We are pleased to announce some important news today! Our Portraits Africa’s Essence Exhibition has been described as “the first major group show of 2016,”  in this Kenya newspaper article in a review written by well-known Nairobi arts figure Margaretta wa Gacheru.  Here is the text of the article–

“Portrait painting is one of the most popular art forms being practiced by Kenyan artists currently. The clearest evidence of this is currently on display at Safaricom House where the portraiture of 16 local painters and pencil artists is covering the walls and movable panels at the Michael Joseph Centre until February 5th.

An official opening of the Essence Exhibition will be held on the 26th of this month but the actual showcase of more than 40 paintings and prints opened to the public last Wednesday January 20th.”

“It’s the first major group show of 2016 and to me, it’s an important event, not only because it’s a fascinating assemblage of so many young, gifted but yet-to-be widely known artists, like Jay Kimathi for whom Essence is the first time he’s exhibited in public and Anitah Kavochi who’s lived all of her 22 years in Kibera but joined Maasai Mbili sometime ago.”

“There are also quite a few in the show whose works are currently being circulated widely through the Kenya Arts Diary 2016 which is not just a calendar but more like a colourful catalogue of up-and-coming Kenyan artists who haven’t yet become household names.”

“At the same time, the exhibition features a marvellous mix of both art-school-trained and self-taught artists. Some have attended (or are currently attending) Kenyatta University (like Anne Mwariri, Nduta Kariuki, Peteros Ndunde and Sylvenus Semoh.”

“Others went to either the Academy of Graphic Technologies at Kul Graphics (like Jay Kimathi) or the now defunct Creative Arts Centre (Nduta Kariuki) or the Buru Buru Institute of Fine Art (David Thuku) or to the Mwangaza School of Art in Kisumu (Nicholas Odhiambo).”

“Meanwhile, those who describe themselves as self-taught were either mentored by veterans like Patrick Mukabi (Nadia Wamunyu) or inspired by their fellow artists who they know either at Maasai Mbili (Anitah) or at Brush Tu Art Studio or even at the GoDown Art Centre.”

“Another aspect of the exhibition that makes it special is the wide variation of subjects and stylistics included among the portraits. For instance, there are a number of, beautiful images of small children, even babies (by Nicholas Odhiambo, Seth Odhiambo and others); but there is also at least one striking image of an old man (by Anne Mwariri).
There are enchanting black beauties, but also stunning and sensitive-looking young men. There are even images that look supra-realistic while others are semi-abstract like the cubistic faces of Peteros Ndunge.”

“Finally, what also makes Essence special is that most of the 16 hadn’t met one another face-to-face until Nicholas proposed that they exhibit together.
What they did know about one another was their portraiture since all are friends at Portraits Africa, the Facebook page started by a British artist called Keith MacFarlane.”

“His idea was to set up an online African art gallery or platform where artists could display their work, including their contacts, so people could either buy the work or contact the artist directly,” said Nduta Kariuki, one of the exhibition organisers.”

“Nduta also noted that there are many more Kenyan artists who display their portraits at Portraits Africa Facebook page, but the group was originally supposed to be just 15.”

“We also had some other conditions that the artists had to meet. For instance, the work had to be relatively large. Not all the Kenyans are working in that scale,” she notes.”

“After that, the artists were advised to prepare a brief bio and two or three paintings or drawing, but send just one directly to Nduta (who worked as a graphic designer before going into painting full-time) who then would create a lovely catalogue which the artists wanted not to sell (as many galleries have made it a practice to do) but to give away.”