by Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 27 March 2018)
Patrick Mukabi is a man in demand.
The artist who’s also known as ‘Uncle Supuu’ to TV viewers of the ‘Know Zone’ on Saturday mornings, was busy this week teaching art at both Brookhouse Schools, one in Karen, the other in Runda. Patrick was working with art teachers Sobia Mughal and Alice Coupe who occasionally call him to add his special artistic flare to their classes.
Patrick was sought after specially this week since the school is having an Arts Week. “This week we’re focused on the arts, although it’s only drama and visual arts being highlighted this term,” says Sobia Mughal. “Otherwise, we also have a whole other week devoted to Music every semester,” she adds, clearly delighted she is working in a setting that places such a high premium on the arts.
“You must come this evening to watch three adaptations of Shakespeare plays at [Brookhouse] Karen,” Sobia adds.
Meanwhile, Patrick had been showing eight and 10 year olds the painterly technique called pointillism, after which he had put them to work to produce a mural-sized painting using a pointillist style of brush stroke.
The pointillist project had actually started the day before when art teacher Laura Coupe brought to her class a copy of the George Seurat painting of ‘Sunday Afternoon in the Park’.
“I picked that painting because there’s a lot of grass in it, and since we’ve been waiting for months for grass to finally grow on our grounds, we took the students outside yesterday [while Patrick was teaching at the Karen branch of the school] since we finally have green grass of our own,” says Alice.
Outside is where they attempted to recreate the image of Seurat’s renowned painting so students could see how an artist can produce paintings based on real life experience. “Then we got the children sketching the setting in a ‘plain air’ [outdoor] style,” Alice adds.
Sobia’s brought older ‘BTEC’ art and design students [ages 16-19] from the Karen campus to see what’s happening at Runda. “The school has ‘cross campus activities’,” says Sobia whose students fan out that day, some to assist with the mural, others to attend the early learning class (for 2 and 3 year olds), others to complete another mural they started last weekend with Sobia.
“The BTEC program is basically a vocational program. It’s a two year course, equivalent to A levels,” adds Sobia who was first to enlist Patrick to come teach with her in Karen. “I actually saw him teaching children’s art at one of the malls in town. Then I googled him and brought my students to see his work when he was still at the GoDown,” she adds.
In fact, Patrick is known to many art teachers around Nairobi since he brings a wide range of artistic experience with him. Plus he has a special non-pedantic way of teaching that’s more like mentoring. It’s also why he has scores of aspiring artists coming to be mentored by him, many hopeful they will one day become as acclaimed an artist as Patrick is.
Wannabe artists started following him when he had the studio at the GoDown Art Centre. Scores came to be mentors, among them artists like Alex Mbevo, Nadia Wamunyu, Anthony Otieno and many others who are now established in their own rights.
His studio got so crowded, Patrick eventually had to move over to the spacious studio next door to the Nairobi Railways Museum which he named the Dust Depo Art Studio.
Dust Depo is a place that hums with artistic activities. It will be offering children’s art classes over the Easter holiday. But Patrick won’t be working alone. Several artists who have been with him to teach children’s art all over town, will also be on hand to assist. They’ll include Eric ‘Stickky’ Muriuki, Leevans Leeyere and Mike Nyerere.
The beauty of Patrick’s approach to teaching art is its simplicity. Using ordinary sticks of charcoal, he is able to teach children and adults about everything from perspective and tone to light, shading and shadow (or chiaroscuro).
“That simple technique has taken me to teach in over 20 countries,” says Patrick who doesn’t need to mention that his self-effacing warmth, generosity and free spirit also have something to do with why he’s invited all over the world.