Tuesday, May 18, 2010

(Social) Realism: Kenya

Patrick Mukabi (1969)


Peterson Kamwathi (1980)
Born 1980 Nairobi, Kenya


Religious Establishment

Men of Power

Medical Establishment

Electoral Commission of Kenya


Samuel Githui

Heading to CAC straight out of secondary school was the privilege that Githui enjoyed, coming from a family who appreciated his love of painting and drawing. “My father used to bring home Kenya Airways In-flight Magazine and I’d get inspired by the colorful images,” said Githui, who also loved copying images from the daily newspapers that his dad would bring home. “My mother also ran a nursery school in Mountain View [a suburb of Nairobi], and I used to be fascinated by the art materials, including the Lego blocks, she used to bring home from the school,” Githui recalled. Growing up in Uhuru Estate in Nairobi’s Eastlands in the Eighties meant that Githui also had the good fortune to be in the 8-4-4 school system where Art was an “examinable subject”, meaning he had teachers who took fine art education seriously.“My art teacher was also my Kiswahili teacher and he was very strict,” recalled Githui. But as strict as that teacher was, the lasting impression he made on Githui had more to do with his appreciation of the young student’s art.

“We learned a very basic style of etching in class. It involved coloring a piece of paper using colored crayons, then covering the colors over with black wax and then using a pencil point to gently etch off the black wax,” Githui explained. His teacher liked his work so much he asked to ‘borrow’ one etching. “But I asked him to keep it, which he happily did,” Githui said. Where times got tough for Githui was after joining the Creative Arts Center, since his engineer father had now retired from Kenya Airways and other domestic issues complicated the family finances. So Githui was compelled to find the means to pay his own school fees. “I remembered that part of the CAC curriculum involved taking up an internship with an employer who had something to do with arts or graphic design, so I found a friend whose family ran an advertising agency,” he said. And so from around 1995 to 1998, Githui worked one or the other advertising agency doing work that was a cross between sign writing and graphic design. Painting mostly logos and brand names everywhere from walls to sign boards to corrugated iron sheets [mabati], Githui found the work unsatisfactory for an array of reasons.


World (Social) Realist Art (Index of Countries)
This blog page is part of an ongoing project by artist and part-time lecturer Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin (http://gaelart.net/) to explore Realist / Social Realist art from around the world. The term Realism is used in its broadest sense to include 19th century Realism and Naturalism as well as 20th century Impressionism (which after all was following in the path of Courbet and Millet). Social Realism covers art that seeks to examine the living and working conditions of ordinary people (examples include German Expressionism, American Ashcan School and the Mexican Muralists).

Click here for (Social) Realist Art Definitions, World (Social) Realism and Global Solidarity, Art and Politics, Social Realism in history and Country Index.

Suggestions for appropriate artists from around the world welcome to caoimhghin@yahoo.com.

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