Posts Tagged ‘Kenyan Art’

Paa ya Paa Art Gallery is calling on artists who have their artworks stored there to collect their pieces, apparently because they are running out of space. In a Facebook post made on Thursday July 16, the centre invited the artists for chai – probably the delicious grass tea made by the generous host Mzee Elimo Njau – on Saturday July 18, at 10.30 am.

 

Elimo Njau and his lovely wife Philda

Elimo Njau and his lovely wife Philda

Could this lack of space be the result of the court ordered subdivision of the five-acre plot, Paa ya Paa sits on? Following a court dispute between Elimo and his first wife Rebecca Njau, a Nairobi court ordered that the land be divided into two equal parts, with the other part going to Rebecca. The last time Maisha Yetu checked, the other part, which hosts, the famous Freedom Fighter sculpture, had already been fenced off.

It now remains to be seen whether artists will heed the call and collect the pieces. This might present logistical challenges to some of them, especially those with more than one pieces, more so if they are framed, as most artists lack efficient means of transportation.

Reproduced below is the Facebook post. Note that there was a typo in the date, whereby it reads 2025 instead of 2015.

Paa Ya Paa
Call For Artists –
KARIBU CHAI
Saturday, July 18, 2025
10:30 a.m.
We invite the following artists to Paa Ya Paa on Saturday, July 18th at 10:30 a.m. to come for a cup of tea and to pick up your artworks left in storage for many years. In this our 50th year of existence, we no longer have space available. As we work toward our celebration at the end of the year, we will also share with you our calendar of activities as we look forward to the future. If your name is not listed, but you know some of the artists, please inform them just in case they have not seen this notice.
THANK YOU.
FRIENDS OF PAA YA PAA
ARTISTS: Adam Massava, Anne Mwiti, Allen Green, Allan Kangetwe, Boyd Oyier, Bevern Otieno, Caroline Mbirua.David Mundia, Dedan Kimani, Daniel Wanjau, Dan Marigi, Esther Mukuhi,Elegwa Wycliffe Swift, Ezra Joab, Evanson Kangethe, Eliud Ngugi, Evans Maina, Elias, Elian Mung’ora, Evans Mwangi, Eric Manya, Florence Ochieng, Frederick Kamau, Fred Shinzu, Henry Odero, Hussein, S.K., Hannah Turuga, Immaculate Juma, Isaac Kamau, Jimmy Matu, John Gitonga, Kibacia Gatu, Kayiira Owentebbe, Ken Artifat, Kamondia, Kayako, Lionel Njuguna, Lazarus Tumbuti, Lawy, Mike Kyalo, Moses Kabiru, Mukwana, Laura Vanessa, Morphat, Makonde, Nuru Bahati, Ngaruiya, Nduta Kariuki, Onyis Martin, Orade, Paul Owino, Paul Kihiko, Peter Murio, Patrick Kariuki, Robinson Omweri, Richard Mudibo, Sinoh, Smoki, Tony, Tabitha wa Thuku, Timothy Bonanza, Uhuru Brown, Victor Nandwa, Watindi, Hezron; Wangatho, B., Yassir Ali .
PAA YA PAA Arts Centre
0733 270 109

Artists have until October 14 to submit their pieces for this year’s Affordable Art Show which is set to be held at the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) between October 23 and 25. This is an event of the Kenya Museum Society (KMS) aimed at raising funds in support of NMK.

Bertiers

The art show is open to paintings, sculpture and mixed media work. Submissions will be juried. An individual artist can submit a maximum of two pieces, which should not be priced at more than Sh99,000. “Each piece should measure 100cm x 100cm (paintings and sculptures) for easy carrying of the art pieces by buyers,” says the communication signed by Lydia Galavu, the art curator at the museum and Patricia Ithau, who chairs the KMS Affordable Art Show.

The artworks to be submitted must have been created in 2015. Artists can also submit a third, A3 piece priced at Sh10,000.  The opening of the art show will take place in the courtyard behind the Louis Leakey Auditorium on Friday evening, October 23, 2015. The show will continue on Saturday and Sunday until October 25.

Artists’ work should be delivered to the former NMK boardroom at the rear of the courtyard on Wednesday, October 14, between 10am and 3pm. Artists from outside Nairobi who send work by public means,  must ensure that their submissions arrive no later than October 12.

Unsold art must be picked up on October 26, between 10am and 3pm. After that date and time, the art will belong to KMS and will be used to raise further funds for NMK.

Barely a month after Culture minister disowned the ‘Kenyan Pavilion’ at the Venice Biennale, it is now emerging that a letter had been written by the ministry requesting participation at the Biennale. This is in spite of repeated denials from the ministry, including CS Hassan Wario, of the same.

