan Donovan on the region, or at least on Nairobi and Kenya’s contemporary art scene.
Initially, the American designer and CEO of African Heritage House came to the continent not intending to plunge into the depths or even the shallows of a fledgling African art scene. Donovan came to work in Nigeria as a USAID relief worker in Biafra.
At the time, Biafra was a war zone from which Donovan himself found relief once he travelled around the country and made his way to the amazing village of Oshogbo. It was a haven filled with artists of all types, including musicians, poets, painters and above all, followers of a deep and diverse cosmology including gods celebrated by local people with ceremonies largely unknown in the West.
Before Nigeria, Donovan had landed in Ghana where he had readily found indigenous art forms existing side by side of cosmopolitan characters who had just gained the country’s independence the decade before.