Odhiambo exhibition details Kenyan inter-cultural interactions on canvas

Many legendary Kenyan artists would speak fondly about Ruth Schaffner the curator of Kenya’s first serious art Gallery called Watatu Gallery at the heart of Nairobi.

Ruth died in 1996 throwing Kenya’s infant and thriving visual art scene in jeopardy and murky grounds of court cases. The Watatu gallery is now history, but from that cloud of doom the art scene arose more vibrant than ever. Ruth Schaffner, if she were to rise from the dead, would be surprised at the number of the art shows and installations held every other month in Nairobi. One such enterprising event is the Cultural Stopovers hosted by one of the capital city’s main malls, The Galleria Mall

Cultural Stopovers aims at showcasing African creative genius on canvas from majorly individual artists. Clavers Odhiambo one of Kenya’s leading hyperrealists, is showcasing his best creations at the Cultural Stopovers. 

Most art installations hang on the illuminated walls, the Galleria exhibition is slightly out of the way in the presentation. The pieces have been arranged in the courtyard in the presence of Mother Nature, as you look at the installations one feels the green warmth from the potted plants.

Clavers has new additions to his current exhibition. One of the new pieces that caught my attention was a display of two fishermen on Lake Victoria engaged in a conversation. The 180cm by 120cm piece is not just a painting but a reminder of the details we fail to observe or consider when enjoying some of that tasty tilapia from Kenya’s lakeside. The men on canvas, as revealed by Clavers have years of hard work etched in their muscles and faces. In the words of Henry Wordsworth Longfellow, “they look the whole world in the face, for they owe not any man.”

At a slight distance the other delightful piece details a vivid painting of Bernard B. Dadie, the Ivorian Poet, novelist and playwright. A quick search on the internet would show you the photo Clavers captured, the comparison between the real photograph and the 180cm by120 oil on canvas painting will reveal to you the remarkable talent embraced by Clavers’ hand and his calm demeanor. In 2015, Clavers fascinated his audience with an oil on canvas painting (through the years) of an elderly woman, where he captured every lump, mole and bleb.  It is with the same keenness that he has captured the image of this renowned francophone literary guru.

Other new displays are The trench, an emulsion on canvas of Kenyan popular TV presenters Jeff Koinange and Larry Madowo who host the Bench and The Trend respectively hence the name, ‘The Trench’. For music fans, Clavers has neatly displays a painting of Kenya’s pop music group Sauti Sol and the legendary Malian musician Habib Koite. 

Events such as the Cultural Stopovers, Art In The World and many others are slowly changing the perception of Kenyans towards art. The growing interest in art is witnessed in the number of people attending art events and the art discussions on social media. The artistic energy slowly transforming the consumer preference in Nairobi from foreign and religious fed artistry to locally created art.

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