Art diary a platform for promising young Kenyan artistes

The sixth edition of the Kenya Arts Diary for 2016 was launched last weekend at the Heinrich Boell Foundation by the new German Ambassador Jutte Frasch.

But she wasn’t the only dignitary on hand that night to applaud the achievement of Kitengela Glass and Diary founder Nani Croze and her dedicated team for putting together a weekly calendar for 2016 that amplifies the creativity and imaginative powers of more than 60 amazing young Kenyan artists, many of whom got their first taste of the public limelight at the KAD Launch.

The evening’s Guest of Honour Professor Elimo Njau, co-founder of Kenya’s first indigenous African art gallery Paa ya Paa, said he saw this year’s Art Diary reflective of a cultural renaissance that’s taken hold in Kenya and in other parts of East Africa.

Ambassadors from several Latin American and European states as well as the director of the National Museums of Kenya Dr Mzalendo Kibunja and Kuona Trust’s Sylvia Gichia all came to recognise the artistic achievements of up-and-coming Kenyan artists

like Jessica Atieno, Elijah Mutua, Gloria Muthoka, Nicholas Odhiambo, Anne Mwariri, Adam Masava and Jeffy Magina among others whose original artworks are featured in the 2016 diary along with each artist’s brief biography and their contacts.


Admittedly, there are a number of more established Kenyan artists in the Diary this year, such as James Mbuthia, Peter Ngugi, Elijah Ooko and Jackson Wanjau, all of whom are affiliated with One Off Gallery.

There are also other KAD 2016 artists connected with other art spaces such as Banana Hill Gallery (Alex Wainaina, Rahab Shine, Anthony Muya, Teddy Mwae and Moses Muigai), Nairobi Gallery (Expedito Mwebe and Michael Angelo), Brush Tu Art Studio

(David Thuku, Waweru Gichoka and Elias Mung’ora), GoDown Art Centre (Mary Ogembo, Willie Wambugu, Nadia Wamunyu, Gloria Muthoka and Jeffy Magina), Kenyatta University (Anne Ntinyari Mwiti, Nduta Kariuki, George Omare and Anne Mwariri),

Railway Museum Studio (Stephen Njenga and Lia Berhane), Maasai Mbili (Gomba Otieno, Kevin Irungu aka Kevo Stero and Kota Otieno), Kijiji Art Studio (Michael Wafula), Bobea Gallery (Duncan Odeny and Alfred Mwaengo), DARTS (John Njuguna and

Kennedy Kinyua), Dust Depo (John Kariuki), Little Art Gallery (Erick Ayoti) and Kuona Trust (John Silver Kimani, Fred Abuga, Jessica Atieno, Kepha Mosoti, Anthony Wanjau, Wambui Kamiru and Rose Ahono).

The KAD team also managed to find many independent Kenyan artists as well, such as Leena Shah, Elijah Ogira, Neha Monaj Shah, Guy Combes, Vaishali Morjaria, Frances Simpson, Alexandra Spyratos, Kevin Baraza, Churchill Ongere and Evans Mbugua.

According the Diary’s Foreward, this year’s KAD team (of volunteers) which did the labor-intensive footwork to find all the artists were tremendously assisted by Facebook since so many young Kenyans have a penchant for putting their latest pencil drawings and paintings online at the world’s most popular public online platform. In fact, it would seem the best space to see amazing new contemporary Kenyan art is on Facebook because both independent artists and the art galleries are increasingly seeing the value of globalizing Kenyan art by showing their artists’ works on the worldwide web.

Heinrich Boell has hosted the KAD launches for the last three years, but the 2015 launch was unprecedented, not only because of the number of dignitaries who graced the occasion but also because KAD invited local media personality Lorna Irungu to emcee the evening and because invited musicians Inez Basombrio and Tetu Shani performed once the officials’ speeches were given.

It was the first year the KAD launch had live music and it was so well received that after Inez sang all her original songs, percussionist Tetu Shani remained on stage the rest of the night playing guitar and singing a wide range of music including requests from the audience who wouldn’t let him off the stage!

The KAD team had prepared a slide show of all the artwork included in the diary plus a few more which couldn’t fit into this year’s diary. Kuona’s Managing Director Sylvia Gichia assisted by her team added finishing touches to the Launch by thoughtfully hanging much of the artwork that’s contained in the diary.

Thanks to her appreciation of Kenyan art, HBS’ regional director Katrin Seidel has hosted the Diary’s Launch for the last three years.

The Kenya Arts Diary 2016 is now on sale in nearly all the Nairobi art centres and book stores at around KSh1500.