Saturday, 17 December 2016



By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted December 16, 2016)

It’s never easy to know what to give a special family member or friend at Christmas that is novel and new. You’d like to surprise them with something they didn’t even know they ‘needed’ but once you’ve given them, they’re delighted to have it.

The Family portrait by Seth 'Sketcher' Odhiambo
Nobody feels good about giving something that you value but once given, you suspect it will either be tossed in a bottom drawer or into the garbage. So gift-giving isn’t easy.
Why not try gifting art to the special people in your life. You can do so by spending a little or a lot, depending on your taste and that of the gift-recipient.

Probably the surest gift you can give is something sentimental, for instance, something associated with their family. There’s also fine art that is functional, be it for their home, their wardrobe or something that will brighten up and beautify their life.
Family portrait by Jack Birgen
Graphite portraits of family are one of the easiest yet most appreciated gifts you can give. There are quite a few outstanding Graphite artists in Kenya who, when given a family photograph, can replicate that image perfectly or as close to perfection as you can imagine. Most of them are quite reasonable price-wise. And I can assure you, family will be thrilled a nicely-mounted drawing to hang on their wall. Among the artists best known for their pencil portraits are Seth ‘Sketcher’ Odhiambo, Nicholas Odhiambo, Jack Birgen, Bebeto Ochieng Thufu and Victor Opiyo. The easiest way to find them is on Facebook.

                                 Outdoor/Indoor dining room set in wood sculpted by Elijah Ogira

Functional art consists mainly of home furnishing that are extra-ordinary, often organic as in they are made out of natural wood and hand-carved by a sculptor who knows how to enhance the elegance, beauty and eye-catching originality of their work.
Gakunju Kaigwa with his wood root mirror frame@Art Space

One of the best-known Kenyan artists who specializes in functional art is Gakunju Kaigwa who creates everything from benches, stools and chairs to mirror frames, coffee and dining room tables.

     Kenyatta University Art Lecturer Anne Mwiti sitting on Gakunju Kaigwa wood seat

Elijah Ogira is another outstanding sculptor who creates functional art, including bed-frames that are beautiful. Both artists are environmentally sensitive and only work with found wood to create one-of-a-kind functional works of art.
      Patrick Kinuthia's landscape paintings&portraits can be bought either as an original or a print
Prints and paintings. Beautiful paintings by local artists can easily be found in galleries and art centres, ranging from One Off, Circle Art and Banana Hill Galleries to GoDown and Kuona Trust where one can visit artists in their studios where they’re at work. Prices for paintings, be they landscapes, portraits or abstract art, can run from one thousand to one million shillings and more. But you’ve a tight budget, the best way to go is to buy prints of original paintings by everyone from Jak Katarikawe and Patrick Kinuthia to Yony Waite, Dennis Muraguri and John Silver Kimani.
Signed print by Jak Katarikawe of his original oil painting now at Nairobi Gallery
Michael Soi with his hand-painted fashion bags were on exhibit at the Italian Institute of Culture in 2016
Fashion accessories are always fun items to receive since they invariably add a touch of luxury to one’s wardrobe and even notoriety. For example, Michael Soi’s hand-painted tote bags are all one-of-a-kind items that Soi initially publicized on Facebook. But then, once Kenya’s own Academy award winning actress and model Lupito Nyong’o got one and showed it off to the paparazzi photographers who populate her life,
A happy recipient of a Michael Soi Afro-Beauty bag

Soi’s sales in these sturdy Afro-beauty bags began to soar and have been flying out of Soi’s GoDown studio as quickly as he can create them.
The Last Supper in mahogany wood carved by Rwandese artist Bahimba

As we’re in the Christmas holiday season, receiving a polished, hand-carved wood panel portraying an iconic image like ‘The Last Supper’ might be a truly memorable gift. Created by Rwandese artist Bahimba Thaddee Macumi who also carves amazing tables and chairs, the wooden panel is a cross between a painting and a wood sculpture. Bahimba can be found at his workshop in the Kivuli Centre in Riruta, Dagoretti or on Facebook. He also makes beautiful checker-board-like rugs and carpets with goat and cow skins.
         Scrap metal sculptures of birds and Gazelles are just a few creatures made by Kioko Mwitiki
Outdoor sculptures can have a stunning impact on the recipient of such a gift. They are best given to someone with a garden since they deserve to have a bit of space to be seen and appreciated. Kioko Mwitiki is Kenya’s best known scrap-metal sculptor whose specialty is monumental wildlife sculpture. He’s especially popular for his life-size elephants, rhinos and giraffes which he often exhibits in the USA at the San Diego Zoo in California. Kioko’s art is so well received at the Zoo that he fills whole containers with his metal creatures. His Pimbi Gallery in Lavington is the easiest way to find him. It’s also where one can see his marvelous menagerie of wildlife sculptures which come in all sizes, not only life-size but miniature as well.

         Lupita Nyong'o on wall at the GoDown Art Centre by Graffiti artist Bankslave (Kevin Esendi)
Finally, one gift item you may not have considered before is a wall mural made either with paints (be it acrylic, spray or wall paint) or mosaic tiles.

You can have one painted or put up on a wall inside your home, be it in a child’s nursery, a kitchen or sitting room, or outside on a garage or front door, a side wall or even on a front or back gate. You can see Maryann Muthoni’s mosaic tile murals at the entrance of Two Rivers mall, Graffiti wall art at the Railways Museum and Dust Depo, and mosaic scrap metal sidewalks at Kitengela Glass Trust.
You can also buy hand-blown glass beads at Kitengela Glass Trust (blown in this glass bead 'Hut' where mosaic glass tiles are everywhere, on the walls, in the doors, used as windows and even on sidewalks.


  1. Theese are very good artefacts and I wish to promote the whole idea through my beloved first son Joseph, who is an upcoming Art Master.