Evidence of Expanding Art Spaces

Ken Otieno, one of BSQ graffiti artists who set up a studio at railways
Ken Otieno, one of BSQ graffiti artists who set up a studio at railways. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG 

Best evidence that the Kenyan art scene is expanding exponentially are the new spaces emerging and quickly getting filled with artworks by both Kenyan and international artists.

At One Off Gallery, Carol Lees has just transformed her stables into an elegant and spacious gallery extension to The Loft where she’s currently exhibiting 12 Kenyan artists.

They include Anthony Okello, Beatrice Wanjiku, Ehoodi Kichapi, Florence Wangui, Harrison Mburu, James Mbuthia, Olivia Pendergast, Peter Ngugi, Peterson Kamwathi, Richard Kimathi, Timothy Brooke and Xavier Verhoest.

One Off’s former stable features the works of Canadian artist Lisa Milroy who plays with textiles, textures, paints and an engaging style of interactive art that offers an excellent way to inaugurate One Off’s new space.

Another inventive new art space is at the old Kenya Railways train yard where BSQ, the trio of amazing graffiti artists, has just taken over an old train car and transformed it into a studio that’s already become an interactive site where other graffiti artists like Swift Elegwa were making their artistic mark on the car on the studio’s open day last weekend.


BSQ was previously based at the Railways, with Patrick Mukabi at Dust Depo Studio. But the troika (Bebetu, KayMist and Msale) are energised they needed a space of their own.

Then in a private home in Karen, Nairobi Beta-Art founder Gloria Barasa organised a pop-up exhibition featuring nearly a dozen Kenyan artists, including Patrick Mukabi, Elias Mong’ora, Waweru Gichuhi and Emmaus Kimani.

Lord Erroll’s Restaurant is also intent, thanks to Lisa Christoffersen, on holding regular exhibitions at the Runda eatery. Currently, Lisa has curated an exhibition of artworks by Drishti Chawla which will run until month’s end.

Fairmont The Norfolk hotel’s new management is also keen to mount art exhibitions comparable to the one they held last month of artworks by Coster Ojwang’, curated by William Ngwiga’s Little Art Gallery.

Meanwhile, Kuona Artists Alliance is now hosting an open house once a month on Saturdays when most of the artists will be on hand to show their works. Village Market currently has a marvellous exhibition of “African Artistic Tales’ created by six Ugandan artists, including Akiiki, Anwar, Kasagga, Lukwago, Tindi and Sebandeke.

Offering a rainbow array of colourful works that are diverse in style, subject matter and sensibility, each of the six brought paintings from Kampala.
At the British Institute of East Africa, the latest series of ingenious junk art by Evans Ngure entitled ‘Irreplaceable’ is on display through May 4.

Evans has created an array of endangered species, from butterflies and owls to peacocks and fish using everything from spare parts from cars, computers and TVs to buttons, keys, imported leather and assorted gadgetry.

The other solo show that’s running now is Tabitha wa Thuku’s at the Banana Hill Art Gallery. The one visiting artist who’s got so much artwork to show that Goethe Institute had to book it into both the GoDown Art Gallery and Circle Art Gallery is Wolfgang Tillmans, a London-based photographer.

is well-known all over Europe, but he’s currently on a nine-city African tour.
This weekend, Gravitart presents art by 11 Kenyans entitled ‘Conflicting the Narrative’ at Kobo Trust on Friday.

On Saturday, Adrian Nduma’s latest works will feature at Polka dot Gallery and The Attic will open a show by Michael Musyoka and Lincoln Mwangi April 21.

The Circle Art segment of his ‘Fragile’ exhibition opened last Thursday week with a talk by the artist, anchored by Kenyan photographer James Muriuki. The GoDown opening was this past Wednesday followed by two more artist’s talks yesterday.

Finally, one reason Tillmans couldn’t exhibit at the Goethe is because it was booked in advance by Nyambura Waruinge for her ‘Indulgence’ exhibition. Inspired by a previous show held in Uganda entitled ‘Eroticism and Intimacy’, ‘Indulgence’ also artistically explores issues of sexuality, gender and desire, featuring multimedia works by Neo Musingi, James Muriuki, Yaye Kassamali, Stacey Gillian Abe and Henry Mzili Mujunga.