The spread and Ownership of Kenya’s African Paintings
People in other countries more often consume the market of current African art than Africans themselves.
Take for example the country of Kenya, in East Africa. You will not find framed, original African paintings in most citizens’ homes. Furthermore, Kenyans do not see African art as an official product, and surely do not view it as valuable now or gaining value over a lifetime. It is unfortunate that in Kenya and Africa as a whole, artists are abundant and their paintings very beautiful, but the public citizen does not recognize their talents. Why is this?
It is partly due to the poor economy. People just don’t have the luxury to use money on things that are not there for their survival. Money goes to food, shelter, transportation, electricity bills, and clothing, not to less needed things like home décor and certainly not to these aesthetics that are more than what they can provide, as most live on just a few dollars a day.
Take for example the wildlife in Kenya. The country’s scenery is filled with beautiful and increasingly scarce wild animals like elephants, giraffes, and packs of lions. Many Kenyans living in the urban areas just cannot provide to go outside their local area on a vacation to a far away game save where wildlife reign. They know about it, but just can’t use a vacation there, and consequently cannot appreciate the beauty of wildlife first hand in its natural setting. So for those artists who paint wildlife, there is just not interest in their work from Kenyans, since they have often never experienced a wild animal’s presence and majesty first hand.
Another main reason Kenyans do not consume much of their own art is a without of appreciation for and basic ignorance of arts in general. Their government does not promote arts in elementary schools and later on in terms of grants or scholarships to College. already in many of their museums, art is scarce and not well collected. This leaves the few Kenyans that are masters of African art to market it for themselves.
They alone are just not capable of reaching the whole country audience in order to sway and create their opinion. Also, for Kenyans, their culture is their culture. They live it everyday. So to see a painting of a Maasai tribesman or a painting of a village scene, since Kenya is the subject matter, and Kenyans live in these settings for a lifetime, the subjects that an artist might paint about their country is not so special or new to them.
To visitors from outside their county, however, these art subjects and more are quite a delightful keepsake and adored meaningfully.
consequently, for Kenyan artists, in order to make a living, the market and customer base has to go to visitors and tourists. Galleries, shops, exhibitions, and online websites are complete of their paintings. And they are beautiful paintings that sell and are loved. Visitors to the country sustain the economy of Kenya’s art course of action, appreciating both the recondite and realistic work of its varied artists.
There are already markets in various locations in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, that devote specific days of the week to selling pieces of art and artifacts. Visitors flock to these sites. Recognition and formation of the art community in Kenya, supported by outsiders, is so strong that experienced artists sometimes go themselves for exhibitions outside of Kenya, instead of inside the country. When they do, clients see not only their great talent, but want to probe more African artists with such a gift that paint what it is they love about Africa.
Although many Kenyans do not buy art as a whole, there is nevertheless hope and signs that they will in the near future. Attendance at exhibitions is growing and is consequently an indicator that the number of Kenya art lovers is increasing by the day. Awareness of Kenya’s galleries and exhibitions are circulating and the media is doing stories on the country’s artists. But what needs to change is the realization that spending money on art is worthwhile in that it provides a beautiful addition to one’s home and really contributes not only the country’s artists, but the Kenyan culture itself!
Is this needed change attainable for Kenyans as a whole? We think so. Kenyans are naturally proud of their heritage, so if it can be transformed into buying their own cultural art, than all the better.
Culture is dynamic, with new preferences coming up in this modern age daily. Kenya is a client for this kind of on the whim changes. Also, with a new government wanted in the elections of 2012 and a new generation of adults who are exposed to much more of the world than their parents, Kenya and the rest of Africa is undergoing meaningful and sweeping changes. The field of African art paintings could get caught in this momentum.
The good news is that art has been and will continue to be produced by those who dare to express their creativity in hopes of awareness and a lifestyle. Artists in the country also are increasing the number of their African artworks, partly due to the tourist and overseas need. They seem to be more pushed than ever to make their art be seen and its message to be heard. They are indeed a force to be reckoned with! The passion with which an artist paints and contributes their piece is the kind of passion that possible art lovers should have when selecting it.
But that is the future. How do Kenyan African artists stay afloat at present? At the moment artists can authoritatively state that African art paintings have, by time, become a sub-culture that has a following that is slowly but regularly increasing. If the current trend continues, an already larger population of art lovers would appear in country, across the continent and oversea.
What the citizens of Kenya ought not to do is have artists do their works and just let them be at the mercy of the tourist dollar only. Those in country, and those oversea, with genuine interest in African paintings should extend their interest towards building a strong and great network that will ultimately see the industry step its foot on the ground and declare that art has ultimately trounced despite the many hurdles it had to pass by. Then and only then will the world that is little by little waking up to the quality and quantity of African paintings see this art as it is, a formable and powerful culture force that has its roots in the most basic and oldest traditions of humanity.
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