It was a rainy day when Gilbert Ouma decided to spend more time creating fine art, and the weather inspired his series of umbrella-themed paintings.
To Ouma, umbrellas embody creativity.
“I love the sudden mushrooming of different types of umbrellas whenever it rains in the streets of Nairobi. They add colour to a rainy day,” he says.
Most of his figures are women, such as in Lady on the Shore, depicting a sombre-faced woman in a sleeveless dress walking with an open umbrella.
Some of his umbrella illustrations are black and white paintings, for example, Walking in the Rain, where a couple is walking through city streets under an umbrella. Using light brush strokes and monochrome colours, Ouma ably captured the dreariness of the day.
Ouma uses mixed media such as ink, rust, palm fibre and different soils to create special effects. Beauty of Elemi Triangle, a mixed media composition, has two bare-breasted Turkana women wearing long traditional skirts and beaded jewellery.
“It’s mostly made with diatomite, rust and Indian Ocean beach sand,” he said.
Ouma is an exhibition designer with the National Museums of Kenya, where he designs graphics and interactives for museums around the country. Having travelled extensively on work assignments, he says he is inspired by the semi-nomadic communities and desert-like landscapes in northern Kenya.
By mixing soils, rust and inks in Kokuro Crossing, Ouma achieves a rusty, windblown effect around a woman in cultural dress walking in the Kokuro area along the Kenya-Ethiopia border.
His other rural themes are found in the image of three traditional women in Turkana Girls and the market scene in Oyude Market, which shows several people seated at a vegetable market.
In both paintings, he uses his characteristic shades of red, pink and yellow that create a feeling of warmth and cheer.
Ouma’s paintings can be seen at the Vogue Café at the Nairobi National Museum, and others are currently on display at such Nairobi golf clubs as Vetlab Sports Club, Royal Nairobi Golf Club and Karen Country Club.