sanaa, part 1

Now this is something I wanted to do for a long time:

Some years ago, I thought about renting the domain (someone already stole to build an online resource for East African artists and help them promote their work. A project like this one of course requires some funding/sponsorship as well as enough time to come up with something decent in terms of webdesign, usability and accessibility – all factors that I was short of as I am still a student @ varsity + despite of the publicity factor, there would be no other ways to promote the artists (~ organizing a sponsored tour through Europe, broker them to potential customers, etc.).

However, what I can still do is write about them in my blog (and keep on posting their images on flickr) and hope that the world, especially Kenyans in Kenya, pay a bit of attention to their artists – a profession that is often only considered valuable when artists sell paintings for a lot of money. After all, we are talking about art – and not an investment/commodity.

Fellow blogger Steve Ntwiga Mugiri recently blogged about the art scene and it made me realize that my art-website-idea from 2000 wasn’t such a bad idea. The demand is there – only, many artists apparently aren’t in a position to produce and also sell their paintings for a price they deserve.

This is where the Gallerys come into place. There are of course some interesting artists associations in Kenya – and I guess all these groups owe BIG TIMES to Mzee Elimu Njau of Paa Ya Paa gallery who assiduously tried to promote the scene and clearly identifies himself (with lots of emotional enthusiasm) with his work. I personally think that Elimu and the late Ruth Schaffner of Watatu Gallery contributed a lot during their heydays to the cultural scene in Kenya.
Anyways, back to the main issue (I know there’s still lots of interesting history that needs to be blogged one day :-)….So I dropped into Watatu Gallery for a few snapshots and also payed Mr. Shah of Sarang Art Gallery a quick visit.
While I was a bit dissappointed at Gallery Watatu and their downfall since Mr. Schaffner’s death in 1996 (well that’s my impression!), