Wednesday, 24 May 2017



By margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 24 may 2017)

Three vintage Kenyan artists will be exhibiting tomorrow for one day only at the courtesy of the Dusit D2 Hotel and the Google Kenya CEO Charles Murito.

Jak Katakikawe, Sane Wadu and Wanyu Brush haven’t an exhibition together since 2008 when the manager of the now defunct Gallery Watutu, Osei Kofi, brought back these pioneering artists to the venue that made them renowned. All three had been nurtured and their artworks taken abroad and sold everywhere from Frankfurt to Los Angeles by the late Ruth Schaffner who’d run Watatu from 1985 till 1996.

Mr Murito responded to our call to assist Jak who despite some of his best works still available for sale, hasn’t had the assistance required to make that exhibition possible. So we are grateful to this local art lover who has a heart for Kenyan art and artists. He also invited the other two share the Dusit Den this coming Saturday.

Meanwhile, one other vintage artists has been exhibiting at the Sankara Hotel since early last week. Timothy Brooke is also in a class of his own. Having come to Kenya at age 3, he grew up along ‘Herds, Flocks and Migrations’ of local wildlife, the kind that populate his current show.

Mr Brooke’s art is neither a clone of the late David Shephard whose realistic animals in the wild attracted visitors from all over the world. But nor is it a clone of all the local copyists who emulate Shephard’s style. Instead, Brooke paints in a more impressionistic style. His strokes are looser and more relaxed. His lifelong familiarity with the elephants, zebra and impala are painted with an affection that makes this show at Sankara quite special.

And having grown up with flocks and herd, Brooke is especially conscious of the crisis affecting the wildlife and potentially the tourist industry. “If things don’t change, I foresee that in 50 years, there won’t be any Kenyan wildlife,” he said pessimistically. This could mean his art is even more valuable since he’ll have recorded the life and demise of Kenya’s most precious living resource.

Meanwhile, there are also youthful Kenyans exhibiting currently. For example, Jesie Otumba has a show on at the British Institute of East Africa. It opened last week, entitled ‘Kingdom Within.”  Otumba who is currently doing a short residency at the Brush tu Art Studio is one to watch since we’ll surely be seeing more of him as his visual repertoire expands. This show is all about chess boards and dark chess metaphors.

Finally, the other up and coming artist who is currently exhibiting Goethe Institute is Kawira Mwirichia. Her show entitled To Revolutionary Type Love opened last week and will run through June 3th.

Upcoming from early June is Circle Art’s innovative show entitled Young Guns which will feature of slew of so=called emerging Kenyan artists. More to come on that story.

And at the Polkadot Gallery in Karen, ’Shades of Gray: the Art of Monochrome (with just a hint of color will up until June 4.

Meanwhile, ongoing shows include Anthony Okello at One Off Gallery and Boniface Maina’s

‘Transition’ at Nairobi Gallery.

On another front, we want to congratulate those Kenyan artists who worked assiduously to make it to the Venice Biennale, especially as they got there after not receiving the funds they’d been promised to set up the Kenya Pavilion by the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Sports.

Some artists have disputed the idea that what’s been set up in Venice is not the Kenya Pavilion since Kenya is not even listed on the docket of countries exhibiting in a pavilion this year. But whether a pavilion or an exhibition of Kenyan art, we’re happy Kenyan artists got to Venice irrespective.

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