There can never be too much art in Nairobi. But there can be too little space in the media to do justice to all the exhibitions, installations, workshops and even art festivals underway at the present time.
Leaving aside the Lamu Festival that opens Thursday February 21 with the world premiere of Eight Maweni Carriers by German sculptor Joachim Sauter at Lamu Fort, there are a number of new art spaces to celebrate. They include Paul Onditi’s Art Cupboard which is situated deep inside the artist’s new Lavington lounge and restaurant, Kwa Wangwana.
That’s where Onditi just launched his new gallery featuring his own paintings plus those by Peterson Kamwathi and motorcycle-chain sculptures by Meshack Oiro. There are also two new spaces in South B, both of which are thriving with young Kenyan artists, many of whom are mentored by Jeffie Magina at his Soku Studio and Adam Massava at the Mukuru Art Club.
Then Anita Kavochy has a one-woman show at One Off’s new Rosslyn Riviera gallery entitled ‘Thresholds’ and Anne Gichuku also has a solo ‘digital art’ exhibition at Alliance Francaise entitled “A Girl Like Me.” And Kenya’s ‘original’ contemporary female artist Yony Waite just had a one-woman show entitled “Game’s Up’ at Polka Dot Gallery. Yony cofounded Gallery Watatu in the late 1960s and founded Wildebeeste Workshop sometime later in Lamu where she often runs print workshops for young Kenyans.
Most recently several came from Brush Tu Artists Studio and Polka Dot Gallery.
Gloria Muthoka’s one-woman display at Nation Centre also just had a run where she inaugurated the new 7th floor offices of Business Daily’s Managing Editor Ng’ang’a Mbugua. Currently, Mike Kyalo’s art has just replaced Gloria’s on the 7th floor where Mbugua (who authored ‘Different Colours’ about the life of an artist) will host various Kenyan artists’ works from February onwards.
Ogilvy’s Africa is also hosting art by Kenyan artists as from January, starting with the painting, prints and installation by Lemek Tompoika. One must congratulate both Nation and Ogilvy’s for their corporate support of Kenyan artists and the creative economy in general. One hopes to see many more corporate offices, headquarters and hotels opening their walls, courtyards and conference rooms to Kenyan art.
And while One Off is exhibited the artworks of Olivia Pendergast in the new wing of the gallery, Samuel Githui’s fascination with bicycles continues in the one-man show he’s having concurrent with Olivia’s in the original Loft wing of the gallery.
Then this Sunday, 24 February at The Alchemist in Westlands, Kuona Artists Collective will have an art sale of works by all the worthy artists from Kuona who deserve our wholehearted support. Among the artists whose works will be featured are Dennis Muraguri, Alec Njoroge and Ngene Mwaura.
There’s also quite a bit of Pan-African art on show in Nairobi currently. At Red Hill Gallery, Hellmuth Musch-Rossler mixes up paintings by Kenyan artist Kivuthi Mbuno with sculpture from all over the region. The sculptures include works by Kenyans Morris Foit, Gor Suodan and Dennis Muraguri together with an array of Tanzanians, Zimbabweans, Sudanese and even one Zambian Tom Phiri.
The Tanzanian sculptures are the most intriguing since they reflect three different periods in Makonde sculpture. The earliest Makonde works (which are part of Hellmuth’s private collection) are renowned for their somewhat scary ‘shitani’ figures intricately interwoven in the ebony wood sculptures. The later period has only a hit of the grotesque though still quite figurative.
Then at Hotel Intercontinental, there’s a lavish collection of contemporary Nigerian art. Most notably there are works by Bruce Onebrakpeya, Niki Seven Seven Okundaye and her former husband the late Twins Seven Seven. They are located all over the Hotel, in the lobby, the business centre, in the corridor on your way to the pool and upstairs in the Executive Suite.
Then on the remaining February Tuesday evenings at the Intercon poolside, there is a colorful video previewing of the African Twilight Gala (which will happen March 3 at the African Heritage House, including the launch of the fabulous book, ‘African Twilight’ by American and Australian photographers, Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher). Those same Tuesday nights, the Kenyan trio, Papillon, will also play to accompany the video. They will also perform at the Gala.
And finally, immediately following the African Twilight extravaganza (which will include Pan-African fashion, foods, artwork and artifacts) the annual Art Auction East Africa 2019 will be held on 5th March at the Radisson Blu Hotel.