As of this August, AirKenya has begun a partnership with One Off Gallery to promote and support Kenyan art and artists by exhibiting a wide range of paintings in the passenger lounge. The selection offers an overview of some of the region’s biggest names in art including Richard Kimathi, Timothy Brooke, Mary Collis, James Mbuthia, Samuel Githui, Peter Ngugi, Elijah Ooko, Bertiers, Sophie Walbeoffe and Jimnah Kimani.
A tour of the work might start with the oil on Kanga cloth painting ‘Giraffe’ by John Kamicha, unusual for the use of the iconic Kenyan Kanga fabric as a substrate. Next is a piece from Bertiers’ ‘Cat Painting’ series depicting cats being painted, a complicated metaphorical language Bertiers uses for his own interpretation of political events. Bertiers is surely a rising star from this region with a solo show opening in London this September, the invitation to which describes the ‘picture spaces as Brueghelian in their busyness and honesty and in their rich and beautiful construction’.
Elijah Ooko paints animals with a graphic precision. Here is a selection of Zebra, Cheetah and Guinea Fowl with titles such as ‘The Love of the Two’ and ‘Last Born’ which say as much about Ooko’s anthropomorphic handling of his subject matter as the images themselves.
Next are works by two of the most established artists in Kenya: Timothy Brooke and Mary Collis. Collis chooses to paint the landscape of Lewa Downs at dawn and dusk and Brooke paints women loading donkeys with water in Northern Kenya, a painting from his Triangulation series.
Sophie Walbeoffe’s beautifully executed watercolours of the streets of Moyale are the perfect fit for any suitcase. Christine Seifert, an established German artist born and raised in East Africa pushes the Kenyan theme further in her ‘Samburu Women’ painting with the use of hand made paper pasted onto fine linen canvas and embellished with gold leaf. Also on show are a set of four faces by Richard Kimathi who has recently returned from a successful show in Madrid. Kimathi is known for his penetrating insight into the Kenyan soul, his empathy and compassion a common thread throughout his art. In this series he explores similarity and individuality in faces across the races.
Cartoon Joseph produces his own form of ‘naive’ inspired by his rural surroundings. These highly patterned works have won followings in Germany and Korea. His painting was chosen for the cover of Sidney Littlefield Kasfir’s book ‘Contemporary African Art’.
Rounding up we have Samuel Githui and Peter Ngugi, Githui with his classically inspired oil paintings depicting urban life in Nairobi and Ngugi with his whimsical superimpositions of city style onto animal form to create the urban animal, sometimes obese, sometimes emaciated but always gently mocking of the clamour for modernity.
Finally, works by Ssali Yusuf from Uganda. These works are accessible and imminently portable, so go ahead; indulge yourself, you will not regret the lasting pleasure this unique art will bring.
With a little notice, any of the works too big to be flat-packed into a suitcase can be dismounted and rolled into a more manageable tube. Ask the Air Kenya staff for more details.