East Africa: Display of East Africa's Grand Artworks On the Way

The biggest art show in East Africa returns to the Nairobi National Museum from October 25 to 27, 2019.

Organised by the Kenya Museum Society, the exhibition will showcase hundreds of original contemporary works from the region and all priced at under Ksh100,000 ($1,000).

"The event is significant because it brings together artists from around East Africa, providing a rare opportunity for artists to meet, dialogue, exchange skills and ideas," said Lydia Gatundu-Galavu, curator of contemporary art at the museum.

In 2018 over 300 pieces were submitted from more than 200 East African artists, making this the biggest art show in East Africa.

Last year, the Friday night opening party was a dynamic affair of entertainment from a live musical quartet, cocktail canapés and browsing through art.

The drab walls around the courtyard garden had been transformed by the displays of paintings, photographs and three-dimensional pieces.

Some of the established artists anticipated this year are Mary Ogembo (winner of the Commonwealth Arts and Crafts Award), Samuel Waithaka, Geraldine Robarts, Acacia Aggarwal, and Anthony Muya of Kenya.

Patrick Kinuthia's portraits of female often get snatched up in minutes and Adrian Nduma usually has some splendid wildlife illustrations.

Isaac Karimwabo and Ronald Tindi of Uganda will be on. Tanzania's Haji Chilonga, Lutengano Mwakisopile, Happy Robert and Robina Ntila are expected. Ntila, 66, was nurtured in Dar es Salaam's Nyumba ya Sanaa art centre and is renowned for his print etching.

Improved visibility

The event is also enriched by the work of emerging artists giving visitors a preview of promising talent and a chance to acquire their work while it is still reasonably priced.

Dr Marla Stone, chair of the art show committee, says that in 2018 they sold 29 per cent of the art on display over three days which exceeds the 15 per cent average event sales achieved by most galleries over longer periods.

"We charge artists 30 per cent of the sale price, which is more generous than many galleries offer," said Dr Stone.

She also affirmed that all artwork is curated by a team of art jurists to ensure the quality of work hung up.

In recent years, a substantial number of guests at the exhibition are Kenyans pointing to a growing interest in art viewing and buying by locals.

Ms Gatundu-Galavu puts this down town improved visibility of artists through various media which in turn raises public awareness.

"Also through initiatives from galleries and the artists themselves, and there has been an increase in artist collectives and studios," she adds. Entry to the KMS event is free on Saturday and Sunday making it accessible to the masses.

KMS is particularly keen to attract the next generation of art enthusiasts, which is the purpose of their Saturday afternoon Young Professionals Art Tour.

In 2018, it was led by Ugandan painter Leonard Katete, a longtime resident of Kenya who made a name for himself with Christian and tribal people art.

The Saturday morning Children's Participatory Art Event attracts families with young children.

A professional artist gives the youngsters a brief tour of the exhibition and then they get to do painting and craft-making.

This exhibition has been running since early 2000, except for a hiatus from 2006-2008 when the Nairobi Museum was under renovation.

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