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Plenty to look forward to at four-day Lamu Art Festival

Saturday February 16 2019

Joachim Sauter sculpting a Maweni carrier from real life at Lamu Fort.

Joachim Sauter sculpting a Maweni carrier from real life at Lamu Fort. The sculptures will feature in the Lamu Festival from February 21 to February 24. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU 

MARGARETTA WA GACHERU
By MARGARETTA WA GACHERU
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This year’s Lamu Art Festival will be unprecedented for its celebration of the beauty, diversity and inspiring culture of this unique and beautiful island.

For four days, from February 21 through to February 24, this UNESCO World Heritage Site will come alive with world class music and art, all of which will be free to the public.

Organised by the Lamu Painters Festival in partnership with Music on the Islands, the festival will be happening up and down the island from Peponi and Shela to Lamu town and also at Maweni Village on Manda Island. Events will take place at Lamu Fort and in the Town Square, on the beach and in the Diamond Beach resort, as well as in various art centres like the Baraka and the new Kito galleries. It will be capped off on Sunday with the excitement of the traditional dhow races that tend to draw multitudes to Shela and Peponi beach to watch this highly competitive and beautiful local race.

In years past, the Lamu Painters Festival brought together European and Kenyan visual artists to paint the stunning beauty of Lamu’s everyday life. But this year compelled the Painters Festival organiser, German philanthropist Herbert Menzer, to focus on one European artist who he had invited to Shela back in 2011 and who has been returning to Lamu regularly ever since.

Joachim Sauter had not planned to make Lamu his second home. But once he arrived (the only sculptor among a slew of painters) he, like Herbert, got enchanted by the beautiful contrasts between his bustling hometown of Stuttgart and the easy, much slower rhythm of life on the island. But what captivated him most was meeting the Maweni workers while visiting Manda Island.

Manda has an active coral mining industry and an army of Kenyan men whose work is to carry the heavy coral stones to the mainland where the coral is shipped abroad or used locally to make traditional Swahili houses. To Sauter, these men embodied the essence and dignity of hard work. It was with that appreciation of their unsung labour and work ethic that he embarked on the project that has taken him almost eight years to complete.

ART AND MUSIC

Sculpting seven of those labourers in a style that could be said to rival the anatomical accuracy and beauty of Michelangelo’s ‘David’, Sauter’s exhibition includes not only larger-than-life sculptures hewn out of African mahogany wood.

The world premiere of his art on Tuesday, February 22 at Lamu Fort will also feature paintings and drawings that he created in preparation for his own arduous but enjoyable task of making the Maweni Carriers.

For several years, Sauter had planned to sculpt just seven 2.5 metre men. But late last year, he felt his collection was incomplete without at least one working woman. It was a surprise both to himself and to friends who have been waiting for the world premiere of his seven sculptures.

But he identified the person who he felt would be a perfect eight, Kenyan model and teacher Achieng Andabula. Completing her sculpture in a record-breaking three months, Sauter’s exquisite exhibition will be officially launched by the German curator Augustin Noffke and immediately following, the Nairobi String Quartet will give a preview of classical music concert that they will give on Friday afternoon.

In musical contrast, there will be open-air concerts from Thursday through Saturday by the ‘godfathers of Kenyan music’, Les Mangelepa who have just returned to Kenya from a worldwide tour of Europe. They will be giving three free shows, one at the Maweni Village on Manda Island, one in the Lamu Town Square and their final free show on Saturday will be at the Diamond Beach Village. Les Mangelepa will be accompanied by the local Tarab band, Ali Noor Sunny, other musicians and a variety of local and international DJs.

On Friday, from 4:30, the Nairobi String Quartet will give their concert of works by Haydn, Brahms and Vivaldi. It will be followed at 6:30pm by another painting and photographic exhibition opening at the Baraka Gallery focused on Manda Island by Helen Feiler and Corrie Wingate.

On Saturday, the German artists Mark Einsiedel and Felix Jung will present an interactive exhibition entitled ‘Fabrics in Monsoon Keskazi Winds’ on Shela and Peponi Beach. Finally, during Sunday’s dhow races there will be lots of music on the beach before the Festival ends with the dhow race winners receiving a tidy purse and the public looking forward to next Lamu International Festival, this one in March focusing on Yoga.

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