Writing Art History Since 2002

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‘Common Ground’ brings together artworks by four artists active in Kenya today which feature depictions of social groups, specifically students, uniformed officers, protesters, and family.

Paul Njihia, Kindergarten Formation, 2022. Courtesy of the artist.

In these works each of the artists considers the behaviour of these groups as a unit and their relationships with the physical and social spaces they inhabit. Comprised of drawing, painting and sculpture, the exhibition highlights artworks that were created within the last decade, including two large scale drawings by Peterson Kamwathi from 2012 and 2013, a major painting by Elias Mung’ora from 2017, a recently completed 5-part sculpture by Morris Foit which forms part of the NCAI collection, and selected works from an ongoing series by Paul Njihia. 

In his practice Peterson Kamwathi attends to various communal, social, economic and cultural stances within contemporary society. He explores physical presence, modes of behaviour, embedded symbolisms and latent meanings that are present in, and can be deduced  from human groupings, social customs and collective political/religious patterns.

Kamwathi’s work has been exhibited in numerous venues around the world and he was part of the Kenya national pavilion at 57th Edition of the Venice Biennale in 2017. He has also participated in the Young Congo Biennale 2019 in Kinshasa, Congo DRC and the 8th edition of the Ake Arts and Book Festival,Lagos, in 2020. His work is part of the collections of Safaricom, the British Museum, the Bates College of Art Museum, The East African Visual Arts Trust, the World Bank headquarters among others. He lives in Limuru- Kenya.

Born in Nyeri, Elias Mung’ora initially studied real estate and property management before changing course to pursue a career as an artist. He works predominantly in painting, combining it with other mediums such as drawing and photo collage.

His practice is a tool with which to explore the complex and multiple histories of his home country with a specific interest in the history of land and how people’s relationships with it have been influenced by colonialism.

Mung’ora has been an active member of Brush Tu Artist Studio since 2015. He was an Absa L’Atelier finalist in 2017 and has participated in  exhibitions in Kenya, South Africa, Italy, the USA, and France. He is currently a student of anthropology at the University of Nairobi.

Paul Njihia began his art career in 2010 with commissioned portraits as a way of making income while he was a university student. He became a full-time artist upon completing his studies in 2013, and joined the Kuona Trust Art Centre in January 2014.

Working mainly in figuration Njihia’s work is drawn from the experiences in social settings and environment, paying close attention to the relationships between the observed, and the observers. He is currently based at Kobo Trust Studios in Nairobi Kenya.

Morris Foit is one of Kenya’s most renowned sculptors. Born Morris Njau, he renamed himself Morris Foit, and an homage to Francis M. Foit, a Czech tutor he first met in 1966, who took an interest in young Foit’s creativity, and offered him his earliest lessons in sculpting.

Foit resumed making sculpture following a 14 year stint in  the Kenyan military to support his family, and began exhibiting his early works at Gallery Watatu in Nairobi.

Working mainly in wood, Foit creates sculptures of varying scale and complexity which display a keen understanding of the material. His works often chronicle key moments in the cycle of life and observations of social relationships.

The exhibition is on view from the 27th of July to the 23rd of September, 2023. For more information, please visit the Nairobi Contemporary Art Institute.

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