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Mwili, Akili na Roho: Artist Bios

8th September 2022 - 8th October 2022

Sam Ntiro

*1923 Machane,Tanzania  ✝1993

Sam Joseph Ntiro was born in the chiefdom of Machame on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.He was educated in a Lutheran mission school. Ntiro studied art at Makerere College, University of East Africa, in Kampala, Uganda, under Margaret Trowell where he later came to teach painting from 1948. Between 1952-1955 he then furthered his education at the Slade School of Art after being awarded a Colonial and Welfare Fund Scholarship .  During this time, he published his book Desturi za Wachagga (Traditions of the Chagga) in 1953, and also had debut solo exhibition Paintings of Africa at Piccadilly Gallery in 1955 where he sold over thirty works.

He later received the Carnegie Travel Grant and spent ten weeks in the United States where he had a solo exhibition at the Merton B.Simpson Gallery in New York. His work toured America under the auspices of The American Society . Nitro’s works were bought by many prominent buyers during this exhibition including historian Dr. Horace Mann Bond and the Museum of Modern Art.

In 1962 his paintings were shown at the Sorsbie Gallery in Nairobi and his work has been collected all over the world in notable collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, Chase Manhattan, Rockefeller,Commonwealth Institute,London,Stevenson Gallery and many others 

After graduating from the Slade, Ntiro returned to Uganda and his role at Makerere, until Tanzania gained independence in 1961. Prime Minister Nyerere appointed Ntiro High Commissioner to the United Kingdom 1961-1964. He later taught at Kyambogo Technical Institute in Kampala and the University of Dar Es Salaam where he founded the Department of Music, Arts and Culture. He was then invited by President Nyerere to become Commissioner of Culture for the newly independent Tanzania.

John Njenga

* 1966 Ngecha, Kenya


John Njenga Wambu, was born in 1966 in Ngecha village Limuru. He began his schooling in 1970 and completed primary level in 1980. He started painting in 1991, encouraged by the success of a number of young artists from his home village, and like many others at the time he took his art to Gallery Watatu. There his artistic potential was recognised. He had his first solo exhibition here which was sold out and he became widely accepted in the artists community and Gallery Watatu. His work was exhibited regularly until his untimely death in 1997.


John Njenga's work quickly evolved through several different styles. From an early naive realism, using oil on canvas or paper, and a palette of colours most often associated and influenced by the group of artists from Ngecha. Njenga's imagery moved through surreal depictions of a distorted world where bizarre figures of human-animal creatures floated in landscapes.


By 1993, the year in which his work found a wide international audience when his paintings were included in a group exhibition of contemporary African art in Japan, Njenga had found what was to be his mature voice.His work depicted a more naturalistic world, making use of a subdued, earthy palette of browns and greens. His subjects also transformed at this time with the appearance of ethereal but naturalistic human figures and characters embracing, or emerging from the bud of a flower or a plant


His work has been featured in Thelathini : 30 Facets ,30 Faces of contemporary modern art in Kenya 

Meek Gichugu

* 1968 in Ngecha, Kenya


Meek Gichugu was born John Mburu Njenga on the outskirts of Nairobi. In 1990, he was a founding member of the Ngecha Artist Association. His solo exhibitions have been held at Gallery Watatu, Nairobi (1991, 1993, 1998); Goethe Institut, Nairobi (1993); Alliance Française, Nairobi, (1997, 2006); Galerie Astarté, Paris (2002); Galerie Au vrai Paris, Paris (2003); and Galerie Younique, Paris (2006). Gichugu has also taken part in numerous group exhibitions, such as, Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa,Whitechapel Gallery, London, (1995); Dak'Art 96, Dakar (1996); Thapong International Artists' Workshop, Mahalapye, Botswana (1996); Première vue, Passage de Retz, Paris (2002); La FIAD, Musée des Arts derniers, Paris (2004); and 3Generations 3Styles, GoDown Arts Centre, Nairobi (2008). His work is part of multiple international private collections and several public institutions including the Iwalewahaus, Bayreuth.

Jak Katarikawe 

* 1940 in Kigezi, Uganda † 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya


Jak Katarikawe was born in southwest Uganda, spending his early years in Kabale before moving to Kampala around 1960 and on to Nairobi in 1981. Although Katarikawe had no formal training, he spent two years working under Sam Joseph Ntiro at Makerere University, Kampala. Selected solo exhibitions include those held at the Nommo Gallery, Kampala (1969, 1970); Commonwealth Institute, London (1975); African Heritage House, Nairobi (1975); Gallery Watatu, Nairobi (1975, 1990, 1994); Alliance Française, Nairobi (1977, 1980, 1982, 1993, 1999); Iwalewahaus, Bayreuth (1990); Museum für Völkerkunde, Frankfurt am Main, (1991); Museum für Völkerkunde, Leipzig (1992); Galerie 37, Frankfurt (2001). His solo exhibition Bilder aus Träumen/ Dreaming in Pictures (2001/2002) was shown at the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt am Main and subsequently travelled to the National Museum of Kenya, Nairobi, and the Makerere Art Gallery, in Kampala. Selected group exhi bitions include an exhibition with Samuel Wanjau at Kibo Gallery (1968) and Paa ya Paa Gallery, Nairobi (1968); Africa Centre, London (1975); Commonwealth Institute, London (1981, 1984); FESTAC 77, Lagos (1977); and shows in Berlin, (1978); Bremen, (1979); Amsterdam (1980); Stockholm (1980); Stuttgart (1983); Hannover (1984); Washington, D.C. (1984); Eindhoven, (1990); Nagoya (1993); and New York, (2000). His work is included in the collections of numerous international institutions, such as the Iwalewahaus, Bayreuth, and the Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt am Main.