News / Africa

Kenyan Artwork Growing in International Popularity

Jill Craig

Long overlooked on the international arts scene, Kenya is finally gaining prestige on the world stage. Some artists can now make their living entirely from artwork and collectors are coming from around the world to buy it.

Works by Kenyan artists are exhibited around the globe.  World-class galleries cater to foreigners and other Kenyans.  And the collectors are paying attention.

Born in Kenya, Amyn Abdula now lives in Vancouver.  He has been collecting African art for more than 25 years and has more than 150 pieces.  The majority are from Kenya.  

"The more I saw, the more it appealed to me," said Abdula.  "And I think it was actually, because I had left Africa, and that Africa was still in my heart.  And when I went to North America, or Europe, or wherever, and whenever I saw some African stuff, it sort of appealed to me."

Collectors anticipate that Kenyan art will soon become as popular as art from west and South Africa.

Although estimates vary, Kenyan artwork is today selling for an average of 10 times the price it commanded 12 years ago.  And figures are expected to go even higher.

Carol Lees owns the One Off contemporary art gallery in Nairobi.  She knows first-hand how art collectors are starting to appreciate the value in Kenyan artwork.

"We certainly have some great fine art that has its own very strong individual voice, and is as good as anything you'd buy anywhere in the world," said Lees.  "And I think you will see the prices go up quite incredibly in the next eight years.  I've heard a couple of collectors say that the time for East African art is just coming and we need to prepare ourselves."

As for the artists, some are becoming household names in the art world.

Peterson Kamwathi is one of Kenya's most well-known contemporary, or so-called second-generation artists.  One painting can now fetch more than $10,000.

"I used to have a part-time job," said Kamwathi.  " I kind of had to step down.  So, I've been living fully off art.  So, can I make a living off art?  I'm still here.  So yeah, maybe, yes."

Like their counterparts around the world, Kenyan artists are telling a story of their culture, political struggles, family life, or just social commentary.

Richard Kimathi is another popular second-generation artist who depicts Kenyan struggles and triumphs through his art.

"I think everything counts," noted Kimathi.  "From the people to the politics to the social life.  It's sort of a combination of all those things.  And then with my own sort of creation.  You know, my ideas, I fuse with whatever surrounds me."

And like Kamwathi, Kimathi's name recognition allows him to make his living solely from selling his artwork.

Kenya's burgeoning art industry is attracting collectors from around the world who are interested in its long-term investment opportunities.

But others, like Abdula, have a different reason for collecting Kenyan art.

"Africa.  I was born here.  It all goes back to my soul.  It talks to me.  I understand it," said Abdula.

And in Kenya, this voice seems to be talking more and more.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid