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My People, My People

On the Frustrations of a Black Artist

October 2, 2011 (An excerpt from my life in writing)

One of the frustrations of being an African-American artist is finding other examples of either Blacks in art of works of black artist. It’s something you definitely have to look for. Most times you won’t just stumble upon a large selection of black art if any at all. undeterred I try to keep my eye out for interesting art and artists. Though I am interested in all kinds of art, I have always wanted to expand my knowledge of works that were either made by blacks or that have black people as subjects.

The amount of black art in existence is actually astoundingly large, but it is not as well advertised or widely taught main stream. A lot of the time you have to buy a special book or take a specific class to learn more about this kind of art. There is a lot of diversity of work within black art, from the countries of the artists, subject matter, style and medium; I know this. I just want to know what’s out there. I always want to know what is out there but practically with this issue.

I’m going to use this blog as a way to educate myself a way to educate myself and others about different kinds of art. I’m going to make Black Art an ongoing theme along with other avenues of art I will explore, starting with this post.

This Man’s name is Bernard Ndichu Njuguna. He is a painter from the central highlands of Kenya.

Kenya, a country on the continent of Africa

Below is an excerpt from the website “Inside African Art.” Also this website is good for checking out more of Njuguna’s work

“Our earliest childhood memories are carried with us and shape our life journeys. Ndichu Njuguna grew up in central highlands of Kenya surrounded by scenic landscapes and greenery. Moving narratives from his mother and observing his dad prepare art lesson schemes for teacher’s college where he taught, were his earliest exposure to art.  These childhood scenes have shaped and provided inspiration for his paintings.

Todd with Njuguna, Java House, Sarit Center, Westlands, Nairobi

He works with a variety of materials to recreate everyday scenes and experiences, lending it true to the feeling that a sunset is never the same. his paintings are inspired by nature , feelings ,music and even to a greater extent beauty of humanity.

Most often the images of Africa are of malnourished children, never ending conflict and misery. Yet for all this, the continent exudes vibrancy and joy. This is the side of Africa Njuguna explores and documents in his paintings.

Liz with Njuguna (left) and the artist Thiongo (middle), Sarit Center, Nairobi

He mainly works with acrylics ,oils and water colours. In a bid to make use of what is in his environment, He also experiments with recycled materials in plastic and aluminum to create decorative sculptures. This also doubles as an effort to clean up the world of dumping related pollution . His recent effort is in print form, on all the greeting  cards he paints ,urging for pollution reduction.

Njuguna never studied art as profession but he had a chance to take it as a special subject in both primary and high school. These two institutions ,provided for his initial skills in art. Professionally ,he pursued marketing in college , with a bias in advertising. He was lucky to work for two media houses before leaving the industry in the year 2002. At this time he had only worked for two years when he decided to follow the call of art. .His Initial works were exhibited at Artz gallery in Nairobi late 2003 and he has since sold his paintings world wide. World renown galleries like Amazwi and Dumela based in America have prayed a big role in exposing his work to the world art market. Njuguna is aged 33 today and he is a full time artist based in Nairobi Kenya.”

[End of Excerpt]

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I personally love the sinuous lines and rich color Njuguna uses in his work. His use of narrative in his paintings is also particularly striking. The very first thing that caught my eye in his paintings was the beauty of his thin elegant human figures and his use of suggestion with line. I love his simplicity.

Yes, His simplicity is prehaps my favorite thing about his paintings. I love how he gives the viewer just enough to know what is going on but he does not overpower the picture plane or overwhelm the viewer. He has a very restricted color palate and his use of texture is amazing.

I really have come to enjoy his work.

The Feeling I get when I look at  his work is a very light airy feeling. A levity that stays with me even after I’ve stopped looking at his paintings. His paintings have a fantastic, storybook quality that’s almost ethereal in nature. You almost can’t stop looking at his work; It just grabs you. You always see something new while viewing it.


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