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Sitting Allowance Series by Peterson Kamwathi [Charcoal on Paper _ 2009]

A Timeline:

December 2009: “The African Renaissance is now” – writes Margaretta wa Gacheru:

“AfricanColours brought together a stellar group of Kenyan artists early in December for a two day brainstorming workshop on theme “Selling the Arts/Staying Relevant.”

Held at Nairobi’s leading art centre, the RaMoMA Museum of Modern African Art, workshop organizers William Ndwiga, Clients Relations RaMoMA and Maggie Otieno, General Manager www.africancolours.com had assembled a score of Kenya’s most prolific and creative contemporary artists to share ideas and hear words of wisdom from art collectors, art institution managers, and even one university professor of marketing…

…For many of the artists, the highpoint of the workshop came when the Channel Island-based art collector Anthony Athaide came to share his views on art and business. His deep appreciation of Kenyan art and artists was particularly gratifying for those present since Athaide sincerely believes Kenyan culture is in the middle of a ‘Renaissance’ and that visual artists, though still not fully understood or appreciated, are a driving force in that renaissance…

…“Africa is ready for this kind of change. The African Renaissance is now,” were the art patron’s parting words. The challenge is now in the hands of the artists themselves. That was the upbeat mood and positive note on which the workshop came to an end.This is just one amongst many other artists’ workshops that AfricanColours will be engaging in the year coming 2010!” [1]


12 February 2010, Selina Cuff reported for OpenDemocracy.net – “Kenya’s artistic renaissance: Energetic new talent is emerging in Kenyan art. Who, and why has it been so long?

“The 1960’s and 70’s,  energised by independence, were a time of cultural and intellectual expansion, similarly experienced in other African countries undergoing decolonisation. However Kenya, the forerunner of the cultural awakening, failed to enter into the globalised cultural world like its fellow African nations. In a poll of the Greatest African Artists featured in the Independent (UK) newspaper in 2006, Kenya could only boast two entrants, whilst Nigeria and South Africa had eight each…

…Artists, writers and historians trace Kenya’s failure-to-launch to the 24-year rule of Daniel arap Moi, who during the 1980’s and 90’s managed to muffle the country’s creativity with his repressive regime … [2010] The government claims support is coming…Regardless of whether the government fulfils their promises, the time is ripe for Kenyan Arts and the hope must be that this time their talent will not again fall into disuse. Equally those outside Kenya should dip their toes into unknown waters and join in the excitement of the excitement of discovering the energy in these new voices and visions.” [2]

Cuff highlighted [then?] up and coming Kenyan Artists: “Kamwathi is not the only one blazing a trail, performance artist Ato Malinda has taken her unique live and film performance art on the road, exhibiting elsewhere in Africa as well as Europe. Jimmy Ogonga has been involved in years long projects to correct the ‘cultural amnesia’ of a decolonised Africa. And many more artists and writers are gaining attention. There is creative hope once gain.”[2]

 Peterson Kamwathi

Sitting Allowance Series by Peterson Kamwathi [Charcoal on Paper 2009]

“Peterson Kamwathi, born in Nairobi in 1980, is one of Kenya’s best regarded young artists and is now establishing himself as a major name in contemporary African art. His work combines clear conceptual elements and rich content with technical mastery.

His main body of work has been in printmaking where he is an acknowledged master of the woodcut process, though more recently he has broadened his oeuvre to create several series of charcoal and mixed media works”[3]

Ato Malinda

Ato Malinda ‘Looking at Art; Looking at Africa; Looking at Art’ (2009)

“Ato Malinda was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1981 and grew up in
the Netherlands, Kenya and the USA. She studied Art History and Molecular
Biology at the University of Texas in Austin. She subsequently moved back to
Kenya where she began her professional practice as a painter and now works
in the mediums of performance, drawing, painting, installation and video,
and also as a free-lance curator.” [4]


2012, Zihan Kassam reported for ‘The Star Kenya’ that “…The new artists on the scene have the same charming unruliness but a different approach. And so, after what felt like a pause, the evolution of Kenyan art continues.

The movement is done away with the old iconography. It welcomes you to the new-fangled Kenya with the global influence, political awareness, progressive thinking and new mode of conduct. From Dickson Kaloki’s slum series to Tom Mboya’s images of pastoral life surviving despite the reigns of capitalism, there’s a new genre of art with an innovative flair, a forward thinking [sic] if you will. To experience this phenomenon, have a peak at Tom Mboya or Jimmy Rakuru’s work at the LBAG ‘Tanquil Waters’ exhibition at Nairobi National Museum until June 30.