Already a letter allegedly written by Wenslas SA Ong’ayo, on behalf of the Principal Secretary, expressing the intention of the Republic of Kenya to participate in the event, is doing rounds in social media circles. The letter, apparently written way back in November 10, 2014, and addressed to Dr Paolo Baratta, the chairman of the Foundazione La Beinnale di Venezia, said that “Maretti Editore srl” “will sponsor the event and that Mrs Paola Poponi has been appointed Commissioner of the Republic of Kenya pavilion,” says the letter.  Onga’ayo is the director of administration at the ministry.

Ong'ayo

Matters came to a head when it was discovered that, for the second consecutive time, Kenya was being represented by Chinese artists at the prestigious event – the same happened in 2013 – popularly known as the Art Olympics. Local artists and their representatives protested and formed a delegation to seek clarification from Wario.

On April 14, the SC, accompanied by, among others, Ong’ayo, addressed a press conference at the Kenya Cultural Centre, and strenuously denied knowledge of the ministry’s connection to the people manning the Kenyan pavilion.

“Our investigations on this issue show that this happened at least twice before, in 2003 and 2013, through the involvement of Armando Tanzini, who resides in Malindi,” read part of Wario’s statement. “Tanzini and his team have presented themselves, wrongfully and repeatedly, as Kenya’s official representatives.”

During the press conference, a resolution was made to the effect that Kenya’s name and flag would be dropped from the pavilion. A letter to that effect was dispatched to Venice. That action by Wario must have caught Tanzini unawares, for he is the one that released Onga’yo’s letter, to prove that he indeed had the ministry’s backing.

Silvia Gichia, the director Kuona Trust, who was at the forefront in agitating against the Kenyan pavilion, told The Nairobian, that Tanzini called her from Italy, where he is manning the pavilion. “He was very furious and was protesting what he called betrayal by the ministry,” explains Sylvia. “He was saying that the ministry was tarnishing his name, yet they were the ones who issued him with the letter, and that is how he emailed me that letter.”

She says that Tanzini acted surprised when asked why he did not include Kenyan artists in the pavilion. “Which artists?”  he retorted.

Sylvia adds that following the Tanzini’s revelations, she got in touch with Wario, who expressed disbelief at the direction the saga had taken. “He promised that action would be taken at the ministry level,” adds Sylvia.

On her part, Sylvia, who is a member of a committee – consisting of government officials and individual artists – formed to address the Biennale saga, expressed her disgust with the government. “We are disappointed with the government; Wario should be on top of his game. We hold the government responsible for this whole fiasco,” she says adding that there is a need to re-evaluate that committee seeing as their trust with the government has taken a hit.

We wrote a email to Tanzini seeking his side of the story by had not received a response by the of going to press. Calls and a text message to Ong’ayo also went unanswered. Wario’s personal assistant, who promised to get back to us once he came out of hospital.

It is said that lightning does not strike twice but sadly for Kenyan art, it just did. For the second consecutive season the Kenyan pavilion at the Venice Biennale is being represented Chinese artists. The same thing happened in 2013, a lot of noise was made, the government, through the culture ministry, promised action, but it appears nothing was done.

It is now emerging that the man running the show at the Kenyan pavilion is Armando Tanzini, a hotelier, of Italian origin, who has reportedly lived at the Kenyan coast for 45 years. He also played a big role in the 2013 saga. Questions are now being raised about how a private individual who has no ties with the Kenyan government or the Culture ministry, has the authority to run a pavilion on behalf of Kenya.

 

Biennale SoiMichael Soi, a visual artist based at The Godown, reads mischief in the whole issue. “For a country to participate at the Biennale, the relevant government arm, in our case the Culture ministry writes to the Mayor of Venice, where the exhibition is taking place, requesting for space,” he explains. “It is after the request has been vetted and accepted that the country is required to show commitment by putting in some money. This is followed by giving out the names of artists who will exhibit at the event.”

Soi and other artists are concerned that someone from the ministry must have written the letter giving the blessings of the ministry for the pavilion to exist. “The word we are getting from the ministry is that they have no idea who did the letter. This is too embarrassing for us as Kenyan artists and the country as a whole,” he explains.

On Friday, March 20, a group of artists, who, among others, included, Soi, author Binyavanga Wainaina, Justus Kyalo, Maggie Otieno, Jimmy Ogonga and James Muriuki, apparently at the invitation of CS Hassan Wario, went to his offices to try and ‘sort out the issue’. “When we got there we were told the CS, being a Muslim, had gone for Friday prayers. We stayed there up to 5 pm but he did not show up,” says Soi.

