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Art

Online art gallery broadens scope to include Egyptian artists

Bassem Yousri's A Window (left), Untitled by Ashraf Rassian (centre) and  Woman & a Flower by Souad Abdel Rasoul at Ikigai. PHOTOS | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG
Bassem Yousri's A Window (left), Untitled by Ashraf Rassian (centre) and Woman & a Flower by Souad Abdel Rasoul at Ikigai. PHOTOS | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG 

GravitArt is an online art gallery that’s been hosting a wide array of East African artists based in Nairobi since early this year. It was officially launched with a Pop-Up Exhibition at the Safron Spa in Westlands last April.

Both the exhibition and the website feature mainly Kenyan artists like Peter Elungat, Dennis Muraguri, Shabu Mwangi, Michael Soi and many others. But one will also find works by a broad assortment of East African artists, such as Fitsum Berhe from Ethiopia, El Tayeb Dawelbait and Saleh Elmur from Sudan. Artworks from Congo, Benin and Nigeria are also on the website.

GravitArt’s second pop-up exhibition currently up at Ikigia Business Centre (off General Mathenge Road) reflects the mission of the gallery’s founder Veronica P. It’s to make the online gallery more inclusive of African art.

Entitled ‘Hidden Stories from Egypt’, the exhibition features nearly 50 paintings by seven Egyptians and one Sudanese artist.

Two of the artists have been in Kenyan severally and even exhibited in various Nairobi galleries. That is how Veronica got to know Dr. Souad Abdel Rasoul and Salah Elmur, both of whom live in Cairo and were happy to introduce Veronica to a number of their artist friends.

The eight artists whose works reveal the “Hidden stories from Egypt” all have distinctive styles. All also have had the good fortune to study fine art up through the university with Souad having received both a MFA in the history of Modern Art and a PhD in the Philosophy of Contemporary and Modern Art.



Veronica P of GravitArt with two paintings by Ashraf Rassian at Ikigai. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG
Veronica P of GravitArt with two paintings by Ashraf Rassian at Ikigai. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

But there’s nothing academic or inaccessible about the works in ‘Hidden Stories’, especially as they’ve been tastefully hung in this cosy, high-ceiling-ed business centre that’s got a Japanese name.

“Ikigia in Japanese translates to mean ‘when you find your purpose you have found your ikigai,’” explains Veronica who discovered this perfect spot for a pop-up show through a fellow Spaniard.

Trained as a both a fine artist and an architect, Veronica seems to have found her own ‘ikigai’ with the establishment of GravitArt. “It’s my way of giving artists a global platform to showcase their work,” she says.

Adding that apart from wanting to continue expanding the range of African artists featured on the website, she’s intent of building her network of both artists and art collectors.

“Currently, I have friends who are representing GravitArt in their respective countries [and regions],” she says. “One is in New York where we plan to have our next pop-up exhibition next year. Another is in Santiago, Chile, and another is in Madrid (Spain),” she added.



Walid Taher's faces at Igikai. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG
Walid Taher's faces at Igikai. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

In all of these global cities, Veronica wants to introduce regional collectors to Africa Art, particularly Kenyan art. But she also wants to showcase other contemporary African artists who have not yet gained visibility or renown in other parts of the world.

The eight Egypt-based artists include Evelin Ashamalla, the oldest of the eight and the former Director of the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art. Her son Basem Yousri is also a prominent painter and sculptor in his own right. Ashraf Rassian's art is reminiscent of Picasso’s Blue Period. Hala El Sharouny, the youngest painter in the show, creates art that is emphatically feminist.

Mohamed Elganoby has got a colourful transparency to his work. Walid Taher, a cartoonist, puppeteer and satirist is also a children’s book illustrator. Salah Elmur, the one Sudanese artist who’s now an adopted Egyptian, is married to Souad Abdel Rasoul, the painter who facilitated Veronica’s creation of this eye-opening exhibition.

Souad also shared her latest paintings with Vero despite being busy with her own one-woman exhibition in Cairo.

Go online and discover how reasonably priced the Egyptians’ art is. The show will be up until December 15, but the beauty of an online exhibition is that if you live in or around Nairobi, you can easily obtain the works by getting in touch with Veronica directly.

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