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Introducing three artists in ‘Michael Armitage: Paradise Edict’

Published 13 May 2021

Artists Sane Wadu, Elimo Njau and Asaph Ng‘ethe Macua have played an important role in shaping figurative painting in Kenya – they have also had a profound impact on Armitage’s own artistic development. Learn more about these artists in our short video series.

  • Sane Wadu (b. 1954 in Nyathuna, Kenya) is a self-taught artist whose narrative paintings cast a critical light on society and religion.

    He initially worked as a school teacher before becoming a professional artist in the 1980s. When he abandoned teaching, his neighbours mocked him for leaving a safe career, calling him ‘insane’, whereupon he took the name ‘Sane’.

    Wadu was central to to supporting a generation of Kenyan artists and was a founding member of the Ngecha Artists’ Association, a collective formed to promote largely self-taught artists by organising exhibitions and workshops.

    A film by Matteo Lonardi. Commissioned by Haus Der Kunst and Nairobi Contemporary Art Institute (NCAI), 2020. All rights reserved.

  • Elimo Njau (b. 1932 at Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania) is known for major public commissions, including a mural series of Biblical scenes, completed in 1959 that pay tribute to those who lost their lives during the anticolonial Mau Mau Uprising (1952–60) in Kenya. In these murals, Njau draws on local landscapes, highlighting the East African context of the scenes.

    Throughout his life Njau has championed the arts of East Africa, founding the Paa-Ya-Paa (‘The Antelope Rises’) Gallery in Nairobi in 1965. As the first African-owned art centre in East Africa, Paa-Ya-Paa became a key forum for local artists and intellectuals, hosting exhibitions, workshops and debates.

    A film by Matteo Lonardi. Commissioned by Haus Der Kunst and Nairobi Contemporary Art Institute (NCAI), 2020. All rights reserved.

  • Asaph Ng’ethe Macua (b. 1930 in Karura, Kenya) studied at the Makerere School of Fine Arts in Uganda in the 1950s. His paintings are inspired by his life and his struggle with illness in his youth, by human nature and politics as well as Christianity and traditional beliefs.

    A film by Matteo Lonardi. Commissioned by Haus Der Kunst and Nairobi Contemporary Art Institute (NCAI), 2020. All rights reserved.

    • Michael Armitage , The Chicken Thief (detail)

      Michael Armitage: Paradise Edict

      22 May — 19 September 2021

      This year – just over 10 years since Armitage graduated from the RA Schools – we bring together 15 of his large-scale paintings from the past six years, exploring East African landscapes, politics and society.

      Alongside these will be a selection of 31 works by six East African contemporary artists: Meek Gichugu, Jak Katarikawe, Theresa Musoke, Asaph Ng’ethe Macua, Elimo Njau and Sane Wadu.

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