The Quest by Peter Elungat

Peterson Kamwathi and Peter Elungat, two of Kenya’s favourite artists, have dumbfounded us with incredible visions, magnificent and profound. Patrick Mukabi engages us with interesting slants to post election violence. Michael Soi amuses with political satire via neon pop-art. Such artists are recognised internationally but they also deal with a string of Kenyan collectors we hear. ”

“…Upcoming wonder Adrian Nduma, who sold one of his paintings last November for a whopping Sh2.1 million, recently sold a large abstract to a local collector. “Early this year, at Osteria Gallery, I sold a piece for Sh800,000 to yet another Kenyan. He wants to remain anonymous but most of my buyers are in fact local,” he reveals. “A piece of art is a worthwhile investment if the collector feels the composition,” he continues. For Nduma, this is the foremost criteria for selection. It must resonate with the buyer. Rendering a range of emotions through colour and commotion, Nduma continues to inspire his audience at his current exhibition at the Talisman.

Having returned from Europe, [Paul] Onditi swept his audience off their feet this year with his unique mixed-media works depicting the same mysterious chap over and over again, a funny fellow, completely dissociated from his surroundings. He, along with several other artists at Kuona, have also witnessed a growing number of local collectors at the studios recently.”

Paul Onditi

“..Anne Mwiti, lecturer of Fine Art at Kenyatta University, believes that “Kenyan art scene is going through a renaissance of sorts,” and that, “this has happened in the last one year or so. There are new players interested in business investment in art who are ahead of the game and set a pace that is much needed. With the amazing quality of art coming in to the market, this is the new thing to do.”

Mwiti, who has been teaching since 1996, just had her very first solo exhibition ‘Magical Diversity’ at the new Osteria Gallery in January. In the years before, even her peers didn’t quite believe in art as a sole career. Excited for her second solo exhibition at Osteria again this coming September, she firmly agrees that, “Kenyans are now finally ready to invest.” Interestingly, Mwiti’s upcoming exhibition ‘Neo-Africanism’ will explore the, “new culture that is building up at all levels in Kenya.” It will look at the role that Kenyan art plays in the “African Renaissance.” [5]



A number of restaurants hold art exhibitions. Margaretta Wa Gacheru wrote in a piece titled, “Kenya: The African Renaissance in Art” that “the spirit of the African renaissance is alive and well in Nairobi where visual arts are thriving and on display all over town…Everywhere from Nairobi National Museum to Village Market to Paa ya Paa Art Centre, exhibition halls are full to overflowing with contemporary Kenyan art.” [6]

Manjano is one of the most promising Art competitions is Kenya. Held annually since 2010, it is organized as joint venture by the ministry of Culture and the GoDown.

“…Manjano has the potential to become the most important art competition in Kenya, but the artists will have to take the competition more seriously in future before it can live up to its potential,” remarked Desai who also adjudicated with Fiona Fox, formerly of the Tate Modern in London.”

“…First prize of Sh300,000 went to Omosh Kindeh for his diptych Dystopia, a pair of paintings offering a stark reminder of how congested Nairobi has become.”[6]

– by Omosh Kindeh


1. Margaretta wa Gacheru, “The African Renaissance Is Now”, AfricanColours Kenya, 10 December 2009, [Accessed 07 October 2012] (http://www.africancolours.com/african-art-news/13/kenya/the_african_renaissance_is_now.htm)

2. Selina Cuff, “Kenya’s Artistic Renaissance”, Open Democracy, 12 February 2010, [Accessed 07 October 2012] (http://www.opendemocracy.net/selina-cuff/kenyas-artistic-renaissance)

3. Press Release, “Matter of Record: Peterson Kamwathi’s First Solo Show in London”, Press Release, 04 October 2010. [Accessed 07 October] (http://www.africancolours.com/african-art-features/634/kenya/matter_of_record_peterson_kamwathi%E2%80%99s_first_solo_show_in_london.htm)

4. Ato Malinda, “Bio”, Creative Africa Network, [Accessed 07 October 2012] http://www.creativeafricanetwork.com/person/5544)

5. Zihan Kassam, “Are Kenyans ready to invest in contemporary art?” The Star Kenya, 04 June 2012. [Accessed 07 October 2012] (http://www.the-star.co.ke/lifestyle/128-lifestyle/78848-are-kenyans-ready-to-invest-in-contemporary-art)

6. Margaretta Wa Gacheru, “Kenya: The African Renaissance in Art”, allAfrica, 18 February 2012. [Accessed 07 October 2012] (http://allafrica.com/stories/201202200354.html)