That I am dark skinned is a fact, one that affects how I experience the world. I do not want to write about racism, I am more interested that colour is part of this conversation. Since colour is an aspect of visual perception, it describes other perceptions in/of  life and often we say, “you bring a lot of colour into my life” or “it was a colourful inauguration” and in the case of race it is the main syntac which qualifies and defines the concept, that is just the English. Here is the Math, colour is an attribute that results from the light they reflect, transmit, or emit in so far as this light causes a visual sensation that depends on its wavelengths(mention of length qualifies it as math I suppose). It is an element of art on the same stage as form and texture.

Its presence, absence and use(case of Sepia) of in a work of art often defines the medium/technique of an artist.

Colour exists on a continuum; you cannot quite say this is where orange starts and this is where green  ends.  We humans exist on a continuum, you do not realize now I am growing up or now I am growing slender…you almost always find that you are fat. Behaviors like colour is influenced by the immediate; culture, attitudes, emotions, values, ethics, authority, hypnosis, genetics or coercion which is largely determined by geography and demography. In the process of art since as humans we are constantly graduating to a level above/below in life we produce art that same manner that is an exact representation/simulation of the observable world,  surreal or conceptual art(drawn from the imagined/non existent). Every piece of art that has been produced represents something about the artist, It probably communicates their eccentricity or the ordinary.  Colour is gradual, we are gradual and art too is gradient too. I have asked myself, If an artist simulates the observable world is it ok? and If its the environment within which an artist exist that made him eccentric/ordinary is it ok? Yes it is ok.  To explore, find my place on the continuum in medium, technique and subject, to allow the influence of people, things, religion, music, literature, demography, environment around me in my artwork and enjoy this connectedness


Life after art


I have grown up with almost zero art influence in my life, I remember making banana prints in standard two and in the years that followed diagram drawings(digestive system in science, windward/leeward side of the mountain, the windsock/wind vane etc ) I particularly liked the GHC ones.  In between I saw my father drawing window frame patterns for his house and when I visited my grandparents I was unknowingly  in an art room neither I nor they knew about(their life was a space for art), now I know. Everything in their house was either painted or sculpted; incised/engraved with prints, patterns and figures.

When I started my secondary school education, I joined the art class I was particularly thrilled by the informal nature of the art lesson and this happened to be my first art room.  The most outstanding  thing  in that room were four tables that originally belonged to the dining hall clothed in old blankets so that the rugged wooden surface would not affect the artwork we made or rather so that the Stanley knife would not scratch the wooden surface. The art class hardly afforded more than 5 students but at one time I was one among many and a clear memory of my early art days was my representation of the poem, song of lawino …my lapobo. This first art room introduced me to a full circle, a discovery of self, a process of revealing and concealing self and a kind of curiosity. I started to draw in the mathematics class, wherever and whenever. Since then, I have been consciously pursuing art and have come to learn art on my own, outside the art room/class and inside the studio (both my space, shared space and other artist’s spaces) These spaces have left a desirable effect and other times a disturbing and in both cases a prompt to hold a pen/pencil/brush and make marks on a surface.

Art teachers, can I compare them with art rooms? I certainly cannot compare a person with a room but how they have impacted my art is comparable. In many ways, they have influenced my approach to art and taken me into the self discovery channel. In the process we have collectively built a relationship between art and how it interacts with the person that I am and the experiences that have shaped my life. Teachers have brought me to the interrogative stop. Can art be taught? when I give it thought and now that I have come to learn, technical skill, approach and presentation can be refined in an art class, but I doubt that the “prompt” can be taught.  The profound truth is that every experience/interaction prompts/teaches us to live a life after art/ a life of art

African hair; art form, expression and a fashion trend

How many times do you find a song whose subject is entirely hair?

Joy Frempong(OY) a Ghanian/Swiss artist has done it and this was my first time to come across hair as the subject of song and as an artform. This song is artistic in all aspects; its titled Hallelujah and right there my mind thought praises to the Most High and indeed it is praises to the most high part of a human body, hair. Oy sings praises to the Kinky/Nappy African hair, a toss to the different stylings(afro/corned rows/dredlocks/braids/twists/weave in/extension/wigs), and she criticizes straight hair that is now many African women addiction as the perm that burns. Right there I remembered my university lecturer who wears an afro almost always and how her way of dressing is inspired by the African dressing code. In a particular lecture she challenged us to pick and redeem African practices that set us apart from the rest of the pack, to sort of stand above the clutter and find where we initially belong. You can not possibly be an artist and fail to know who you are, where your are from, where your art/inspiration comes from and where you want it to go.

