Bold colors, distinct African features and a unique style is what i would use to describe the Art of Brian Sawe. A 21 year old self
On the 24th of March, I attended the Studio SoKu Opening. Richie Njogu and Jeremy Sonko were opening their new art space, a white, well lit house in Nairobi’s South B.
Njogu Kuria and Jeremy Sonko, established artists with a portfolio to speak for themselves, got together and decided to create a studio space. Not only are they brilliant, but also have had numerous exhibitions across the city.
The name SoKu is a corny derivative of a combination of their names: Sonko and Kuria. (Kinda like the corniness I used to create Artleeyo ha!)
An exhibition of their work marked the opening of SoKu. The open living room had drawings and paintings by Jeremy. One wall had a gallery of women, made using sponge on novel papers.
Sounds crazy, right? But nothing is impossible to him, apparently. He used pages from a book titled ‘Thank you for having me’ by Maureen Lipman. Characters from the book inspired each artwork created.The papers were stuck on a piece of board, and the outside frame of this, burned to create a vintage effect. He then drew the women using ink and sponge, while observing the elements of art, creating masterpieces.
His other paintings on the other side, where colorful, heavily textured abstract cubism compositions.
Njogu’s works accentuated mostly the LED lit corridor. The vinyl maesto, who also paints, FYI, was the one who was receiving guests with some ujibenda. His pieces included a vinyl piece of Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta, a painting of afro-pop godfather Fela Kuti among others.
In attendance was a couple of artists, including Joyce Kuria, Cheryl Nagawa, and Mandela Osula.
In addition, the bathroom had some sort of black board where the guests could leave their comments.
Generally, The Studio SoKu opening was a great success. Seeing as the space is open to the public, it is bound to inspire a lot of upcoming young artists. Congratulations to Njogu and friends for this brilliant opening.
The BSQ Crew is not new to the Graffiti Scene. They have made a name for themselves by, almost literary, painting the tow red with their signature art pieces. They also have had a couple of exhibitions, like the Next Gen Exhibition which was held last year.
Previously, their studio has been at the Dust Depo, where the well renowned Patrick Mukabi works. Mentorship for young artits, for years, has been ongoing at this studio.
With growth, comes the part where you eventually have to move out. The Crew found a coach at The Railways Museum and transformed it into a unique and beautiful studio.
Last Saturday, April 7, the Crew officially opened their new Studio Wagon. Renting an old retired passenger coach of their own, they invited fellow graffiti artists like Swift9 and Bank Slave to come along and make their mark on the body of the coach. Msale was doing body art for some of the guests (I, included)
The bubbly Damaris Muga hosted the event. A lot of renown artists showed up, including Jacque Njeri, Louis Alosa, among others. Swift Elegwa did a live painting session of the body.
I was greatly amazed at the amount of work BSQ have put in in making a non-conventional art space. Definitely looking forward to seeing their next project!
According to Wikipedia, scribbling, scratching or painting of writings or drawings (albeit sometimes illegal), is the definition of Graffiti. Often within public view, Graffiti ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. These have existed since the ancient times.
In Kenya, there’s a lot of Mural Graffiti, on walls in the street. I featured The Railways Museum Graffiti on here. Great artists have come up, showcasing their immense talent and skill. These include The BSQ Crew, Smokillah, Swift9, Bankslave among others.
There is a huge gender gap in artists who practice graffiti: women are fewer. Douglas Kihiko, aka Smokillah saw this disparity and decided to found Graffiti Girls Kenya.
Graffiti Girls Kenya is a movement and vision to see women empowered through developing their artistic craft. Their main aim is to emancipate women through their pursuit in becoming professional graffiti artists who express themselves with the spray can.
Their artwork mostly depict social issues affecting women, for example, gender based violence, early marriages, rape among others.
Through their workshops and seminars, Graffiti Girls Kenya not only allows a platform of expression, but also helps bring a whole other flavor to the Kenyan graffiti scene. The social issues are addressed from the women’s perspective, which makes it more authentic. They use Graffiti to challenge themselves and break down stereotypes that surround the stigma of graffiti.
With partnerships, Graffiti Girls Kenya hosts several Female Oriented events. They target young ladies between the ages of 18-25, who gather to discuss major issues affecting women. The girls meet weekly to create art and discuss around issues that would otherwise not be listened to. Moreover, they use this time to connect with other artists in places like Pawa254 and The Creatives Garage.
