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Art

A visual feast for art lovers with gala, auctions and book launch

African Twilight Gala
A male beauty contestant prepares for the African Twilight Gala. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG 

Three major upcoming events have been anticipated for months, with one coming early, even Friday.

On Friday evening at 5pm, the Prestige Bookstore will host a pre-official launch of Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s new novel, The Dragonfly Sea.

The award-winning author had promised her new book would be available this year. But Prestige completed a so-called “literary coup” in getting exclusive rights to selling the book now. Yvonne will be on hand at the Mama Ngina Street bookstore to sign copies from 5 to 7pm. But as there is likely to be a long line of fans wanting to buy her book, it might be wise to get to Prestige early.

We have been hearing about the African Twilight Gala and the Art Auction East Africa for months now, but their time has finally arrived. The gala will begin at the Railway Museum this Sunday, March 3 from 2:30pm. That is where everyone wanting to attend the gala can board a train that will take them straight to African Heritage House where the festivities will go on throughout the day and night.

The award-winning photographer-authors of the book after which the whole event has been named, African Twilight: Vanishing Rituals and Ceremonies arrived early this week. Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher will be on hand to meet guests and also sign their beautiful two-volume book. The book tells so many visual stories of an Africa that is changing so rapidly that a myriad of traditions and cultural practices have not been able to keep up with the globalising trends which have suddenly swept across the region, often at whirlwind speed.

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Angela and Carol realised this cultural transformation was impossible to stop. But before it shattered social sensibilities to the point where so many ancient rituals and ceremonies lost their meaning, they still had a chance to capture that Pan-African aesthetic that initially had drawn them into the work so many decades ago. The indigenous artistic genius of the people they met along the way which is captured in African Twilight in 750 colour photographs and on 872 pages. Included in the book are so-called “vanishing rituals and ceremonies” from Burkina Faso, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, South Africa and Tanzania, among others. But one has to see the books first-hand to appreciate the boundless creativity of Africans themselves. It is that quality, exposed in their photography that ensures that I, for one, will get a copy of this inspired set of books.

Also at the African Heritage will be two great Nigerian artists, both of whom have known Alan Donovan nearly as long as he has been in Africa. Muraina Oyelami’s paintings were the first artworks that Donovan bought in the region, and Niki Seven Seven Okundaye’s adire batiks were also among his first textile acquisitions when he was the buyer for the African Heritage Pan African Gallery. That was the gallery he co-owned with the former Kenyan Vice- President Joseph Murumbi.

By sunset, the actual gala will begin with music by the remnants of the original African Heritage Band and Papillon, the group Donovan most recently helped to form. There will be a dance performance by the Paris-based contemporary dancer Fernando Anuang’a. He will also perform a tribute to Ayub Ogada who was meant to perform at the gala, but his sudden demise rendered that impossible. Fernando will dance to a song specially composed for Ayub by Papillon.

The African Renaissance fashion show, choreographed by Mr Donovan will feature indigenous textiles from all over the region, including Royal Kente cloth from the Asante kingdom, Ase Oke cloth from the Ife Kingdom and Adire cloth, among many others, which have been transformed into lovely gowns and worn with African jewelry designed by Donovan.

Finally, the following Tuesday at the Radisson Blu Hotel, the 5th Art Auction East Africa will take place courtesy of the Circle Art Gallery. Danda Jaroljmek has been working tirelessly to assemble an outstanding assortment of 58 lots of mainly East African art.

But she also has works by contemporary African artists from Nigeria and South Africa. In addition, she has brought together a stunning collection of East African artists, including Kenyans Samwel Wanjau, Ancent Soi, Camille Wekesa, Kivuthi Mbuno, Rosemary Karuga and Kamal Shah among many others.

There is much to look forward to in the field of fine contemporary African art in the next week.

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