Ugandan artists began crossing the border into Kenya long ago.
Even before Jak Katarikawe came from Kampala and began painting in Nairobi in the 1970s, there was John Odoch Ameny, the amazing sculptor who fled the bloody rule of Milton Obote, and the late Expedito Mwebe, both of whom mounted amazing exhibitions at the now-defunct African Heritage Gallery.
And even before them, Elimo Njau, who is actually a Tanzanian by birth, came from Makerere University in the late 1950s to create the Murang’a Murals, and then decided to stay.
The most recent crew of Ugandan artists also came from Kampala, but it was only late last month. Their destination was the Village Market in Nairobi, where they are about the cap off their six-man exhibition entitled ‘African Artistic Tales’.
The six have brought art that covers virtually all the expansive wall space in the Village Market’s exhibition hall. Plus, easels have been mounted in the middle of the hall to accommodate the works of these six prolific painters, namely Paolo Akiiki, Anwar Sadat Nakibinge, Jude Kasagga, Saad Lukwago, Ronnie Tindi and Sebandeke.
All six are highly accomplished artists, having attended art schools in Uganda and exhibited extensively, including in Kenya where they have shown their work at Manjano and Brush tu Art Studio, the Kenya Art Fair, Banana Hill Art Gallery and the Talisman restaurant.
But this is the first time that all six decided to join forces and share the expense of renting Village Market where their art has fortunately attracted a huge interest from the public.
The reason for all the attention they’ve received is apparent the moment one steps into the massive white-walled hall. All six have a lovely way of working with bold and brilliant colours. And they all have distinctive styles.
For instance, Akiiki paints in golden sweeping strokes while Kasagga has specialised in painting the bustling city streets of Kampala, and Tindi tends to mix paints and scraps of kitenge fabrics into colourful collage art.
Lukago’s masterpiece in this trip is his gigantic long-horned Ankole cow, while Sebandeke presents a mix of works including striking black and white zebra and a semi-abstract ecumenical piece.
The central organiser of the group show is Dr Anwar who brings both his multi-layered paintings filled with elegant African wildlife and singular scenes, which also feature graceful long-necked giraffes interacting with other jungle creatures.
In all, the works are gentle in their design. There’s nothing esoteric or deeply intellectual in their art.
But being mainly decorative, they are the type that one could easily take home and feel they now have a better grasp of beautiful East African and especially Ugandan art.