Mwili akili Na Roho
27th October 2022 - 28th January 2023
NCAI, Rosslyn Rivera, Nairobi
MWILI, AKILI NA ROHO
10 Figurative Painters from East Africa
Artists: Sam Joseph Ntiro, Asaph Ng’ethe Macua, Elimo Njau, Jak Katarikawe, Theresa Musoke, Peter Mulindwa, Sane Wadu, Chelenge van Rampelberg, John Njenga, and Meek Gichugu
Mwili, Akili na Roho showcases a multigenerational group of artists varied in their backgrounds, thematic concerns, and formal strategies. The exhibition represents a starting point for critical engagement with the history of painting in East Africa. The selection of artworks represents a cross-section of figurative painting from East Africa, particularly Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. Composed of over 40 works created between 1950 and 2000, with subjects including politics and society, faith and religion, the natural and the supernatural, the body and sexuality, Mwili, Akili na Roho(Mind, Body and Spirit) offers an entry point for a deeper engagement with the genealogies of artistic creation in this region, and the enduring influence of certain ideas and institutions in the creation, dissemination and reception of art in/from East Africa.
Mwili, Akili na Roho was first presented at Haus der Kunst, Munich (2020), then at the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2021), as part of Michael Armitage: Paradise Edict. The exhibition at NCAI will expand on earlier iterations by introducing additional works from the collections of the Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts in Kampala, private collectors in Kenya, the UK, Japan, and works on loan directly from the artists. The exhibition will be accompanied by 2 publications: a zine comprising archival material relating the artist’s in the exhibition; and a fully illustrated catalogue featuring contributions by Professor George Kyeyune of Makerere University, Lutivini Majanja, and Asaph Macua Ng’ethe.
© Sam Ntiro, Log Cutting in the Forest, not dated, Oil on Board
*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, Untitled, 1994, Oil On Canvas
* 1966 Ngecha, Kenya ✝1997
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, Nation's Fruit, 1998, Oil On Canvas
* 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, Too Much Sex, before 1998, Oil on cardboard
* 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.
© Asaph Ng'ethe Macua, Stone Mason, 1964, Goauche on Paper
Asaph Ng'ethe Macua
* 1930 in Karura, Kenya
Born in Karura, Nairobi, Asaph Ng'ethe Macua attended Makerere University, Kampala, in 1951. After graduating, Macua worked in the Department of Community Development in Kampala. In 1958, he returned to Nairobi, and from 1960, he worked as chief artist in the East African Common Services Organisation which later became the Kenya Literature Bureau, until his retirement in 1967. Selected solo and group exhibitions include those at Makerere University, Kampala; Uganda Museum, Kampala; Chemchem, Nairobi (1964); Mankind and Nature, Goethe-Institut, Nairobi (1992); Alliance Française, Nairobi (1993); and Asaph Macua: A Retrospective, National Museum of Kenya, Nairobi (2019). His work was also recently shown as part of a group exhibition at the Alliance Française, Nairobi (2019). He published his autobiography From Misery to Joy: A Journey of Endurance in 2019.
© Peter Mulindwa, Untitled, 1981, Oil on Board
* 1943 in Bunyoro, Uganda
Peter Kasaija Mulindwa was born in Western Uganda. He undertook a BA in Painting at Makerere University, 1967-1971, and a master's degree in Fine Arts at Makerere in 1982 while also taking on a teaching position at the school. After Makerere, he returned to his native Bunyoro to work as an arts educator in various schools and as a headmaster, returning to Makerere to obtain a Master's of Education. In 2005, he established the Art and Education Department at Mountains of the Moon University in Fort Portal, Western Uganda, where he taught until he suffered a stroke in 2014. Forced to retire, he now resides in his home village of Muhorro in Kibaale District. He produced several commissioned paintings, mostly portraits of political figures, and developed a specialty in the design of heraldry for schools, colleges and associations. Selected exhibitions include Feedback: Art, Africa and the 1980s, Iwalewahaus, Bayreuth (2018). Mulindwa's work is included in international private and institutional collections. A large number of his oil paintings created during his time at Makerere belong to the collection of the Makerere Art Gallery, Kampala, and his work also sits in the private collections of the late Robert Loder and Klaus Betz.
© Theresa Musoke, Untitled (98), 1996, Mixed media on canvas
* 1942 in Kampala, Uganda
Theresa Musoke was one of the first female artists to attain a bachelor's degree of Fine Arts at Makerere University. Musoke received a Commonwealth Scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art in London, receiving a postgraduate diploma in Printmaking. She later studied at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating with a master's degree in Fine Arts. Living in Nairobi, from 1974 to 1996, Musoke continued to exhibit and has had a distinguished career as an educator, working across universities and art institutions in both Kenya and Uganda: for example, Kenyatta University, the International School of Kenya, and Makerere University. At present, she resides in her home country Uganda where she continues to work, having decided to return to Kampala in 1997. Selected solo and group exhibitions include a solo show at the Uganda Museum in Kampala (1965), where she was the first woman artist to be honoured with an exhibition; she participated in the major historical group show Sanaa: Contemporary Art from East Africa at the Commonwealth Institute, London (1984); A Love That Dares,
Afriart Gallery, Kampala (2017); and Pioneer Women of the Arts at Nairobi Gallery (2018). Her work has also been exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, London; The Hampton Institute, Hampton, Virginia; Africus, Johannesburg Biennale; Uganda Museum, Kampala; Paa ya Paa Gallery, Nairobi; Gallery Watatu, Nairobi; and African Heritage House, Nairobi. She has been a recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, and her artwork can be found across the globe in both private and institutional collections, including the Iwalewahaus, Bayreuth, and the Makerere Art Gallery, Kampala. Commissions include her Birth Mural at Makerere University, Mary Stuart Hall, and commissions for the National Parks of Kenya and Entebbe International Airport.
© Elimo Njau, Dream Landscape, 1968, Oil on canvas
* 1932, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
Elimo Njau spent his youth in Tanzania before studying fine art at Makerere University, Kampala, and eventually moving to Kenya, where he established himself as one of the pioneering East African painters and institution builders. He founded the Chemchemi Creative Centre in 1963 with exiled South African writer Es'kia Mphahlele as well as Njau Art Studio. He later founded the renowned Paa ya Paa Centre with Pheroze Nowrojee and James Kangwana, among others, and spurred on by his contemporaries such as Hilary Ng'weno, Okot p'Bitek and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. He has held lectureships at Makerere University and at the University of Dar es Salaam and, throughout much of his career, continued to hold workshops for artists. His work has been shown in exhibitions such as Sanaa: Contemporary Art from East Africa at the Commonwealth Institute, London (1984), and the First World Festival of Black Arts, Dakar (1966). He is well known for his public, large-scale works, among these a commissioned mural at St James and All Martyrs Memorial Cathedral in Muranga, Kenya.