They have been featured in several platforms, like NowThis.
Follow them on Instagram. Scroll through for some of the photos from their Facebook Page.
Relief sculpture is a technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material. It gives an impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane. Our Featured Artist: Cheryl Nagawa, is an upcoming relief artist whose style blew my mind.
A graduate of Interior Design from the University of Nairobi, Cheryl was an apprentice of David Aruna, an artist who nurtured her talent before she decided to venture out on her own.
Her relief art stands out the most as her best form of visual expression.
First, she starts by sketching the desired artwork on the surface, which is usually a chosen wall. She uses a special hardening paste to sculpt the composition, making it a 3 dimensional figure attached to the wall.
The final process is painting, where she uses acrylic paint to accentuate the artwork. Looking at her work, you realize that it is in a mid-relief style. This means that the background field does not have elements undercut, or fully disengaged from it.
Cheryl draws most of her inspiration from nature. Animals, landscapes and plants influence most her artwork.
When she is not making relief art, Cheryl is a freelance interior designer. Seeing that relief sculpture could be a decorative form, she incorporates it in her murals and outstanding wall stencils. For instance, she could design an office and use the feature wall as a canvas for a piece of art.
The Video Below shows her process for an artwork she made.
Kenya has a lot of women in art who’s contribution cannot be surpassed. Their benefaction to the exposure of Art and Design to the rest of the world had a great impact, especially on budding artists. In the Spirit of International Women’s Day, here are 3 of Kenya’s Most Prominent Women in Fine Art.
Anne Ntinyari Mwiti is an established Kenyan artist and a lecturer of Fine Art and Design at Kenyatta University. She was my first painting class lecturer in 2012 when I was studying Fine Art and Design. I loved her critique and especially her depiction of women, in her first solo exhibition I saw: Absolute Feminism.
Her Inspiration branches from human faces and the diversity in human characteristics. This could be due to the fact, in her own words; humans are so imperfect, yet so ingenious and resilient!
Her artworks are mostly of mixed media and hand painted, including a sense of personal history. It has been shown in various Kenyan galleries, as well as outside Kenya, in Brazil, Congo DRC.
She won the World Citizen Artist Competition 2014, with her masterpiece, A Stitch in Time. Being the only African among the 10, Anne couldn’t help feeling humbled to be representing not just Kenyan but African artists as a whole.
Wangechi Mutu explores the violence and misrepresentation that women, particularly black women, experience in the contemporary world. Moreover, the award-winning multi-media artist has had exhibitions everywhere from London, Moscow and Johannesburg to Paris and New Haven (where she got a Masters of Fine Art from Yale).
In 2014, her one-woman show entitled ‘Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey’ at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in the US proved to be one of many watershed moments in her extensive artistic career.
Maral Bolouri is a Kenya-based visual artist exploring issues of gender and identity in art. That is how she arrived at creating her award-winning artwork ‘Mother and Others’. Her installation focused on women’s portrayal in African proverbs won first prize at ABSA-Barclays’ ‘L’Atelier’ 2017. This unique installation investigates representations of women in African oral traditions.
Maral studied painting at the Art University of Tehran and earned a Master’s degree in International Contemporary Art & Design Practice from Malaysia. She has exhibited her art in Iran, USA, Belgium, South Africa and Malaysia.
Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter of the 20th Century. She painted many self portraits in a naive folk art style to explore a variety of Mexican pop Culture issues. Her paintings mixed elements of realism and fantasy, consequently, making them topics of strong autobiographical elements of her life. Her uncompromising depiction of the female form and experience makes Frida Kahlo a Feminist Icon in the art circles.
Left disabled by polio at the age of two, she also suffered grave injuries as a result of a bus crash that almost killed her at the age of 18. She was the patient who tolerated tough, physical pain and underwent more than 35 operations throughout her life. She took up painting at this time and, gradually, her paintings were influenced by the happenings in her life.
What makes so many consider Frida Kahlo a Feminist Icon are the ways in which she stood up as a woman and did not allow her illnesses to inhibit her. She retained her true sense of self, and publicly used her work to explore many taboo topics of the time.
The following are reasons I greatly admire this iconic woman’s work.
As women, we are expected to be fair skinned, soft, feminine and cultured. Not Frida. She painted herself in her raw form. She kept her “masculine” features untouched. From the signature unibrow, to the slight mustache and unshaven armpits, it was vivid that she did not care about fitting with the norm.
