Railways Museum Art Gallery, one Among Many Art Hubs in Kenya

KENYA ART SCENE THRIVING NATIONWIDE By Margaretta wa Gacheru Published in Sunday Nation Mid-2012 While the fate of one of Nairobi’s oldest art galleries, Gallery Watatu is in limbo, the city’s newest art center just opened its first major exhibition. The Kenya Railways Museum Art Gallery is hosting a score of local artists organized by the Ngecha Artists Association. The Railways Gallery was the inspired idea of the Museum’s curator Maurice Barasa who called in a trio of talented Kenyan artists to help establish the Gallery. Evans Kangethe, Remy Musindi and Fredrick Kamau Mbugua are the master minds of the new gallery and of this first major showcase of mainly Ngecha artists. Featuring the fresh blood of young artists like Ken ‘Artifact’ Ndungu and Rose Kanini as well as seasoned supporters of Ngecha, such as Elkana Ong’esa and Harrison Mburu, the art of Kangethe, Musindi and Mbugua is some of the strongest works in this group show. Meanwhile, art centers across the city are buzzing with activity. At Kuona Trust, MaryAnn Muthoni’s one woman show called “The Women’s Vote” just opened with a decidedly feminist perspective on the forthcoming elections. At OneOff Gallery, the surrealist art of Paul Onditi is up until early next month. Coincidentally, more of Onditi’s art in on display as of this past Friday in Kisumu at the Kiboko Bay Hotel, part of a trio of artists (Beatrice Wanjiku, Patrick Mukabi and Onditi) whose artwork aims to ‘prime’ the Western Kenya public for the forthcoming Kisumu Art Festival opening early next month. Back in Nairobi, Patricia Njeri’s art is being showcased at the Talisman Restaurant in Karen while Alex Wainaina’s ‘junk art’ sculpture is up at Le Rustique in Westlands. Finally, the Nairobi National Museum’s Creativity Gallery is featuring a multifaceted “African Paper Art” exhibition entitled SanaayaMakaratasi. If it sounds like a drag, think again: the show features lovely sketches, collages and lithographs by artists from 12 African countries, including Kenyans like Kathy Katuti, Peterson Kamwathi, Justus Kyalo, Magdalene Odundo and Rosemary Karuga. Also at the Museum is a cartoon exhibition by Michael Munene entitled ‘Same Nature and the Funny!” But Nairobi and Kisumu aren’t the only active arenas where Kenyan artists are busy. In Tabaka, the second International Stone Sculptors Symposium entitled ‘African Stones Talk’ is underway until August 23rd, organized by the award-winning Kisii stone sculptor Elkana Ong’esa. And back at the Banana Hill Art Gallery, an exhibition of Three Tanzanian artists entitled ‘Exploring Art’ opened yesterday through August 31st. They are Lutengano Mwakishopile, Phidelice Gervasi and Cuthbert Semgoja.

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