Thursday, 14 February 2019


By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 14 February 2019)

This year’s Lamu Art Festival will be unprecedented for its celebration of the beauty, diversity and inspiring culture of this unique and beautiful island. For four days, from 21st through 24th February, this UNESCO World Heritage Site will come alive with world class music and art, all of which will be free to the public.
Organized by the Lamu Painters Festival in partnership with Music on the Islands, the festival will be happening up and down the island from Peponi and Shela to Lamu town and also at Maweni Village on Manda Island. Events will take place at Lamu Fort and in the Town Square, on the beach and in the Diamond Beach resort, as well as in various art centres like the Baraka and the new Kito galleries. It will be capped off on Sunday with the excitement of the traditional Dhow races that tend to draw multitudes to Shela and Peponi beach to watch this highly competitive and beautiful local race.
In years past, the Lamu Painters Festival brought together European and Kenyan visual artists to paint the stunning beauty of Lamu’s everyday life. But this year compelled the Painter Festival organizer, German philanthropist Herbert Menzer to focus on one European artist who he’d invited to Shela back in 2011 and who’s been returning to Lamu regularly ever since.
                              Herbert Menzer, founder of Lamu Painters Festival & cofounder of Lamu Arts Festival

Joachim Sauter hadn’t planned to make Lamu his second home. But once he arrived (the only sculptor among a slew of painters) he, like Herbert, got enchanted by the beautiful contrasts between his bustling hometown of Stuttgart and the easy, much slower rhythm of life on the island. But what captivated him most was meeting the Maweni workers while visiting Manda Island.
Manda has an active coral mining industry and an army of Kenyan men whose work is to carry the heavy coral stones to the mainline where the coral is shipped abroad or used locally to make traditional Swahili houses. To Sauter, these men embodied the essence and dignity of hard work. It was with that appreciation of their unsung labor and work ethic that he embarked on the project that has taken him almost eight years to complete.

Sculpting seven of those laborers in a style that could be said to rival the anatomical accuracy and beauty of Michelangelo’s ‘David’, Sauter’s exhibition includes not only larger-than-life sculptures hewn out of African mahogany wood. The world premiere of his art on Tuesday, 22nd February at Lamu Fort will also feature paintings and drawings that he created in preparation for his own arduous but enjoyable task of making the Maweni Carriers.
For several years, Sauter had planned to sculpt just seven 2.5 meter men. But late last year, he felt his collection was incomplete without at least one working woman. It was a surprise both to himself and to friends who’ve been waiting for the world premiere of his seven sculptures. But he identified the person who he felt would be a perfect eight, Kenyan model and teacher Achieng Andabula. 
Completing her sculpture in a record-breaking three months, Sauter’s exquisite exhibition will be officially launched by the German curator Augustin Noffke and immediately following, the Nairobi String Quartet will give a preview of classical music concert that they will give on Friday afternoon.
In musical contrast, there will be open-air concerts from Thursday through Saturday by the ‘godfathers of Kenyan music’, Les Mangelepa who have just returned to Kenya from a worldwide tour of Europe. They’ll be giving three free shows, one at the Maweni Village on Manda Island, one in the Lamu Town Square and their final free show on Saturday will be at the Diamond Beach Village. Les Mangelepa will be accompanied by the local Tarab band, Ali Noor Sunny, other musicians and a variety of local and international DJs.

On Friday, from 4:30, the Nairobi String Quartet will give their concert of works by Haydn, Brahms and Vivaldi. It will be followed at 6:30 by another painting and photographic exhibition opening at the Baraka Gallery focused on Manda Island by Helen Feiler and Corrie Wingate.
On Saturday, the German artists Mark Einsiedel and Felix Jung will present an interactive exhibition entited ‘Fabrics in Monsoon Keskazi Winds’ on Shela and Peponi Beach. Finally, during Sunday’s Dhow Races there will be lots of music on the beach before the Festival ends with the dhow race winners receiving a tidy purse and the public looking forward to next Lamu International Festival, this one in March focusing on Yoga.

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