Frida was married to Diego Riviera, a fellow painter. Rivera and Kahlo did not have a traditional marriage and each of them had affairs. She had affairs with both men and women, including her husband’s mistresses.
They often separated, divorced once and remarried. Eventually, they resorted to having an open marriage.
During the 1990s, female issues were often discussed in private. Publicizing them would be a trait that would be looked down upon. Frida rose above the rules by covering a lot of issues in her work. They ranged from miscarriages, to pregnancy, menstruation, breastfeeding and infertility. These are issues that embody the challenges of being a woman.
Despite being born in Mexico, a country that is traditionally Catholic, she identified as an atheist and a communist. She was also an active member of the Communist party. She believed that only through Communism can we become human.
Kahlo had strong political convictions that were inspired by Marxist ideology.
“I’m convinced of my disagreement with the counterrevolution—imperialism, fascism, religion, stupidity, capitalism and the whole gamut of bourgeois tricks. I wish to cooperate with the revolution in transforming the world into a classless one, so that we can attain a better rhythm for the oppressed classes.” – Frida Kahlo
The 1990s were a time where women had few rights and men were seen as the dominant sex. It was expected of women to stay at home and become housewives. Frida attended co-educational school, which was not only very highly unlikely but also unusual.
“There were only about five girls to 300 boys at the school, and Matilde (Frida’s mother) was outraged at the thought that one of them was to be her daughter.” – Isabel Alcantara
She wore her hair parted and pulled back, unlike other girls who would let their hair loose. She often wore men’s clothes and often challenged men to tequila drinking contest. A Queen!
Nairobi’s first major cultural and artistic institution, The GoDown Arts Center, is set to have a major turn around in a project dubbed: The GoDown Transforms.
The GoDown Arts Center is a non-profit organization which began 14 years ago in an old warehouse on Dunga Rd, Nairobi. It set out with a transformational vision of a cultural future for us all. A future created from the dreams of many different Kenyans to build a successful sustainable relationship between society, arts and culture.
In a collaborative process that took over 10 years with different architects, city planners and artists, residents, city officials and students, the vision has been shaped while taking into account the growing city and the immediate surroundings.
The GoDown aims to develop independent artists across multiple art forms. In addition to that, it helps them to participate in the advancement of the cultural sector, thereby contributing to the establishment of a robust arts and culture sector with expanding receptive audiences.
The GoDown’s plans for a new public access arts complex in Nairobi are historic as this would be the first significant investment in cultural infrastructure since Kenya’s independence over half a century ago.
The 5 level futuristic studio will contain 3 courtyards. The first courtyard will have a library, gallery, auditorium, a museum offices and a restaurant.
Ths second courtyard will have a dance studio, offices for artist organizations and businesses. The third courtyard will have 2 stories of studios of visual artists to create their work.
In addition, there will be underground parking, a film and music studio, craft workshop, training labs and conference rooms.
The GoDown has already raised $1,000,000 which is half the amount for phase 1. This was done over a period of 10years. The Target is to raise the remaining $1,000,000.
It will take mobilization of at least 200,000 to give an average of Ksh. 500. This will additionally give them the power to invite matches from corporates, international partners, social entrepreneurs and the government.
Become a GoDown transformer by inviting your personal network of colleagues, friends and family to give to the GoDown Transforms Campaign.
Make your contribution & be a part of history
Mpesa paybill : 681471 || Airtel Money : 681471 Account Name : Your Name
For More information: http://godowntransforms.org/
Watch Video below for the GoDown Transforms Vision.
The National Museum of Kenya is hosting The BSQ Crew‘s exhibition, The Next Gen Exhibition.
Exhibition: “Next Gen Exhibition”
When: December 8th, 2017–January 15, 2018
Where: National Museum of Kenya
Formed in 2011, the Crew consists of a squad of street artists from Nairobi, Kenya. Kenneth Otieno(kaymist4), Babeto Ochieng (Thufu-B) and Brian Musasia (Msale) make up this talented group. Their specialty include mural work and graffiti. To enumerate, beautifying plain walls is their greatest passion.
The exhibition opened on the 8th of December, 2017. It is important to note that this is the National Museum’s first time to host a street art exhibition. The artists treated the guests to a live spray painting session on one of the temporary walls provided. This gave them an exposure to the fresh look and experience of a spray can.
