By Edwin Omondi
I walked up the stairs, there was something that caught my attention. There before me, hanging on a wall, was a very large painting of a woman who was moving in very slow rhythmic waves due to the slight breeze. I stood right in front of the painting and my imagination went wild! “This is a masterpiece! Who did this?” I thought.
After a long days’ work you need to relax more often than not in a tranquil, cool atmosphere. After a tiresome, busy day of gathering contact information about Kenyan painting artists, this is exactly what I needed.
I work for an online African art online gallery as their Project Manager. In this role I source artists and facilitate in the collection of paintings in Kenya. I work for Gathinja Yamokoski, website owner who lives near New York City, where the site operates from.
African art is a new venture for me. This particular day’s work I had unraveled proved to be an excitement, despite the labor involved. Even the impetus and urge to wake up to the following day with the task of finding more artists was a challenge, but I looked forward to it and its results.
This evening I decided to wind down at a restaurant in Nairobi that informally gathers African artists. All kinds of folks in the field congregate there; theater artists, visual artists, music artists and all their managers.
As Iwalked up the stairs, there was something that caught my attention. There before me, hanging on a wall, was a very large abstract painting of a woman who was moving in very slow rhythmic waves due to the slight breeze. I stood right in front of the painting and my imagination went wild! I wanted to see the person who did this, I even wanted to go their studio just to have the chance to see more! “This is a masterpiece! Who did this?” I thought.
I looked at the signature on the African painting and there was the name “Chagwi.” I took note of the name and proceeded with climbing the completion of the stairs with a spark of energy diluting my tiredness. A few steps upwards, there was yet another painting! This time round I did not bother to look at it. Instead my eyes went straight to the signature to check to see if this too had been done by the so called Chagwi and yes! There it was: “Chagwi.” The talent, the precision with which the works were done, was imminent and definitely called for more investigation. Finding my way into the restaurant, I knew I had run into a source of an African artist, so I asked one of the waiters for the manager in order to ask them for Chagwi’s contacts right then and there.
The manager gave me Chagwi’s contact and I was so happy. I asked myself, "Who is this African artist and would he be interested in showing me his contemporary art paintings?" This was the question that was in the back of my mind from the first time I saw his works.
Ironically, a day later we met. I knew it was him only from the indication of a painting he had rolled up in his bulky hand. Chagwi towers at about 6 foot 3 inches and has a bulky build.
Personally, Chagwi is easy to talk to, and eager to make a deal for what is knows is good African art. We talked for a good hour or so before making any deal. One watching us wouldn’t have known that this was our first meeting! His paintings show his compassion as he paints of the innocence and shamelessness of children living in rural areas of his homeland.
He speaks very good Swahili and not so good English. He sobers his language with the preference of a refreshing, warm Guiness beer.
And he has stories: the frustration of trying to express himself verbally as a child only to draw pictures in his room of what his emotions were. He had stories of traveling from place to place in Kenya. While traveling his head would be full of art from the people he saw on his way. Their picture in his mind prompted him to paint while wondering what his art would say of their real life character. The African artist Chagwi is one to watch and arguably one of the best contemporary artists in the Kenyan African art circle.
We told Chagwi about our prospects for the online gallery, where his African paintings for sale would be posted. He was happy to be a part of it so Chagwi joined our 50 other talented African artists and became a part of our website.
Welcome Wycliffe Chagwi to True African Art!