LEISURE: Celebrating home grown art

Friday September 20 2019

Art by (L-R) Chelenge van Rampelberg, Thom Ogongo, Jimnah Kimani, Peter Elungat, Michael Soi, Moses Nyawanda at the Alliance Francaise. PHOTO | MARGARRETA WA GACHERU | NMG


The French Cultural Centre is celebrating its 70th anniversary in Kenya with the third Kenya Art Panorama, that officially started September 10.

Featuring a minimum of 70 local artists, this year’s Art Panorama is on two floors and still has not captured the country’s dynamic art scene.

For example, there are a host of graffiti artists whose art is not on hand.

There is also a dearth of women artists as well. Artists like Jackie Karuti, Nduta Kariuki, Gloria Muthoka, Kathy Katuti, Wambui Mwangi, Yony Waite, Leena Shah, Geraldine Robarts and Rosemary Karuga all have exhibited at the Alliance Francaise before, yet they are not represented there today.

At the same time, we see wonderful works in the exhibition by accomplished artists like Mary Collis, Beatrice Wanjiku, Mary Ogembo, Joan Otieno, Rahab Shine, Nani Croze and Chelenge van Rampelberg.

But probably the most serious omission from this otherwise all-encompassing exhibition is the absence of art by Jak Katarikawe who died this past year but was among the very first Kenya-resident artists to exhibit at French Cultural Centre back in the 1970s.


Nonetheless, Harsita Waters has done a brilliant curatorial job, assembling the old and the young, the established and up-and-coming, and the intergenerational, meaning an artist like Ancent Soi, who has been painting since the 1960s and is still alive and well today.

She also managed to get a piece by Asaph Ng’ethe Macua, the 88-year-old artist who, with Rosemary Karuga, was among the first Kenyan artists to graduate in the early 1950s from Makerere University’s Margaret Trowell School of Fine Art.

It is a marvel to see works by artists from Ngeche, Banana Hill, Kuona Artists Collective, Go-Down, Dust Depo and Railway Museum as well as many independents and several more whose works are most frequently seen at One Off Gallery, like Beatrice Wanjiku who won Most Promising Female Artist at the 2006 Contemporary Art in Kenya Juried Exhibition.

Others who won accolades there that year and whose works are in the 70@70 show include Fred Abuga (Most Promising Male Artist), Samuel Githui (for Best painting), Bertiers Mbatia (for Best Sculpture) and Kamal Shah (for Best Mixed Media Art).