Monday, 6 November 2017


                 Serere Ericksen Tukai, aged 3, is proud owner of Kalweo's Trio at Rest, bought at KMS Affordable Art Show


By Margaretta wa Gacheru (6 November 2017

                                                                                          Wilson Matunda's Pelicans at KMS Affordable art show

                                                                                  Kennedy Kinyua's Slums 1 at KMS Affordable Art Show
Kenyan artists and gallerists have been ‘waiting to exhale’ for weeks for the electoral process to end. Finally, this month they decided that, no matter what, they would proceed with their work irrespective of the political climate.

Hoping for the best, the safest place to showcase Kenyan art was apparently thought to be the Nairobi National Museum. At least that’s where three major exhibitions have been taking place this past week with one running into the new year.

One was for the Kenya Museum Society (KMS), another for the Kenya Arts Diary (KAD) and the third for the Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH).

Last Friday night, it was the KMS’s Affordable Art Show that opened in the Museum courtyard. And in spite of the rain and the ongoing political uncertainty, the public turn-out to the exhibition was impressive, the highest ever since the show was started by KMS back in 1996, according to the Art Fair coordinator, Dr. Marla Stone.

Sales also went very well, added KMS Chairperson Pat Jentz. This was no surprise to people who’ve previously attended the annual art show and who are also aware of the burgeoning nature of the current Kenyan art scene. The show has always been popular with young artists hoping for an opportunity to both exhibit and potentially sell their work. Nonetheless, this year’s collection was exceptional, both for its quality and quantity as well as the diversity of the works.

One reason this year’s show was impressive is the way it was curated. A combination of Museum staff and KMS volunteers took charge of specific wall and panel space, grouping the art according to emerging themes, such as music, portraiture, mobility, wildlife, landscapes, sculpture and a few still-life paintings.

Another reason this year was special is because there were fewer ‘established’ artists exhibiting this year. The better known ones included Adrian Nduma, Patrick Kinuthia, Alex Wainaina and Dinesh Revankar. There were many more exhibitors who were young (under 30) and relatively unknown. But quite a few combined technical skill with imagination and innovation (like framing their paintings with rubber tires!).

“More than 38 percent of the [324] artworks sold,” said Mrs Jentz on the last few hours of the three-day show. She was calculating as people were still arriving to shop for artworks being sold for as low as Sh4,000 and as high as Sh95,000.

“So far we have made more than Sh3 million, 70 percent of which will go to the artists. The rest will go towards our construction of a National Taxidermy Laboratory at the Museum,” added Mrs Jentz.

Another exhibition that opened (without fanfare) at the Museum a few days before KMS’s was for the Kenya Arts Diary 2018. The new Diary was officially launched last Saturday with support from the Heinrich Boell Foundation. This was the first time the Diary launch combined with an exhibition curated by the Museum. It was a way of benefiting both the exhibiting artists (since their art was on sale) and the Diary which was more effectively promoted than in previous years.

And finally, preparations were underway all this past week at the Museum for last night’s (November 9) launch of the multifaceted visual and performing arts showcase organized by TICAH (Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health).

The showcase actually features two programs in one: The ‘Uremba’ exhibition is highlighting the beauty of both indigenous and contemporary art and culture. Curated by Eric Manya and Mary Ogembo, the show will feature both contemporary artists (both ‘veterans’ and up-and-comers) as well as indigenous artifacts (mostly on loan from the Museum).

The ‘Hekima’ (wisdom) activities will be coordinated by Aghan Odero, former Managing Director of Kenya Cultural Centre. Their design will be to demonstrate the depth and diversity of indigenous cultures, including dimensions of scientific and historical knowledge embedded in tradition.  

TICAH’s program will run through January 2018 and feature films, workshops, talks by both artists and elders, music and storytelling. Hekima will especially focus on the way elements of indigenous culture can play a role in promoting peace and healing.


+ At International School of Kenya, the FOTA (Friends of the Arts) art exhibition opens tonight running through Sunday

+ At Alliance Francaise, ‘Sex in the City III’ exhibition runs through November 12.

+ At Red Hill Gallery, Rosemary Karuga’s masterful Collage Art through December.

+ At Banana Hill Gallery, Kaafiri Kariuki and his ‘Dancing Pen’ paintings through November.

+ At the Metta, Drishti Vohra’s paintings up through November.

+ At Goethe Institute, ‘Remote’ exhibition curated by Zihan Herr.

+ At Sankara Hotel, Sane Wadu and Fitsum Berhe’s ‘First Generation’ show through December.

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