Against that background I have been looking at African hairdo/s as an artform, as a way of expression and as a fashion trend. Art in Africa was made as a way of life rather than as a work of art, similarly hair was a way of life and it differed from community to community, while in other communities its women that kept hair in other communities its men that plaited hair while women shaved and in others children did. Hair additions existed and was mostly sisal leather and other plant fibers. Hair color too was a major trend in the African context red ochre/henna/natural plant dye was applied on hair to achieve a desired color and mostly during cultural rituals such as rite of passage. Hair denoted status, royalty, hierarchy and gender in the society the same way clothes did.

Today in Africa weaves, hair additions, extensions and straight hair is worn more than the kinky/nappy/afro, corned rows, dredlocks or matuta(braided hair) which makes me ask when did our hair become political? When did we stop making our hair beautiful like our fore fathers? when did we stop thinking it was not beautiful? who taught us that it was not? will it ever cease being political? what will it take to trend our hair/art to the ends of the earth? On the flip side observing trends in fashion I notice that kinky/nappy/wooly hair, afro, dredlocks, braiding, twisting, corned rows and other plaiting is growing more popular among the real elitists. I guess we figure out somewhere up there that you have to be the person you were intended to be, different and unique from the rest in order to stand out.

We are different; how we were made and how we express. We do not get to choose the first but the latter lies squarely on us and within our jurisdiction(the right, power, or authority to administer justice by hearing and determining controversies) we choose to/not to keep making African hair/art, to/not to trend it into world fashion. African hairdo is beautiful and is a work of art. I join Oy Frempong in the song Praise the Lord for my hair …Hallelujah!



This in my opinion is s among the most artistic songs. Artistic in every sense, the title, the subject, the song arrangement, the vocals and the video. She is singing from a stage beneath…the deep end of pool. It feels like a collage, a well thought and executed collage.



I imagine there are more chances that you remember pictorials or illustrations and even more chances that you will remember a performance, a demonstration more than the pictorials. It is interesting that in our cultural context before civilization happened we still learnt, we still were able to pass information across through oral narratives, dance, song and more complex stuff like medicine/witchcraft/ rainmaking were mostly learnt by demonstration.  As we got civilized reading and writing sprouted(first written languages actually were pictorial symbols) and became the fuss of the day, to this date we are still trying to get everyone to read and write, we are encouraged to even learn foreign languages, its an extra they say/ an added advantage. I do not dispute that we now live in a global village and its important to know what the other person might be saying.

I have been thinking on elite – ism and how its is killing us softly. I will give my own example… I am born and bred in Kabarnet, somewhere in Kenya. My parents were civil servants(a soldier and a Teacher) and that basically meant that I would have a a few privileges like going to school.  At twenty I could read,write and speak two languages English and Swahili. I could read German and probably say Bonjour, however I could not speak my mother tongue, which meant there was a language barrier between me and my old folks who hadn’t gone to school, this has implicated me in ways I shall probably never recover. I can not read and write in their language, I can not say the narratives, sing dance or perform the rituals of my own people. So I wonder why in the struggle to be elite i lost so much yet luckily gained art. If i did not go to school, would I be able to make art? They say we Africans never made art for art sake, that function drove us to art and its again interesting that design is driving function today.

Against that background as I have advanced in life and grown I have found a new language, sort of universal. It is more like words, tears, rhytmn or laughter. Anyone can read and write it and this school of reading and writing art has been the most amazing journey in my life. I have observed other people who have no/little knowledge of art try reading and i have been impressed. One painting hung on my wall and every time friends come to visit I have been impressed at the different things they read on that piece. I initially intended to paint myself from a dark dry well seeing life and promise out thee…eere but that concept backfired, 5 weeks later I worked on it and it ended up being a water falls in the distance whose waters flow into my present that is dried up.  Art is so interesting to read. There are no rules to it, you can say what you see and it makes perfect sense and in turn the painter gets more ideas. In that particular piece I described, someone saw people…I did not draw people but when she showed me…I saw them. Such is ART.

I have also been affected by yet another language called IAE (International Art English) The language we artists use to describe our work/ the language curators use to describe exhibitions and Galleries… find out more here

Now I can read, now I can write. I want to teach more people to consume art, to read and even write art.

Where paths cross; Art and other Faculties

General elections in less that 30 days, everyone that lived through the previous election must already be thinking what if it ends in violence again? especially with the propaganda and polarization that I bump on online, in the papers and when I sit in front of a TV set. I have found myself thinking of post poll violence and how that would affect me, how it would affect people/things that I LOVE. Art being one of those things, I have searched for the place of art in this vicious circle. Already there are artists exhibiting based on the political scene in the country, there is a movement of creatives pushing for the voters to vote out vultures in power, and a photography exhibition of the situation in the previous post elections violence. I know for sure violence had an impact on the art scene. I will be observing what happens this time round, Somewhere in there, I thought maybe we should do PEA(post elections art).

