An online gallery called True African Art has come to the global scene via the Internet, but also locally as media has picked up on their genre here in Westchester. The site features a vast collection of over 425 original African paintings by 40 African artists, mostly from East Africa. It contains pieces that reflect Maasai tribal art, wildlife art, abstracts, realistic and Tinga Tinga paintings from Tanzania, photo collages, charcoal on canvas, children’s paintings and Blue Rhino Map prints that depict illustrative views of various countries on the large continent. The African paintings website is founded by Gathinja Yamokoski, a native Kenyan now living in the Westchester area.
“African paintings artists go back hundreds of years, and despite strongly influencing Western art, theirs is still largely a domain that is unknown and unrecognized in the world.” Mrs. Yamokoski said. “Today, art enthusiasts still find Africa to be a colossal and thriving home of contemporary Black African art paintings, but there is a fear that the preservation of contemporary African paintings will be lost in history if it is not organized and collected.”
Mrs. Yamokoski conceived of the online gallery to sell and promote the work of artists she met in Kenya. “They need the income, and we would love to be that source for them and their families.” she said. Her business also employs a handful of administrative assistants in Kenya. “African artists are human beings and thus our sisters and brothers in life. We need to reward their talents, not inhibit them.” She said African artists struggle with the cost and availability of painting materials. She buys work from her artists outright so they can afford to buy new material to keep on painting their African artworks.
Gathinja Yamokoski came to America by way of her husband, who is an American citizen. The couple met when was assigned to come to Kenya in 2000 by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to work in a 4,000 member church congregation as one of their two Youth Directors in the heart of downtown Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. Mrs. Yamokoski was able to join her husband in marriage upon her arrival in the United States in late 2002.
She says she has always been interested in art. “As a child, I grew up making crafts. My mother was a designer and African art was always a part of our family.” Her mother hoped she would go into fashion design, and Mrs. Yamokoski attended a fashion design college but found she was more interested in paintings and crafts than clothes. “Opening the website puts the artists and I in a position to bring their work to a new audience outside of Africa. Its an honor to be working with them on such a delicate passion and grand scale.”
Mrs. Yamokoski said that the political violence in Kenya following the 2007 elections deeply affected tourism to that nation, and the local art economy suffered and still is to some extent. She hopes in part to show people in the world through the website a side of Africa that’s rarely seen in the media. “Most of the things the media focuses on is a war or hunger or disease.” she said. “People only know what they see on TV. When I showcase our African artists work and people see them live in the interviews we conducted with them , it’s something that is positive.”
“The Internet is the new global medium for showcasing and selling Black art, ” she said. We don’t exploit the artists like so many other collectors who jack up the prices of the paintings into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars when in fact they bought that painting for less than $100.” Paintings on True African Art.com range from $10 to $650, though most are under $100.
“America and the rest of the world are slowly uncovering the value and bounty of this hidden gem,” Mrs. Yamokoski said. “I am proud to be a pioneer bringing contemporary African art to light in the United States and around the world.”
For more information from True African Art.com, log on to the web site or contact Gathinja Yamokoski directly at TrueAfricanArt @Gmail.com. She is also available by phone at 1.914.602.8037.
Edited Bedford Record Review Article, originally written by Eve Marx