BY Margaretta wa Gacheru
Nairobi has been full to overflowing with visual art exhibitions this month, starting with the Circle Art East African Contemporary and Modern Art Auction and running straight through to the Labyrinth: 50 Years of Kenyan Art Exhibition and many more in between.
For instance, all month at Banana Hill Art Gallery Shine Tani has mounted his first one man exhibition in several years. Back in 2010, he had ‘resigned’ from being an artist and declared himself a ‘businessman’, also known as an art dealer. But he couldn’t stay away from his brushes and paints and thankfully changed his mind.
Shine’s show takes us back to his pre-painterly period when he was a fully-fledged street entertainer and acrobat who accidentally made his way to Gallery Watatu in the late 1980s. His life changed dramatically after that.
Most of the paintings at Banana Hill reflect flying men in graceful motion. But don’t expect all the work to be beautiful since Shine apparently has a small fixation on body functions that best be left in the bathroom.
Otherwise, his pastel color scheme is reminiscent of his early work which has much appeal. So does the surrealistic edge that Shine adds to his acrobats who seem to swing like the artist from rural to urban themes.
Then, down Limuru Road at the Village Market, Tom Mboya and Joseph Cartoon shared the Exhibition Hall, complimenting one another with colorful patterned paintings that attracted quite a crowd. Both artists have grown and developed artistically over the past few years, although Cartoon seems to be content creating rural mamas full of intricate designs ranging from polka dots and strips to curly cues and bright chamillions. Mboya on the other hand is apparently shifting into a more impressionistic style while staying close to scenes of everyday life among Kenyan people.
Over at Nairobi National Museum, James Njoroge, the young painter who just one fourth prize in the National Museum’s 2013 Young Kenyan Artist prize.
His premiere exhibition was curated by Tosin olu Rotimi after which it shifted to the Museum’s Creativity Gallery where it will be up through the end of the month.
At the Talisman, Dominique Thoenes has been exhibiting all month.
But for me the most exciting arts event of the month took place last week at the Heinrich Boell Foundation residence in Parklands where the 4th edition of the Kenya Arts Diary 2014 was launched.
The launch coincided with three exhibitions at the HBF art deco styled home. Two were by the young awardees of the Diary’s first sponsored art residencies designed to give up and coming Kenyan artist the opportunity to have a month all expenses paid at a local art centre.
This year, the centres that hosted the KADRA (Kenya Arts Diary Residency Award) awardee Mike Kyalo and Ezra Joab were Kuona Trust and Kitengela Glass. The art works that they produced that month were mounted inside the residence. Then outside the Leaves glass art collection by Nani Croze, who is also the Kenya Arts Diary founder mother, were on display.
The Arts Diary is now on sale at local art centres and leading book stores such as the Textbook Centre.
Finally, this weekend at One Off Gallery, an exhibition aimed at raising awareness about the need to Save the Elephants will open in Roslyn.

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