Geraldine Robarts’ final exhibition

Saturday May 26 2018

Makuti Man, by Geraldine Robarts. PHOTO | COURTESY

Makuti Man, by Geraldine Robarts. PHOTO | COURTESY  

By KARI MUTU
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For 60 years, Kenyan artist Geraldine Robarts exhibited her paintings.

Her swansong exhibition was held on May 18-20, called Art and Soul.

At the age of 79, Robarts no longer enjoys the pressure of organising an exhibition and would rather concentrate on creating art, which she plans to continue.

The exhibition had a mix of recent creations and older pieces. She brought together an impressive array of themes and techniques mostly influenced by her life in East Africa.

A dreamy blue oil painting called My Home shows a thatched mud hut under moonlight with yellow light beaming in an open door. This captivating image was inspired when Robarts lived in Uganda and stayed in such a hut in the Teso region.

In another illustration, shadowy outlines of camels move through a rainbow-coloured landscape which Robarts says describes her life journey through Africa. In it, a yellow band resembling a human face is the artist, the violet streak beneath her representing her supportive husband.

Robarts is known for brilliantly coloured paintings and for using diverse materials, textures and styles. It has kept her work fresh and appealing over the decades. Some paintings are inlaid with beaded accessories, sequins and natural materials.

On an orange-red canvas, an old man sits on the ground weaving makuti (thatch) roofing, real bits of palm fibre pasted onto the image. Coastal scenes and seascapes are presented in many of Robarts works, as are themes of village life and semi-urban settings.

Another painting called The Blacksmith happened when Robarts met a man in a shack working on swords and spears not far from a Maasai community.

Dressed in a white vest and shorts, the dark-skinned blacksmith is squatting before a fire surrounded by his tools and instruments painted as white outlines against a sky-blue background.

Away from colourful palettes, Sea Life is a large, monochrome ink painting with blobs, thick swirls and fat squiggles that reminds me of ocean snails and marine worms.

Commissioned works by Robarts hang in top hotels in Nairobi and Mombasa, while more of her works are in private collections and galleries around the world. The paintings can be seen in her studio-cum-gallery.