While there, a ministry official showed them a letter that promised to halt the operations of the Kenyan pavilion and promising to make better preparations for the 2017 edition of the event. However, the letter was not signed. “We could not take it seriously. We were promised that it would be signed and issued on Monday, March 23, which did not materialise,” says Soi.

Wangechi Mutu

The Kenyan pavilion at the Biennale, and whose theme is Creating Identities, has the following listed as the Kenyan representatives. Yvonne Apiyo Braendle-Amolo, Qin Feng, Shi Jinsong, Armando Tanzini, Li Zhanyang, Lan Zheng Hui, Li Gang, Double Fly Art Center. From the name alone Yvonne Apiyo Braendle-Amolo is the only Kenyan in the group of artists.

The curator of the Kenyan pavilion is listed as Sandro Orlandi Stagl. A simple google check on him reveals that anything about him is written in Italian. The only English posts have to do with the present controversy. None of the people, in the local art industry seem to know who Yvonne Apiyo Braendle-Amolo, let alone her credentials as an artist.

Apparently, US-based Kenyan visual artist, Wangechi Mutu, is among the big name artists whose art will be gracing the Venice Biennale. Our enquiries revealed that Wangechi would be exhibiting at the Central Pavilion – unlike the country pavilions – which will be curated by the Biennale itself.

Wangechi, through a comment on Facebook, had this to say about the saga: “…The reason why this hotelier (Tanzini) has gotten away with this for so long is that those who care didn’t seem to know it was happening, and those who were aware that it was happening don’t actually care how Kenya is represented abroad or at home!”

Binyavanga made the following post of Facebook. “…Let me be clear that none of this could have happened without clear collusion: Somebody in our government, every two years has signed off on this. It is possible that Kenya Embassy in Rome knows or is involved with this. In 2013, we were promised this would be dealt with. It has not.”

Meanwhile, Kenyans are signing an online petition, on change.org, addressed to the ministry urging it to do something about the saga.

 

That Kenya is teeming with artistic talent came out in the open on the night of Friday October 24 when the Affordable Art Show opened at the National Museums of Kenya. About 300 artists had their works on display at the three-day event organised by the Kenya Museum Society.

New entrants in the visual art world had their works displayed alongside those of established artists, all competing for the attention of buyers keen to acquire reasonably priced art. None of the pieces on display cost more than sh100,000; there were smaller pieces going for between sh6,000 and sh10,000.

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Lydia Galavu curator of the Creativity Gallery at the National Museums explained that artistes were required to submit two big pieces and two small ones. The Safaricom and Java sponsored event attracted a full house, with a carnival-like atmosphere. The turn-up was clear testimony that local art has quite some following.

The pieces on display covered a wide spectrum of themes, from the mundane to sophisticated stuff like geopolitics. There are also those who tackled topical issues. David Karibu Karanja had reproduced the iconic picture of Abdul Hajji rescuing a terrified girl at the Westgate Mall armed with only a pistol. Karanja’s piece was selling for sh25,000.

Keen users of Kenya’s social media will by now have come across a picture of a rugged old man, bent almost double by age. This image is routinely tossed into the comments section of pages with wide following, for nuisance value. Here it went by the title Do you have a phone charger please? I wonder if this one got a buyer.

Adrian Nduma

Adrian Nduma

Then there were pieces that were in huge demand. Adrian Nduma’s semi abstract pieces Contempt and Strong were bought even before the event came to a close. Each were going for sh55,000. I am sure if he had more pieces they all would have gone. Next to Nduma’s pieces was Martin Muhoro’s The Wild Vision, which an observant collector remarked looked like it had been done by veteran Yoni Waite, to which Wangechi, the curator at The Nairobi Gallery agreed.

Speaking of impressionable artists Leonard Ngure’s Dagoretti Market and Kinyua Kimani’s Heroes would easily be confused with something that Joseph Bertiers did. Seeing my dilemma, Lydia said they both are students of Bertiers. Clearly, here is an artist keen to mentor the next generation of artists. Bertiers himself had two pieces, namely Cat Painting and Caught in the Act.

Joseph Bertiers Caught in the Act

Joseph Bertiers Caught in the Act

Caught in the Act depicted the clergyman who, a month ago was in the news having been caught with another man’s wife in a lodging. Trust Bertiers, whose work is full of sexual imagery, to pounce on such a topic. In the painting, the nearly naked woman sits on a bed with a cat between her legs – hint! Hint! while the ‘pastor’ had an unpeeled banana and a rungu somewhere between his legs. Does the unpeeled banana represent the fact that the union had not yet been ‘consummated’ by the time the two were caught?

