Long before Kefa Oiro met up with Samuel Githui, he was pursuing his lifelong passion for dance at The GoDown Art Centre, working closely with the contemporary dance artist James Mweu.
Both Githui and Kefa had studios at the GoDown, only one man was a visual artist, the other a contemporary dancer, each occupying his own sphere of the Centre. It was Githui’s keen concern for incorporating more fluidity of motion in his art that inspired him to cross over to Kefa’s end of the Centre and ask if he could hang out a while with the dancer.
Githui’s appreciation of the dynamism and grace of the dancer in motion was best seen in the myriad series of black and white paintings that were recently on display at Circle Art Gallery in Githui’s solo exhibition entitled ‘Transformation’.
His ongoing concern to reflect movement in people’s everyday lives in his art has often been seen in prior exhibitions when he’s painted bicyclers on the road and pedestrians walking across zebra lines.
But what’s especially of interest about his Circle Art show is the way he’s clearly studied the human form in motion. Kefa’s skilful style of graceful activity served as a sort of training ground for Githui in a sense that the show revealed how carefully the artist studied the minute degrees of movement that the dancer went through to create a refined and elegant contemporary dance performance.
Part and parcel of the creative process, both for the dancer and the visual artist was Githui’s creating a brief five-minute video of Kefa in a dancing mode.
For it was the artist’s careful follow-up and detailed study that led Githui to create more than 500 black and white charcoal drawings of Kefa’s solo dance. Each is different, each reflects the subtle, nuanced shifts of the dancer’s movement.
“I called the dance ‘Urbanite’ as it was meant to reflect all the struggles and challenges that a man goes through in town in a single day,” says Kefa as he assisted Githui to close up the artist’s wall-to-wall exhibition of the nuanced drawings at the Gallery last week.
Collaborating with Githui first took shape almost a decade ago, and both men have been engaged in many solo and joint projects since then.
But it was three years back that Githui first exhibited a small portion of this larger project, which he entitled ‘Transformation’.
“I showed a couple hundred of them at Circle’s Paper exhibition. But I knew the work wasn’t done so I went on to complete it,” Githui says. He admits he sold a few drawings during that show. But now it would seem preferable for him to keep the remaining works intact, perhaps to one day see them all together in a museum or in a private collection.
The 500 rectangular paintings, created with a mix of media including charcoal, acrylic, ink and pencil, reflect just a fraction of Kefa’s larger dance. Yet each one of Githui’s works seem to suggest the totality of the dance. So minute are the differences in each piece that one can’t help marvelling at Githui’s patience and precision. How he chose to skilfully portray each flexing of a muscle, lifting of an arm, twisting of a torso and clearly not getting tired of this arduous exercise, is extraordinary.
But be assured that Githui’s artistic exercise and collaboration with Kefa has afforded the painter dividends. For there’s little doubt he’s not only retained his passion for creating dynamic motion in his art. He’s also enhanced his keen capacity for capturing the essence of fluid body language in his painting.