Three vintage Kenyan artists will be exhibiting tomorrow for one day only at the courtesy of the Dusit D2 Hotel and Google Kenya CEO Charles Murito.
Jak Katarikawe, Sane Wadu and Wanyu Brush have not had an exhibition together since 2008 when the manager of the now defunct Gallery Watatu, Osei Kofi, brought back these pioneering artists to the venue that made them renowned.
All three had been nurtured and their artworks taken abroad and sold everywhere from Frankfurt to Los Angeles by the late Ruth Schaffner who had run Watatu from 1985 till 1996.
Mr Murito responded to our call to assist Jak who despite some of his best works being still available for sale, has not had the assistance required to make that exhibition possible. The art fraternity is grateful to this local art lover who has a heart for Kenyan art and its artists.
He also invited the other two to share the Dusit Den this coming Saturday.
Meanwhile, one other vintage artist has been exhibiting at the Sankara Hotel since early last week. Timothy Brooke is also in a class of his own. Having come to Kenya at the age of three, he grew up along “herds, flocks and migrations” of local wildlife, the kind that populate his current show.
Brooke’s art is neither a clone of the late David Shephard whose realistic animals in the wild attracted visitors from all over the world. Nor is it a clone of all the local copyists who emulate Shephard’s style.
Instead, he paints in a more impressionistic style. His strokes are looser and more relaxed.
His lifelong familiarity with the elephants, zebra and impala are painted with an affection that makes this show at Sankara quite special.
And having grown up with flocks and herd, Brooke is especially conscious of the crisis affecting the wildlife and potentially the tourist industry.
“If things don’t change, I foresee that in 50 years, there won’t be any wildlife in Kenya,” he said pessimistically. This could mean his art is even more valuable since he’ll have recorded the life and demise of Kenya’s most precious living resource.
There are also youthful Kenyans exhibiting currently. For example, Jesie Otumba has a show on at the British Institute of East Africa.
It opened last week and is entitled Kingdom Within. Otumba, who is currently doing a short residency at the Brush tu Art Studio, is one to watch since we will be seeing more of him as his visual repertoire expands. This show is all about chess boards and dark chess metaphors.
The other up- and-coming artist who is currently exhibiting at Goethe Institut is Kawira Mwirichia. Her show entitled To Revolutionary Type Love opened last week and will run through June 3.
And at the Polkadot Gallery in Karen, Shades of Gray: the Art of Monochrome (with just a hint of colour will be up until June 4.
Meanwhile, ongoing shows include Anthony Okello at One Off Gallery and Boniface Maina’s Transition at Nairobi Gallery.
On another front, congratulations to those Kenyan artists who worked hard to make it to the Venice Biennale, especially as they got there even without receiving the funds they had reportedly been promised to set up the Kenya Pavilion by the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Sports.
Some artists have however disputed the idea that what’s been set up in Venice is a Kenya Pavilion since the country is not even listed on the docket of countries exhibiting in a pavilion this year. But whether its is a pavilion or an exhibition of Kenyan art, it is good enough that Kenyan artists got to Venice.
Artists from the Wanjukuu Art Project also had an opening last night at Kuona Trust. A show not to be missed, it runs through June 7.