Monday, 25 March 2019


                                                                                    Kioko's Blue Eland

By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 25th March 2019)

Kioko Mwitiki has set the bar very high for what the Kenyan artist might aspire to once he or she has made it to ‘heaven’ and back. For not only did this original scrap metal sculptor (one of the first in the land) get so good at creating life-sized Kenyan wildlife out of scraps that he had to send whole containers-full of his sculptures abroad just to meet his clients’ desires for his art.
Kioko often had to accompany his elephants, rhinos and giraffes to sites like the San Diego Zoo where he also had to serve as curator, tasked with transforming part of the zoo into an art installation, even an ‘African Savannah’ filled with his metallic wildlife. He’s done similar work at the Sonoma Desert Museum in Arizona and even in Tanzania’s Seregeti Park where he created a ‘Nature Trail’ to educate school children about the value of wildlife.
At the same time, Kioko has also trained young Kenyans to create creatures like his. Only theirs are usually smaller in scale, soldering warthogs rather than rhinos. But Kioko says he’s never let his apprentices leave until they look assured of earning a livelihood from their art.
Now that Kioko’s sculptures can be seen everywhere from airports to world-class zoos and five-star hotels, he’s opened his own gallery in his name. He’d actually opened Pimbi Gallery some time ago, but originally, Pimbi doubled for both a gallery and workshop where he fabricated all his art.
Now that he’s opened the spacious Kioko Mwitiki Art Gallery next door to Lavington Mall, the sculptor not only has sufficient space to exhibit his own art, including his porcupines, ballerinas, elands and totems of all types.
He also exhibits other artists’ works. Some are established like Justus Kyalo; others relative newcomers like the six whose group exhibition opened in mid-March and runs through to mid-April. The six include painters who work in acrylics and watercolors as well as a print maker and a photographer.
                                                                                By Annabelle Wanjiku

There’s one among them who’s been well-established since the 1980s. That’s Annabelle Wanjiku who brought her colorful semi-abstract paintings from Uganda (where she now stays) to Kioko especially for this exhibition.
At the other end of the spectrum is Shilpi Deb, 24, who recently graduated from art school in Mumbai, the same school that both her father and grandfather went to. She’s only been back in Kenya a year, so this is her first exhibition since she’s been back. 
                                                                                               By Shilpi Deb

She’s contributed a variety of genres to the show. Her woodcut prints cover a whole wall at Kioko’s double-decker gallery. She also displays a series of paintings on etched wood plates which have a Cubist angularity to them.
The one photographer in the exhibition is Billy Miaron who, like Shilpi was given a whole wall to fill with his black and white photographs, some portraits, others landscapes.
                                                      Mount Kilimanjaro from Illasit by Billy Miacon ole Nkumama

But his most striking image is a multiple-exposured view of Mount Kilimanjaro shot from his home village of Illasit near Loitokitok at the Tanzanian border. Billy admits to touching-up his multi-layered image using Photoshop, but only to enhance the magnificence of the mountain and the earthy texture of village life.
Another one of the painters is Kevin Ndege who actually trained at Egerton University in mathematics. But once he got a job doing illustrations for MacMillan Publishers, his fate was sealed. Painting full-time since 2016, his art is still illustrative, only now it’s more psychological. It reflects on modern maladies of the mind, referencing common fears, some illusory, others cautionary but all needing to be addressed before they can be overcome.
                                                                              Indecision by Kevin Ndege

Finally, Thomas Gatura is a watercolorist who paints both abstract and realistic works which are miniature in scale compared to Shiku Wang’ombe’s bright and bold acrylic paintings, several of which practically fill one wall each.
These six will have their artworks up for the month. Meanwhile, Kioko opens his gallery every Wednesday to artists who’d wish to exhibit there.
It’s one more way Kioko says he’s happy to  contribute to the development of Kenya’s creative art world.
                                                                                  Art by Shiku Wang'ombe

“We still run apprenticeship programs at the workshop,” says Kioko who’s also run re-cycling workshops in the States.”
But now that he’s moved into his own gallery in one of the city’s busiest commercial areas, he’s happy to offer fellow artists yet another spacious venue to expose and potentially sell their art.
“One big advantage we have is that since we’re working with wildlife organizations like the Jane Goodall Foundation, we get many visitors from abroad.”

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