A review of the African head wrap

Wednesday March 18 2020

'Head Wrap' by Kibet Kirui II. PHOTO | KARI MUTU


Kenyan artist Kibet Kirui is celebrating the African woman through a series of portraits called Head Wrap. Painted in acrylics, Kirui’s modern women wear beautiful headscarves.

One painting is of a woman with a red head scarf, flouncy sleeves and blue lipstick, gazing upwards through dark sunglasses. Lips pursed, she presents a bold and brazen attitude. A side portrait has a dark-complexioned woman with a tall blue head wrap. She is holding her neck with a look of anxious or intense thought.

Kirui’s paintings have a balanced composition and he brings out mood and sentiment.

Another painting is a full-length portrait of a woman wearing a long, ruffled off-shoulder gown. Her back is turned to us, but she glances over her shoulder from under a wide-brimmed hat. The painting speaks of shyness or flirtatious coyness.

Kirui studied art at Kenyatta University, but also considers himself self-taught because he has learned by experimenting and studying the work of others.

A different and striking portrait is that of man wearing a straw hat with fringed edges. A slight smile plays about his lips as he looks unabashedly at the viewer from a dark backdrop. The subject would have disappeared into the background except for the light coloured hat, and that Kirui has illuminated one side of his face with bright sunlight.


Kirui also covers nature, still life, musicians and children using oils, pastels and crayons.