Saturday, April 19, 2008

Inside African Art

Today is our local Earth Day celebration even though the official day is the 20th. My neighborhood is a hub of activity as people hustle and bustle to tidy up and to plant trees and flowers everywhere. I feel this is a good day to remind everyone of the connections we share with all people on this earth, and by doing so, I’d like to talk about Inside African Art.

Inside African Art is a project run by three people, Todd Schaffer and his wife Liz, and Liz's sister Sarah. The trio regularly travels from the US to Kenya, shuttling paintings in their effort to promote and expose contemporary original fine arts by African artists.

Contemporary African paintings are less well known than African artifacts and traditional crafts. Therefore, it receives less exposure. IAA attempts to show the world the treasures that lie within the African contemporary art community, an act we should all be thankful for.

Simon Murrithi is one of the artists being promoted by IAA.

Born in a small village on the slopes of the Arbedares range called Mioro, in the Muranga District, Simon was inspired to pursue art at an early age by both his parents and teachers. He has enjoyed national as well as international success as a painter with at least 21 exhibitions in the last five years. Recently, his work was part of a three-man, month-long exhibition at the National Museum of Kenya.

He has his own home/gallery in Kasarani, a town about 10 miles outside of Nairobi town. Mixed media paintings incorporating mostly rope, painted to blend in yet add a texture. The oils that Muriithi uses are layered thickly, and the rope gives that paintings an even more topographical feel.
True Love

Fantasy 2

Anne Berenge Anne Berenge was born in Western Province of Kenya near the city of Webuye. She went to school at Soy D.E.B. school, and joined the polytechnique where she learned arts and crafts.

Anne currently is working with the HIV and AIDS women in Kawangware slums. Under the auspices of AMREF and PLAN International she has been teaching the women skills of arts and crafts for self reliance. She is a mother of three children.
Lovely Silence

In Their Hopes They Serenade

House! Who is this guy? And why are his paintings so much different from any other African artist?

House and Todd

Transgendered characters, violent and sexual content... House crossed the barriers and paints what is normally considered taboo. Maybe this is why his paintings sell so well in Nairobi - they are unique!

Todd writes, “I met House at his home in the Ngecha village about an hour outside of Nairobi, and what a great host he was - see photo at left. His wife brought us tea and we sat around talking for hours. He had his friend Coco Jim, a wood sculptor there also, who proved to be very charming and humorous.

Ngecha is well known as an artists commune, and is the area where many now-famous artists began their careers (I will be doing a feature on the Ngecha Artists Association in the future). But now House has branched-out on his own and has found a nice following for his art. He lives a modest and relaxed lifestyle in Ngecha, allowing him plenty of time to paint and gather bizarre ideas for more paintings.”

Sensing Danger
Punishing a Thief

The Witness

This has been but a tiny sample of the artists and variety of art available through IAA. THEIR WEB SITE features many contemporary African artists and allows viewers to submit monetary offers for paintings which will either be accepted or countered.

This writer would like to see the number of female artists increased to balance the number of fine male artists. Perhaps feedback left at the site can help this occur. There is a place for that as well.

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Stacy Alexander