I recently got the good fortune of attending dusitD2’s Pop-Up Art Gallery, which took place this last Saturday, and the experience was nothing short of spectacular. From the venue (dusitD2, which I just have to put out there, is one incredibly beautiful place) to the setup of the gallery, to the art itself, it definitely was an incredible experience.
With local artist, Sam Githui and a fan, Photo courtesy of Art Works Studios
This latest edition featured artists from all over the continent; Jak Katarikawe from Rwanda, local artist Sam Githui, Godfrey Ssegujja from Uganda, Ronnie Tindi, Victor Binge, Louis Chvetsova and Kay Katanu from Kenya.
Fans and art enthusiasts not only got a chance to experience the art on display and a chance to purchase the pieces but also got a chance to interact with the artists themselves and pick their brains on the inspiration behind their work, the artists’ creative process and so on.
One of the artists I got a chance to interact with was local seasoned artist, Sam Githui, who has been painting for over 20 years. At first glance, his work seemed simplistic in nature but as we went on, I learnt that this was deliberate, and prominently his signature art style.
“I draw inspiration from society and everyday things, everyday things that I’m surrounded by and experience first-hand, and thus I try to reflect this in my art,” he said. “I try and make my work as simple and relatable as it can be, so that every person who sees my work will immediately be drawn to it, as he or she has already experienced some aspect of it, in one way or another.”
This is particularly true, as most of his artwork on display included paintings of individuals riding bicycles, a busy street with people and a matatu in it, and a cyclist carrying jerrycans on his bicycle.
Art by Samuel Githui
Another equally seasoned artist I got a chance to interact with was, Ugandan painter, Ssegujja Godfrey, who has also been painting for over 20 years also. He is not new to the Kenyan art scene, as he frequently showcases his work at various show-ins and galleries in the country. His paintings are almost always of wildlife, a deliberate strategy, to push his activist agenda of wildlife conservation through his work. “I paint pictures of wildlife to not only show people the beauty of these animals but to show them what we stand to lose if we don’t start to protect and conserve wildlife, said Ssegujja. Despite being a painter, he also runs a furniture shop that sells and designs furniture pieces back in his home country, Uganda.
Art by Ssegujja Godfrey
Art by Ssegujja Godfrey
Also, making her debut at the Pop Up Art Gallery was Kay Katanu, a 19-year-old local artist, who just recently graduated from high school. Kay has been painting professionally for about two years but you’d be led to believe otherwise (just as I was), as some of her art that was on display was quite glorious and seasoned for such a young age. In a short interview, she managed to reveal her inspiration behind her art, which is mostly centred on women and women issues.
“I mostly like to paint paintings of women, sometimes I paint paintings of men, but I like to paint paintings of women,” she chirped charismatically. My favourite piece from her collection was one titled Virginity, a painting depicting a woman who is powerful, happy and in charge of her own sexuality.
Art by Kay Katanu
The Local and Regional Art Scene.
The local and regional art scene is a budding one, as was confirmed by most of the artists that I got a chance to interact with at the show. They all shared an optimism and appreciation for the current shift and embracement of the African culture, including art, music and so on.
However, the art scene is not without its challenges, as most of them were quick to point out. Among the many problems that the art industry faces, is the lack of appreciation of African art by Africans themselves. This was a common thought as most of the artists confirmed that majority of their clients are foreigners, mostly tourists with very rarely, their clients being Africans.
“An African man will see my painting, like my painting but immediately go – the white man will surely like this painting, never even imagining for one second that he could also buy the painting for himself,” said Godfrey. “There’s an incorrect belief among Africans that art is exclusively for westerners and tourists and not Africans,” he continued.
Sam Githui, also shared the same sentiments, and when I posed the same question to him, he simply responded by saying, “I don’t know. I also don’t know why Africans seem to not consume African art, especially since it is inspired by them and done for them.”
This is a notion that needs to change and perhaps, that is one of the main reasons forums such as the dusitD2 Pop Up Art Gallery exist, to not only give the artists a platform to showcase their work but to also give the local people a chance to appreciate and experience local art.
The event itself.
The event has been running for about three years now and is sponsored by Google. Adrian Nduma, who is a co-curator of the event and professional artist as well, says that the event is meant to empower artists by giving them a space to showcase their work and bridge the gap between artist and client.
“The event is held every month – every last Saturday of the month at the dusitD2 Hotel and we try and get five or six artists and give them a platform to showcase their work.”
The event also runs parallel with the Capital Kids Corner, a programme for kids, where they’re taught how to paint and also get a chance to have fun while exploring their creative sides.
With the next edition slated for the 24th of February 2018, this is a definite must-go for all art enthusiasts. And even if you’re not such a big art fan, purpose to attend still, as you will most surely learn a thing or two about art and come out with a new appreciation for African art.