Kenya Art

January 10, 2004 - February 29, 2004
Central Library
About the Exhibition

Kenya Art brings the vibrance and excitement of native Kenyan art to Brooklyn through an extensive exhibition of 96 works at Brooklyn Public Library and four collaborating venues. The rare and stylistically distinctive works provide a window into the Kenyan art world - a world infrequently seen outside of Africa. All pieces of art exhibited are made by artists who have lived and worked in Kenya.

Kenya Art displays the scope of current Kenyan artistic styles which vary greatly from one artist to the next. The exhibition includes a cross-section of artists, ranging from the internationally known Meek Gichugu, Sane Wadu and Ancent Soi to newly emerging artists. While the artists' styles may be dissimilar, there are a number of constants throughout the works. Color is vivid and startling, and the depiction of life harkens back to Kenya's social and communal way of living. In the majority of the paintings in the exhibition, a human presence is seen, either as the focal point or as a lesser presence in the background. This element is incorporated to infuse the painting with spirit, as spirit needs a body to reside in.

Kenya Art includes works from Banana Hill, an artist community outside of Nairobi, Kuona Trust Museum Art Studios and Gallery Watatu. Since 1969, Gallery Watatu, an influential Kenyan gallery, has nurtured what are now considered to be "first generation" artists. Most of the gallery's artists are self-taught and not confined by Western training. Kuona Trust Museum Art Studios has played a pivotal role in advancing the careers of second generation artists, many of whom are beginning to show their works internationally.

Organizations such as Banana Hill, Kuona Trust Museum Art Studios and Gallery Watatu are important to Kenyan artists, because they can offer studio space, workshops, materials and exhibition and touring programs. The workshops put together by these organizations provide a much-needed source of ideas and support. Many Kenyan artists lack a large collector base and are under pressure to cater to the tourist market in order to make a living. Through the workshops, artists are able to meet, work together and create a sense of community.

Collaborating venues and receptions

Brooklyn Public Library, Central Library
Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY
Opening Reception: January 13, 6:30 pm
Trustees Room, 3rd Floor

five myles
558 St. Johns Place, Brooklyn, NY
Opening Reception: January 10, 6-8 pm

Salena Gallery at LIU-Brooklyn Campus
1 University Plaza, Brooklyn, NY
Opening Reception: February 11, 5-7 pm

Welancora Gallery
410 Jefferson Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Opening Reception: January 10, 4-6 pm

Kentler International Drawing Space
353 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn, NY
Opening Reception: January 17, 2-5 pm

Kenya Art was curated by Judy Ogana, Director of Kuona Trust Museum Art Studios and Carol Lees, Program Coordinator at Rahimtulla Museum of Modern Art and conceived of by Hanne Tierney, founder of five myles performance and gallery space in Brooklyn.

The exhibition was made possible with support from the Ford Foundation.