Early 21st-century young African artists – Kenya: Visions and Possibilities

 


Press release


Emerging from a continent with an ancient, fascinating but also cruel history and a wild but magnificent nature, elements that created a rich and robust artistic tradition, contemporary Kenyan creativity seems to combine a variety of cultural features towards bright new and promising artistic idioms.

 

As members of the rising and full-of-possibilities art scene of today’s Nairobi, a vibrant city alive with contradictions and energy, the 15 artists who are presented in this virtual exhibition share their multidimensional artistic visions for a century that has already been remarkably challenging, for a time that demands radical changes.

 

Coming from diverse backgrounds and through a mixture of art styles, techniques, and materials, within which traditional African practices meet post-modern imagination, this unquiet group of talented young visionaries are opening, with their work, broad discussions on post-colonial politics and artistic traditions, race, gender, class and intersectionality, identity, and the new multiple selves, as well as the continuous restlessness of the creator seeking to evolve their artistic medium.

 

In the work of artists such as Ian Ndambuki and Peteros Ndunde, their high virtuosity becomes a means of investigation regarding individual and collective identities, stereotypes, and tradition through the post-colonisation prism; in the captivating works of Shitanda and Chesta Nyamosi, on the other hand, self-scrutiny becomes even more political and critical towards western ethics and visual cultures.


Cynthia Nyakiro Ngunjiri’s fascinating collages, along with the idiosyncratic surrealism of Musyoka Martin, produce a spiritual brainstorming around the mythical and the supernatural in dialogue with the extravagant Afrofuturism of Kigera Njau and the neo-pop aesthetics of Taabu Munyoki who open the difficult and political discourse of alternative presents and futures.

 

At the same time, the sensitive and skilful artistic observation of everyday life by Muriithi Samuel Muiga and Eddy Ochieng, Alpha Odhiambo’s urban graffiti daydreaming, and the delightful depiction of a folklore nostalgia within Eman’s inks and Sachy Atieno’s small sculptures highlight a genuine interest on the hard reality but also the endless charm of the human condition through the ages. Although their works have a historical instinct, they keep a solid and militant affiliation to now.

 

Apart from commenting on past and contemporary traditions along with new political and personal perspectives, however, a profound love for nature and an urgent call for ecological awareness are also present in this multidimensional collection.

 

Sharon Kerubo Gekonge’s tender and dexterous look at the wonderous African wildlife and Ron Enock’s glorious celebration of nature and colour reveal a deep wistfulness and affection towards nature in her purest form and untamed beauty.

 

These sensational works are a characteristic and promising sample of contemporary Kenya’s rising and vibrating artistic scene and its young creators’ longing for new, ingenious readings of the past and fresh approaches to the future.

 

They altogether combine an artistic dream in the making, pulsing with vision and possibility.

 

 

Gelly Gryntaki

London 2023