Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Author: Zihan Kassam

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Shabu Mwangi


Shabu’s mixed-media paintings explore the frail condition of humanity and the callous ways in which we treat each other. In a ravenous world, wheeled by the rich and powerful, he genuinely and relentlessly empathizes with the kind, the poor, and the displaced.

Zihan Kassam on the work of the Kenyan artist Shabu Mwangi.

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Beatrice Wanjiku


“I begin to understand that perhaps it is not so much that she is against interpretations that deem her drawings sinister or dark, but rather that she hopes a few intuitive spectators will understand that they project their own emotions on to what they see. More than that, she wants me to acknowledge that the agony and the ecstasy can be felt simultaneously and equally, and that life often exists in the grey.”

Zihan Kassam on the ‘Straightjacket’ series of Beatrice Wanjiku.
Lifts beyond conception.

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Maral Bolouri


(…) from the overwhelming restrictions in Tehran to the growing freedom of artistic expression in Kenya, Bolouri has found a small platform in Nairobi, where she can express the senselessness of certain norms that persist in society. Subtly expressing the thoughts that many of us think but don’t dare voice, this bold, observant artist doesn’t care if she has to dance alone.

Zihan Kassam on the work of Maral Bolouri.
The Holy Women, 2015.

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Jackie Karuti

AfricanahPortraitFinaalJackie Karuti_PhotoCredit_Joel Lukhovi-1 (2)

Where is home and why might people feel like they don’t belong in the very city they were born? Karuti will generate the feeling of being in today’s Nairobi, where so many doors are closed to the ordinary citizen. She will use physical doors, some open, some closed, and others that open to a wall, to simulate the feeling of being both incarcerated and exiled by one’s own city.

Zihan Kassam on the work of Kenyan Jackie Karuti.
Photo: Joel Lukhovi.

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Fitsum Berhe Woldelibanos


As Fitsum incessantly contemplates the human form and condition, his artwork continues to transcend pre-existing conceptions about African art and it seems his personal capacity to sympathize with the human predicament continues to grow.

Zihan Kassam on Fitsum Berhe Woldelibanos

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