The 57th Venice Biennale is the largest and most prestigious art exhibition in the world. And when it opened May 10, Kenyan artists were there to participate in the festivities.
Among those who made it to Venice are six artists selected to exhibit their artwork in the Kenya pavilion as well as curator Jimmy Ogongo.
It is an historic moment for Kenya since previous Kenya pavilions were filled with non-Kenyans, either Italians or Chinese! But this year is different, thanks to the rallying of local artists two years ago who compelled the Kenya Government to commit itself to supporting a Kenya-run pavilion.
Then, with follow-up from Ogongo and Michael Soi, Kenya’s Minister of Culture, Arts and Sports, Hassan Wario wrote to the Biennale board giving government endorsement to the Kenya-run stand.
Dr Wario even established a commission on the Kenya pavilion and appointed the National Museum’s Kiprop Lagat its chairman, made Lydia Galavu its project manager and Ogongo the curator.
Initially, things seemed to run smoothly as Dr Wario committed government funding to the project. Ogongo also selected the six Kenyan artists to exhibit there, namely Paul Onditi, Peterson Kamwathi, Richard Kimathi, Arlene Wandera and Ingrid Mwangi.
But the promised funds has yet to come. Nonetheless, the intrepid artists made it to Venice, assisted by assorted friends who believe in them. “It may be that the funds were merely delayed and may be coming soon,” said Dr Lagat hopefully.
But the artists found their own means of getting there and we congratulate them for that.