An artistic journey around the world

Wednesday March 18 2020

Figure ll, by Mercy Kagia.


Mercy Kagia, who prefers to be called an illustrator, can take you around the world, not in 80 days as Jules Verne aimed to do, but in four years — with stops in between.

During her tours of Europe, Southeast Asia and Latin America, she produced the “Travel Drawings”, which capture her travels. These are among works she has displayed at the One Off gallery in Nairobi.

Her watercolour paintings, sketchbooks and illustrations are on show through November 24.

Looking at the works, they confirm her genius and joy in capturing moments, from the mundane to the magnificent.

Kagia prefers to be called an illustrator, in part because she has a doctorate in illustration from Kingston University in the UK. Whatever you call her, she is an artist who documents virtually everything she sees wherever she goes, be it in a tea shop, a seaport, a temple, a cathedral or grand old opera house.

Hers is a fervour and freshness of perspective that she shares with her students in Augsburg, Germany, where she teaches.


In 2015, she visited Myanmar, a country that clearly captured her imagination.


Yet her current show at One Off won’t allow us to see all her artistic impressions of the terrain, as the majority of illustrations in this show were originally drawn in one of her sketchbooks, which she has had since 2002.

She says she has hundreds of books, but they are not for sale. From the giraffe-necked woman in Bagan, Myanmar, to sights in Japan and South Korea back to Germany, Austria, Spain and Ferrara, Italy, where she attended a Sketchbook Festival, hers is a rich collection.

Included in the “Travel Drawings” are experiences in Kenya, like in the Kisumu Municipal Market.