- The Friends of the Arts (Fota) art exhibition, held this past weekend online courtesy of the International School of Kenya, was the most well-organised online exhibition that I have seen since the pandemic began.
- Like all art venues, Fota was hit hard by Covid-19 concerns which compelled them to take their annual show online.
The Friends of the Arts (Fota) art exhibition, held this past weekend online courtesy of the International School of Kenya, was the most well-organised online exhibition that I have seen since the pandemic began.
Like all art venues, Fota was hit hard by Covid-19 concerns which compelled them to take their annual show online.
An event that local artists look forward to with high expectations, it attracted more than 70 painters, photographers, and sculptors who shared a platform that was well designed and easy to follow. There were tabs available to click on to simplify online viewing. You could filter your search of artworks either by price, type, or artist. Otherwise, you could plough through all 222 pieces which just displayed the title and price of a piece.
If you wanted to know more about the work, you clicked on the title, and the artist’s name and other valuable details about the work would be there. And if you decided you wanted to buy the piece, you either clicked on the centre of the artwork, see a red heart pop up and confirm. You wanted it in your cart!
There were over 200 paintings to view as well as 16 sculptures and four photographs (all provided by Usha Harish).
No longer a social event as in past years, a big part of previous Fota exhibitions had been the pleasure of meeting friends as well as the artists who flocked to the show and freely spoke to the prospective buyers.
Apart from all those challenges, East African artists turned out in full force by sending in their art in response to an online call. Most were Kenyans, but several Tanzanian and Ugandan artists also had their paintings in the show.
What was skewed was the enormous price range in paintings. One work sold for Sh6,000 while the average range was around Sh100,000. But one artist who was billed as a painter but whose work was a sculpture was selling for Sh325,000.
The joy this year was seeing the diversity of topics included in the exhibition. There were themes frequently seen such as portraits, wildlife, and cityscapes. But some skyscapes and landscapes reminded one of Kenya’s exquisite natural beauty.
Mobility was also a major topic with everything from matatus and motorbikes to bicycles, solo walkers, and rickshaw-like mkokoteni carrying heavy loads of water, chicken, and sugar cane being featured.
Portraits were less in evidence this year, although there were several market scenes, one of the women doing laundry, two village boys milking a goat, and a surprisingly picturesque painting by Ismael Kateregga of refugees standing in line.
Among the more widely represented topic seen at the show was that of wildlife. Artists painted everything from rhino, elephant, ostrich, and hippo to zebra, water buffalo, and an array of beautiful birds including a Golden-breasted bunting and two Black-headed weaver birds by Fayid Mahfudh.
Some of the most aesthetically pleasing paintings were of local landscapes like John Kariuki’s Nyeri, Coster Ojwang’s Karai Tea Farm, Patrick Kinuthia’s Noonday at Narok, and Arnold Birungi’s view of Mount Kilimanjaro.
There were few women artists represented; no more than six women took part.