Artists spent a working week at Villa Rosa Kempinski painting everywhere from the front lobby and Lucca restaurant to the K-Lounge Gardens and the Balcony Bar.
Transforming the notion of ‘public art’ from being static statues and monuments into performance art, it was the artists who were ‘performing’ as hotel guests and staff witnessed the process of Kenyans creating new artworks in the course of five days. Wasanii Jukwali Edition 2 (WJ2) had a whole new crop of painters compared to last year.
The big difference between the two events is that 2017 is when Kempinski Hotels are celebrating 120 years since the global group was founded by Berthold Kempinski in Berlin in 1897. Thus, anniversary celebrations became the central theme.
Last Saturday night’s exhibition, held in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom, was a beautiful illustration of the wealth of Kenyan artists’ originality and imagination.
The artists invited via Kuona Trust made the most of the theme, each treating the topic in their own way. For instance, Hunnington Gwanzu’s “Transition” highlighted the historical notion of time-travel, from 1897 up to 2017.
Waweru Gichuhi’s ‘‘Beginning of a Dream’’ depicted the process of the hotel’s construction; while Anthony Maina offered a bird’s eye view of the luxurious trappings of Kempinski’s tented camp in Maasai Mara.
Then there was David Thuku whose fascination with hotel uniforms were graphically depicted in paper cuts, Anne Mwariri who painted a 19th century gaslight and Brian Nyabuti who drew regal hotel furnishings from the Victorian era. There were three of the 14 who focused on Berthold Kempinski, Ian Njenga, Tabitha wa Thuku and Elijah Mutua.
Of the three, it was Ian’s charcoal drawing of Mr Kempinski riding in his fashionable Model T Ford that grabbed public attention. Tabitha’s portrait was also super-realistic and Elijah’s was set against a colourful backdrop that also showed how the man’s influence has transcended time and space.
But the 17-year-old artist who’d been expelled from school for drawing what his headmaster believed was ‘demonic art’ was the star of the night.
Ian’s drawing didn’t suggest he was a teen as his talent was apparent in his skilful rendering of Kempinski’s facial features as well as his girth.
The one disappointment of the night was the omission of the Art Auction which had been advertised in advance and which could have taken place if someone hadn’t insisted that nobody ‘local’ could conduct an art auction.
Kempinski will, however, exhibit all the artworks in the hotel for the entire month of May.