9 June 2018

Kenya: 'Village of Artists' Brings Its Unique Style to the City

It has been said that the small town of Ngecha, just outside Nairobi, has produced more artists that any other single place in Kenya.

Many of their works can be seen at the Ngecha Arts Centre, established in 1995 by a group of artists and sculptors, many of them self-taught, such as veteran Sane Wadu and Wanyu Brush.

Styled as a "Village of Artists," the Ngecha Art Centre is a multidisciplinary place for theatre, music, poetry and visual arts. Some senior Ngecha artists are exhibiting at the Nairobi National Museum in a show titled Art Creative: Ngecha and Beyond.

Wanyu Brush has brought his familiar large paintings, which are a riot of colours and dense figures showing rural life and chaotic scenes. Ngecha's director, King Dodge, has vibrant paintings and understated wood carvings of mother-and-child.

The many-sided Sebastian Kiarie presents a variety of mediums and styles. The oil painting A Woman with an Apple is of a woman draped suggestively over an armchair.

It is in the careful style of his previous works on African women. Invisible Arms has four disembodied arms reaching towards a bowl of fruit.

Also dissecting socio-cultural ailments is Kiarie's installation Seat of Impunity. It is a large chair made with pangas (machetes), and placed on a red patchwork rug.

Elsewhere, he has twisted together wire art into various modes of transport - boat, car, bicycle... These realistic models focus on exploring simple outlines and contours.

Anthony Kiarie's abstract wild, tangled sculptures are fashioned from tree roots and deadwood, some of which look like they have been partially burned.

Wildlife is still Martin Muhoro's favourite theme. He presents wildebeest, elephants and other animals in a soothing palette of sage and earth tones.

G Chege's acrylic-on-canvas paintings take you into crowded peri-urban places. I particularly like the evocative semi-abstract paintings of medieval, Middle-Eastern city states. The stark white buildings and long-robed people stand out against brightly-coloured backgrounds.

The exhibition continues until the end of June.

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