It is all one fabric, just that different wefts meet the same warp at different points, a defect on one part of a fabric is a defect on the entire. At different points in life our paths cross, and when that happens it is never the same again, and how do I relate this with art? Religion, Politics, Philosophy, Science and other faculties of life meet Art at one point or the other(the reverse is also true) The implications thereof are eternal. Back into the history of art, at the different places artists met artwork/artists of different art movement or science or the catholic patrons art was eternally implicated, a new art movement was birthed. Here are a few illustrations, Why we say Catholic music is Baroque is a reference to an art period after the late renaissance in Europe when art was mostly commissioned by the church. In the century that followed, there was a wealthy influential middle class that broke into the art scene and started commissioning art, the subject in art changed from the biblical allusions of the baroque to the sort of decorative subjects of the Rococo, what followed this movement was Neo-classical art where artists sought to revive the Hellenistic. subject again changed to sacrifice, heroism, love and courage. This was in turn overhauled by the Romanticist who filled their canvases with theatrical drama, they depicted emotional wrought. Movement after movement art kept taking different turns.

I noted that every time there was progress in the economy, art flourished. When there was industrial advancement art was affected critical invention like the light bulb and the camera are classical examples. When Thomas Edison invented the incandescent bulb, the impressionists movement started incorporating scientific research. They desired exact representation of colour and light later when the camera was the invented, art was less desired. Pictures became were exciting and the world was shifting…this is the same time Abstract art, Optical art, Pop art grew. Other illustrations of points where paths crossed is WWI and WWII. Just before the first world war, the cubists rejected the concept of a single point of view, they questioned conventional painting and incorporated 3D objects on their art. In addition to that, they depicted influences from the Africa and other parts of the world, this is good progress but then War happened. The art community was so dejected at the capability of man to marshall ill against each other…this is expressed by the surrealist and the dada movements, the subjects on their art show dejection, hopelessness and helplessness that the world was in.

At the end of the first world war it had been possible to contemplate going back to business as usual. However, 1945 was different, so different that it has been called Year Zero, this time round there was synergy and energy to piece things together as fast as possible, this explains why art is now laced in literally all other ares of life today.

Good things happen to us all, bad things too happen and sometimes the bad outweigh the good in life, whether its violence or storm or hunger it is never going to stop us from making art.
Everyday, the important thing is that we make art and not even what we make.

Repetition is a stylistic device in art too

Its almost inevitable not to talk about a new year or about new things or things we are doing differently and especially in a new year, with the first month of 2013 coming to a close there are still new things we keep hearing with the greeting HAPPY NEW YEAR fading out. (you should actually start feeling some guilt if you still greeting people, happy new year) This week I have noted things people are doing differently and I have observed artists too, seems like the resolve was to get our stories out there by the means we know best… Visual art. I do not know the motivation for us artists to make art this year, is it a name in the gallery, is it a new car, is it a solo exhibition, is it a tribute to the society, it it just an expression that is better placed outside us? it would be great to know a few but I know for sure new things, new artwork, new spirits in art, new techniques are growing within us each passing day and it would be great and best out there while the year is new and even as the year ages.

For those that hired new space or even those that just cleaned up their old studios or even those who make art wherever and whenever they have the chance repeat it again, lets do it again in 2013. When you look at ART in the same manner critics look at literary works, you will probably note imagery, allusions, personification, repetition among many others devices interlaced.  Repetition affords my attention at this point and time, I noticed how in a series of six drawings the more I repeated the same thing over and over the more I learnt, I grew a new technique from the previous and a new subject a theme. I stand  inspired to bits at the magic woven in my art when I repeatedly drew lines and shapes with little variance, In this new year I want repeat until I get it. Its not being a lunatic, it is exploiting my options.


White, fuel for the painting.

white and black in color theory are referred to as the neutrals, this in language means not aligned with or supporting any side or position (its neither this or that) yet they are absolute, white is the presence of all color and black the absence of color. such controversy is expected when you try to understand a concept from to faculties of life, art and physics or  pigment and light…it is a bit complicated and yet important to understand (look out for this whole concept in my next blog)

The centrality of white paint to a painting and to the painter is intriguing , its occurred to me how in real sense as a painter white is more than just a pigment, its the medium for mixing and erasing, its the simulation of light and is sort of a derivative where you draw a whole range of different tints. Artist are generally known to be very detailed people, all the element(lines, dots, shape, color, texture & value) in an artwork is in that particular place/position/state because the artist chose and for a given reason in aiding the entire composition which in my opinion is not possible without the use of white paint…this is the reason I believe white is the fuel for the painting. (there are exceptions)

So why the hell would one spend time thinking of white paint?

