By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted March 25 2020)
International Women’s Day, March 8th, came and went with hardly a ripple of attention or public awareness of the day and its significance.
Yet a few artists took note and prepared exhibitions to run through the entire month. Unfortunately, those shows all got shot down by the coronavirus scare that didn’t just hit Kenya but is a global shutdown.
Nonetheless, a few of those shows can be seen online. Most of them cannot however. In future, more artists are likely to put their works online either with online galleries like KendiArt or One Off Gallery or as solo artists who either have websites of their own or display their work on Facebook as many do.
The shows that we missed were at the Waterfront Mall in Karen and Karen Country Club as well as at Kenya National Theatre’s Cheche Gallery and at the Art Caffe Westminister where you would have found the one-woman exhibition by Taabu Munyoki.
Fortunately for Taabu, Art Caffe has a Facebook page where you will find an interview with Taabu. Sadly, her paintings don’t appear.
If you had gotten to KNT’s Cheche Gallery in time, you would have seen Goddesses and Queens painted by Chela Cherwon and works by Afro-Renaissance artists Steve Ogallo aka Sogallo and Marvin Macharia aka Native.
At Karen Country Club, you could have seen art by Mary Ogembo, Nadia Wamunyu, Kay Sanaa, Rose Mwendwa, Stephanie Otolo and Celeste de Vries as well as by guys like Dickson Nedia, Kibet Kirui, Kamau Kariuki Absalom Aswani and Kenndy Kinyua among others.
Meanwhile, there were a number of major exhibitions that were held this month. There was Manjano at Village Market where Nadia Wamunyu won a top prize, Nairobi Design Week at Lava Latte where Chela and Naitiemu were exhibiting and the Art Auction East Africa which also had a preview exhibition at Circle Art Gallery.
It’s at the website for the Art Auction that you will find artworks by a number of outstanding women artists. Among them are women from around East Africa such as Souad Abdul Rassoul from Egypt as well as Theresa Musoke, Dr Lilian Nabulima, Sarah Wasswa and Stacey Gillian Abe all from Uganda.
Among the Kenyan women whose art can be found online, courtesy of Circle Art Gallery are Rosemary Karuga, Yony Waite, Tabitha wa Thuku, Annabel Wanjiku and Emily Odongo.
The conclusion that artists can draw from our current COVID-19 pandemic is that if they want their art to be seen in this day and age, they had better find ways to exhibit it online.
The easiest way to do that is to go on Facebook or Instagram and expose your art in online venues such as these. Already, many artists and designers are doing this. Some are using YouTube and a few are assembling websites of their own, such as Chelenge van Rampelberg who has her own Home Gallery.
Then there are a number of artists affiliated with specific galleries or online platforms like ArtLabAfrica or OneOffGallery. There are only a few women connected with these sites, such as Beatrice Wanjiku who is at both Art Lab and One Off sites. Florence Wangui is also at the One Off site.
So while a number of artists refuse to show their works online because they are paranoid that someone will ‘steal’ their ideas, especially ‘the Chinese’, the rest may choose to take the risk. But it is more likely those online will have greater opportunities to show and also sell their works. They will have a higher public profile which in the long run will be in their interest.
Ultimately, the easiest way to look up an artist is to google him or her and see their images and art for yourself.