There was another master/teacher team; that one of Eric Wamagata and his teacher Lexander Mbugua. Both had done miniature impressions of Lamu/Zanzibar doors. Interestingly, by the end of the event it is the pupil’s more elaborate ‘door’ that had attracted the attention of a buyer.

Michael Soi, persisted with his theme of sex tourism, an issue tourism authorities are keen to keep under wraps. Weighing my Options featured a Kenyan woman torn between two white men, while I love Diani had a randy white old man tagging at the strings of a bikini-clad African woman.

Culture CS Hassan Wario, who was the chief guest at the event revealed that his ministry has prepared a cabinet memorandum that would see the establishment of a National Art Gallery to give ‘Kenyan art a permanent home’. Also in the pipeline, said the CS, was a ‘vibrant Art Department’.

The Kenya Museum Society (KMS) is a volunteer organization founded in 1970 by a group who included Richard Leakey and Hilary N’gweno, to support the Nairobi Museum. The Affordable Art Show was an event of the Society
from the mid-1990’s when it was held in conjunction with the annual visual and performing Art
Festival.  After a 7-year hiatus the Show was revived last year in response to artists’
requests and popular demand.  The 2013 show raised more than 500,000 shillings which the Society donated for storage structures and the restoration of certain pieces of the Permanent Art Collection.

While President Uhuru Kenyatta was visiting the US, greater focus was, understandably, on the details of the trade talks as well as the fact that Kenya was trying to mend fences with Barrack Obama’s (Cousin Barry to some Kenyans) country, seeing as America’s ‘Choices have Consequences’ edict, in reference to Uhuru’s ICC case,  had pulled the two countries apart.

Focus was to later dramatically shift to President Kagame’s daughter (you know how that one went). Much later Uhuru was pictured in a Stetson – here in Kenya we call the godfather or godpapa – holding somewhat oversized American cowboy boots – gifts he was given by Texas cowboys, who also made him an honorary citizen. Although he eventually did visit George Bush Jnr – he of ‘you are either with us or the enemy’ – not much was said about a piece of ‘cloth’ the two were pictured holding.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and George Bush holding the painting.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and George Bush holding the painting.

 

Well, that piece of cloth was a painting Uhuru donated the former US president – don’t ask how they came to know each other, I don’t know either. Turns out the Uhuru appreciates art – Kenyan art to be specific – that he considered it important enough to give it to a former US president as a gift.

Patrick Kinuthia's painting  Si Hoja.

Patrick Kinuthia’s painting Si Hoja.

I did a little digging and realised that the painting is titled Ni hoja, lakini sio hoja (It is an issue but not an issue) – confusing huh? Well that is what artists do sometimes; confuse people – done by Patrick Kinuthia.

 

The painting, an acrylic on canvas, measuring 100 by 150 cm, features a couple standing before a group of women in an open air market. From the picture, it would appear like the man is trying to tell the woman, with baby strapped on her back something. The woman is either ignoring the man or is pretending not to hear.

From the picture is not clear whether the man and woman are a couple or not. Curiously though the man is clutching a package with the letters VCT clearly written on it. Could it be that the couple have just from a VCT centre? Who between, the man and the woman is saying the words ni hoja, lakini sio hoja? More importantly, why would they chose to have such a conversation in a public place.

Banana Hill-based artist Patrick Kinuthia.

Banana Hill-based artist Patrick Kinuthia.

Still, could the man be a health worker trying to convince the women in a market place to go and have their HIV statuses checked? Questions, questions and more questions. Incidentally, that is what a good artist is supposed to do; provoke your mind into thinking. And as they say, you take what you see in a piece of art. Hopefully, George Bush will have his own interpretation if he hangs the painting in his office.

William Ndwiga, the director of The Little Art Gallery says he received a call from the Kenyan ambassador to the US, asking for a ‘high value painting that can be displayed in a museum in the USA, for posterity’. He disclosed that the piece of art was bought for sh350,000 (approx 4,000 usd). “I see The Little Art Gallery running Art exhibitions by Kenyans in Kenyan embassies, around the world, to showcase what Kenya has to offer to the world. I have already started this process,” explains Ndwiga.

William Ndwiga, projects coordinator, The Little Art Gallery.

William Ndwiga, projects coordinator, The Little Art Gallery.

Kinuthia’s bio says his paintings ‘reflect both a freestyle approach as well as a disciplined observer of human and animal form behaviour’. Born in 1967, Kinuthia worked for Citizens Cinema Cooperation as a poster artist for its cinema halls, making scenery and portraits under the tutelage of Pakistani artist Mohammed Rafiq. Kinuthia is based in Banana Hill.