Cheers! Webster shows portraits of new found friends

Friday December 07 2018

'The Illustrated' Man by Dale Webster. PHOTO | FRANK WHALLEY | NMG


A painter who became a good friend of East African art and its creators is holding his first solo show in London.

Dale Webster moved recently from Nairobi — his home for the past 12 years — to cosmopolitan Harringay, in the English capital.

Once there, he quickly made a new group of friends at his local pub and by way of an introduction, he set to and painted them.

The result is an exhibition on throughout this month at the fashionable Brouhaha wine and sushi bar in Green Lanes, Harringay, run by the brothers Paresh and Dipesh Karia who coincidentally (or not) are from Kisumu.

It is of some 20 portraits, which I have seen only in reproduction, but seem to bear an extra helping of Webster’s hallmark honesty and deft characterisation. They are of the sort of people you would be likely to meet in, well, your local North London pub.

Webster told me he was moved by their introspection and although they were living in one of the most prosperous cities in the world when they sat for their portraits they, revealingly, appeared consumed by their worries.


Webster came to Kenya from the UK where he taught art history but he was no stranger to Africa, having earlier lectured in philosophy at the University of Sierra Leone, in the country’s capital, Freetown.

Once in Nairobi, Webster quickly made his mark with a show of around 20 paintings in acrylics on paper of Maasai people he had met at the village of Ol Tepesi off the Magadi Road.

Exhibitions followed at Braeburn School where his daughters were students and at the old Le Rustique restaurant, in General Mathenge Road, where he hung another suite of portraits of his Maasai friends.

Shows followed annually, including one of Kenyans living with HIV, which became part of an exhibition in the Brunei Gallery at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London.

Webster then made paintings of house and garden staff, which were exhibited at Le Rustique and went on to complete a series featuring local artists, gallery owners and collectors, which was shown to acclaim at the Red Hill Gallery in 2016.

It proved to be his swansong in Kenya but now Webster is back in the game with his show at the Brouhaha wine bar.

And for any visiting Kenyans, he promised, the drinks are on him.