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In two days, the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival opens in Washington DC. The annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival provides an opportunity for US citizens and the world to experience Kenya’s rich and diverse cultural and natural resources such as Kenyan art, crafts, music and other products. Kenya is the fifth African country and the first in East Africa to be featured at the festival.

Elkana Ong’esa, a renowned sculptor, will be leading the charge in Kenya’s efforts to conserve the African Elephant with a 12-tonne sculpture dubbed “Hands Off Our Elephants.”

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Prints_Mutua Matheka Photography Market-3

Photographer Mutua Matheka, well known for his awesome pictures of Nairobi, has today launched an online print market. Fans of his work can now buy print photographs at affordable prices.

The prints are available in the following sizes:

  • 6×8 inches – Kshs. 500
  • 8×12 inches – Kshs. 2,000
  • 12×18 inches – Kshs. 6,000

Mutua says that he’s been trying to figure out a way of getting his work in the hands of a lot of people and at an affordable price. He had this revelation after an exhibition last year that featured very large prints of his work whose price was out of reach of many Kenyans. The print market, he says, is also a way of getting photography appreciated in its physical form and not just online.

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Shompole by Jemma Davies

“Black is the colour of my true love’s hair. Black is the colour of my love so fair. Black is her body so firm, so bold. Black is her beauty, her soul of gold… I remember when she said to me, “don’t ever look behind”. She said “look ahead” and I would see someone always loving me. A picture is painted in my memory without a colour of despair.” Nina Simone

This is the song that came to mind when I first saw Jemma Davies’ charcoal painting Shompole.  I was scouting for definitions or illustrations of beauty that make us question our knowledge and use of the word and voilà!

Just to give a general description of this work; here we see the main subject of the painting being a Woman holding a baby. She is adorned in beautiful traditional jewellery and wears a ‘leso-like’ apparel.  The baby is clothed in light-coloured attire and is oh-so-adorably sucking on its finger. There’s a hint of vegetation in the background. The colours in the painting are mostly alternating varieties of grey, black and white.

I suppose Jemma’s decision to use charcoal for this painting is a neat ingredient that brilliantly brings out a softness in the subject’s nature; a gentle tenderness that is not emphasized enough in many representations of black women. It doesn’t however obscure her boldness, which is told by her definitive facial structure, her jawline and her cheekbones. The latter shows Jemma’s appreciation of a wider context within which her subject’s existence is cradled.  The name of the painting and her ornaments suggests that she is perhaps from Shompole conservancy which is located south of the Great Rift Valley. Its climate is mostly dry and hot and the communities in that area are historically nomadic. Continue reading