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A marriage of creativity, clarity and commerce

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By FRANK WHALLEY

Posted  Monday, April 11  2011 at  00:00
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Enthusiasm for the arts is clearly to be seen as much as the paintings and sculptures in one current exhibition.

Around 120 artists have shown their work at the International School of Kenya in Nairobi, in its purpose built arts centre.

But what shines through is the dedication, care and love for the arts of the volunteers — mostly parents — who have organised and manned the show; the sixth they have put on.

They formed Friends Of The Arts (Fota) to help the school and its pupils, both internally and through its outreach programmes.

Twenty-five per cent commission from every sale (and there have been many) goes straight back to help fund the arts.

That figure of 25 per cent, incidentally, is low by commercial standards — commission is generally around 33-40 per cent but can be as high as 50-60 per cent — which might help to account for such an enthusiastic participation by so many quality artists.

The exhibition is well worth a visit, but alas it ends on Sunday, April 12 because the hall is needed for other events.

However, given that this is supposed to be a review of the arts and not the state of the volunteer sector, I can tell you that the hall is packed with work that offers as good a cross section as you are likely to find anywhere of what is happening in the arts in East Africa.

If I have a caveat, it is that most of it veers towards the predictable and, with a few exceptions, there is not much that is new to see.

Exceptions? Well, two paintings by Alex Mbevo, a pupil of Patrick Mukabi, reveal potential.

Both Bike Boy and Maji Baridi are tonal studies well sustained over a large area, losing none of their strength in the process.

And on the sculpture front, Peter Walala is showing his new technique of carving from laminated blocks of oiled eucalyptus.

It adds vitality, seen to advantage in a seated, headless figure called Marci wa Diani, which glows against the matt black surround.

There were other good things, as well... for instance, three charcoal drawings of heads by Peterson Kamwathi which, in spite of the tight framing, shone with the clarity of close observation.

Xavier Verhoest’s thoughtful pictures Deposit of Silence and You Dare to Whisper in the Desert, possessed an ethereal beauty typical of much of his recent work, while Mary Collis showed two colourful paintings of her garden, and a still life with flowers in a blue vase. They lit up her bay in the hall.

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