Friday, 29 December 2017


                                        James Mbuthia will be exhibiting at One Off Gallery in 2018

By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted December 29, 2017)

The New Year is already looking promising, what with many art venues already booked into mid-year and a few actually lined up solid with solo and group shows until the end of 2018.

For instance, One Off Gallery already has the brilliant elder statesman of Sudanese contemporary art Rashid Diab coming to open the gallery’s first solo exhibition of the year, featuring his latest works at the end of January.

Thereafter, there are back-to-back British artists coming to exhibit at One Off. First will be Lizzie Thurman opening at the end of February. She will be followed by Lisa Milroy who met One Off’s Carol Lees while in transit from the Kakuma Refugee Camp (where she teaches art via satellite) back to London where she’s based at the Slade School of Fine Art. Ms Milroy also exhibits at the Tate Modern where she coincidentally is a Trustee.

“Kenyan artists will fill the rest of our calendar year,” confirms Carol, “starting with James Mbuthia [who worked closely with her when they were both at RaMoMa Museum].”

Another gallery that is already booked up with several sterling solo exhibitions is Banana Hill. According to the gallery’s Shine Tani, following the close of Sebastian Kiarie’s solo exhibition in mid-January, the gallery will host Congolese artist Bezalel Ngabo whose last solo show was at Alliance Francaise.

Following Bezalel will come Samuel Njuguna who began his artistic career working with Banana Hill artists. Then will come the return of another artist who has close ties with the gallery. Ronnie Ojwang is based in Kampala but his family is also Kenyan since he’s married to Shine’s daughter. And after Ronnie the next solo exhibition will be by Tanzanian artist Haji Chilongo. Like Ronnie, Haji is no stranger to Kenya. In fact, his artworks was recently exhibited in the GTB show curated by the Little Gallery’s William Ndwiga.

Meanwhile, Circle Art Gallery is preparing for its annual East African contemporary Art Auction which will be held this year on March 12th. According to Circle’s co-owner-curator Danda Jaroljmek, her event has been renamed. “It’s now to be known as ‘The Art Auction – East Africa’,” says Danda who’s been busy for months assembling interesting works from all over the region.
The British Institute of East Africa has also been busy over the course of last year establishing itself as an important venue where up-and-coming Kenyan artists have a chance to hold inaugural solo exhibitions. One artist who’ll be showing his works in March at BIEA is Evans Maina Ngure who’ll be exhibiting both his ‘junk art’ paintings and wind chimes as well as his ‘wearable art’.

If it sounds like exhibition space in quite a number of Nairobi art venues is filling up fast, there’s no need to worry. There are several opportunities that have opened up for Kenyan artists who want to share their works with wider audiences.  One of them can potentially be found with online galleries, some of which are based abroad. But at least two were newly established in Nairobi this past year.
The newest online art gallery is KendiArt which was launched last December by Christine ‘Kui’ Ng’ang’a, and already has ‘traffic’ looking at artwork by some of our freshest contemporary Kenyan artists. But more than just looking at the art, Christine worked hard to research the most viable and efficient ways for people to buy Kenyan art as well as receive it without complications or delays.
The other online art gallery is GravitArt which was launched earlier in the year by the Spanish architect and visual artist Veronica Paradinas Duro. She began work on her online gallery last April, but actually inaugurated it several months later with the first of two Pop-up exhibitions at unconventional spaces. The first Pop-Up show was Veronica’s way of widening public awareness of GravitArt’s online presence. It was held at the Saffron Spa in Westlands.  Subsequently, she took a trip to Egypt where she met several exceptional artists whose works are now part of the gallery’s growing Pan-African collection. They were also exhibited in GravitArt’s second Pop Up show, this time held at the Ikigai business centre.
So while she’s keen to generate greater and more global interest in her online gallery, Veronica is also pleased to be part of Nairobi’s burgeoning contemporary art scene.
So both on- and off-line, Kenyans are working to get the word out that there’s an exciting contemporary art scene right here which cannot be ignored.

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