Its roughly more than 10months since white oil paint run out of stock in Nairobi, artist have been looking from supplier to supplier and when the most trusted & expensive supplier ships in a new stock its quickly depleted as the market is already starving. Most artist have changed media as a result, I have SINCE also transitioned to painting using acrylics from oils but lately missing the pleasures of plasticity that oil paints give… there is so much you can do with other media but there is that special thing you can only do with oils, as I hope for things to change here I am also learning color , exploring a new territory as I acclimatise to that one special thing I can do. (who knows may be one day produce/distribute color literally and metaphorically)

winged victory of Samothrace

Art is a way of life whether you choose it or not it keeps slamming on our faces everyday…in the first place, art was made not for art sake but as an applied function of everyday, a door was not a door without the relief sculpture and a ceramic piece wouldn’t take any drink unless it had engravings…that sounds so paleolithic because today you get to choose. I spare a few damns/dimes to find art and when I do not, it finds me(riddle-ish).  Gustav Klimt has been on my mind, the notorious Austrian symbolist painter and a prominent member of the Vienna Secessionist movement.  His PAINTING, the portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer II got my attention for longer than I thought it would…its my kind of art, its just lines, shapes and dots. I wonder how a man with stakes in the secessionist movement, a person that has the country’s interest at heart would care to seamlessly dub the canvas with paint, with dots and lines to make a composition that hundred years later is still eliciting excitement. It easily would have been the portrait of a patrons wife but it isn’t… years later the portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer I was sold for $ 135 million and there are books written about it… it is CERTAINLY more than an expression and skill.

Sankofa is an African word(Akhan of Ghana) for looking back, picking lessons from your past to take you through the coming days, it is symbolized by a bird with its head turned backwards taking an egg off its back. Looking  into history of art I find the same applied, art periods picked art from the previous periods and rebelliously executed, as absurd as it sounds I will not be surprised if we hear in the coming days of neo-realism/neo- post -impressionism but what would excite me most is a journey back to the hellenistic period, to the sculptures and art of the Greek and this particular one: the winged victory of Samothrace… it stands at the Louvre in Paris, this too is certainly more than skill and an expression. a closer look at this sculpture and you will be taken aback at the kind of detail executed, seem as if the sculptors primary purpose in life was to carve out Nike of the Samothtrace off the paros marble. The drapery, the emotion, movement, balance and fluidity was the spice that spruces up sculptures of this period. Hellenistic art portrayed inner emotions of everyday life rather than the heroic beauty if the hellenic/classical period. style changed from godlike serenity to individual, from dramatic to melodramatic pathos, dramatic poses and theatrical contrasts of light and shade playing over. The environment was changing, Rome was taking over… today change is happening, it is an opportunity to make art for art sake, to look back, find things to spruce up art, to express skillfully and to go beyond expression and skill.

beauty of transformation

One of the biggest adverts of year 2010/11 is the beauty of transformation (crown berger advert) where a girl walking an alley with painted mural (bright mural with just shapes, colour and lines like one I did in that same year with crown paints) touches the red spot of a flower and seemingly the paint bleeds into her nails, changes colour, morphs into a tatoo on her wrist through to a floral print on her white dress when she touches it,  everywhere she walks the effect is translated and a little detail I note is a little boy chasing after the ambiance, the magic , the colour…. if you like it crown it. It is such catchy advert but not so without talking about the jingle, an awesomely articulated tune going something like, ” I see colours, the wonder of colours in everything I touch, in everything that reminds me of our world. A world of beauty, a life of beauty in every little story, a crowning glory in every little story. Its a new new day, a new new world…a new new life.”  Indeed if you like it crown it

It is not so abstract for me to claim the same. I see colour in every thing I touch in everything around me, in every little detail of life. colour is the enchantress that has woven her magic around us and we cannot free us from colour.  It is a basic element of art that has become a basic element of everyday, it is the quality that causes the life to recede from/advance towards us. Colour captures the expressions and thoughts of  the possessor to the viewer and has engaged every aspect of daily living in a world of endless possibilities from interiors, vehicular art, visual art, fashion through to the food we eat (you notice we talk about greens a lot). To conquer the devil some one proposed you have know him and the same is true with colour, it is interesting to note how little we know about the same, how we have favorite colours and still do not know where it fits into in the colour wheel, what compliments the other… who even cares about colour? and the wheel for that matter? In physics, a force is any influence that causes an object to undergo a certain change, either concerning its movement, direction, or geometrical construction and depending on what transformation you would like to see, take time to unlearn and learn colour all together. Colour is a force, colour theory is key.

It is also interesting that during the renaissance period (15th Century) people talked of crimson, scarlet and cadmium not just red. Centuries later we still talk of brown, again it is of interest that we get the drift that our language reflects that our mentality transform  from brown to sienna, ochre, burnt umber or umber, from dark/light red to shades/tints of red, from the error/era of favorite colour to a palette. When you say “my palette has greens” it basically means that you love green and that is probably your most preferred colour choice. There is beauty in transformation and where colour is the case, then so much beauty.

Get radical with colour!