The exhibition is currently ongoing, until 15th January 2018. And this, altogether, gives them a lot of time to showcase their work to the public.
Kaymist has a distinct Afro-futuristic style. His paintings depict mostly African women from different locations. In addition, and he gives it a twist by adding bolts, nuts and gears to create his curious take on mechanics and technology. Not only is his work beautiful, but also gives a different perspective from the cliche African art that we see daily.
Thufu-B is a maestro of lines. He is fondly dubbed the “Lines Man”. He uses distinct lines to create shapes of curvy African women. In effect, his eccentric style brings out masterpieces that are worth the money. His use of bright and bold lines significantly creates movement and shape and in my opinion, was the best part of this exhibition.
Msaleh showed off with his signature abstract Afro patterns. If you know his, you would not miss his work just from a glance. Furthermore, of all the artists, he had the most diverse pieces. From patterned murals, to African women’s portraits and to trio pieces.
All things considered, this was a well planned out showcase of art. The BSQ Crew prove that they are masters of this game, thus, making it an exhibition of 3 people with 3 different energies. This makes their paintings an event for every viewer.
Scroll through for more photos from the exhibition.
The Banana Hill Art Gallery is located in the outskirts of Nairobi, north of The Village Market, exhibiting the finest work of African artists. The gallery, which is run by Shine Tani – one of Kenya’s biggest self taught artists – is home to some of the most unique paintings and sculptures.
A group of young artists formed the Banana Hill Art Gallery in 1992. By 2005, the artists took different creative directions, leading to the space transforming into an art-selling zone. With Shine taking over ownership of the gallery, he created a system where different artists could show case and sell their work with the aim of motivating them. In 2010 the East African art space experienced growth and that’s when Shine decided to expand to accommodate artiste from all over Africa.
As it stands, the gallery is home to close to 100 artists from across Africa, holding monthly exhibitions, which see roughly 40 new paintings per month. The turnout seen during the exhibition majorly depends on promotions through social media, poster and flyers. The gallery has storage space for artwork from previous exhibitions; meaning one can walk in, view and make a purchase.
If you are an artist and you are interested in exhibiting at this space, you have to apply by submitting your work physically at the gallery. Alternatively, you could send your work portfolio to them through their email on their website.
The work has to be of very high quality in order to maintain the gallery’s standard. A minimum of 20 pieces of art are required from the artist in order to cover up the exhibition space.
The gallery does not charge the artist to exhibit. Instead, they will take a certain percentage from the sales as commission. The gallery accepts all types of artwork.
In addition, the artists have to ensure that they are assisting the gallery in getting word out about the exhibition in order to increase visibility for the event.
As much as Banana Hill tries to accommodate artist from all over Africa, transporting some art has proven to be challenging, especially the heavy sculptures.
At the South End Mall on Lang’ata Rd in Nairobi, Charlie’s Bistro and Lounge, a modern eatery, sits on the 5th floor.
From the logo of the place, I am guessing the owner is a lover of Charlie Chaplin, the famous English comic.
The interior decor of the place is modern and unique. Most noteworthy, it’s one of those places that you figure the designer took the time and paid attention to detail.
The use of natural colored wood is the most significant feature about Charlie’s Bistro. The pillars, parts of the ceiling and feature walls have been accentuated with planks of wood. Furthermore, some sitting areas have wooden benches to complete this natural look. It brings out a natural and authentic feel to it. As a result, you can barely notice the artificial grass next to the balcony.
Speaking of, the balcony is positioned in such a way that you have a beautiful panoramic view of the Tmall roundabout on Lang’ata Rd. Furthermore, a lovely view of the Nairobi skyline adorns this amazing view. In addition, the space is also an open smoking zone.
The use of light in Charlie’s Bistro is my favorite feature. From large bowl like lamp shades, long beautiful neon lights, to glass finished atmospheric lights. As a result, the ambience of the place gives a warm fuzzy feeling.
Another feature that I cannot fail to mention is the wall that is full of beautiful expressionist paintings. The wooden walls have the artwork incorporated, and drop lights line up to complete this marvelous composition.
In conclusion, Charlie’s Bistro is an aesthetically beautiful place. It helps a lot that their cocktails are delicious and the food is amazing.
All images are courtesy of Charlie’s Bistro and Lounge and Harun Momanyi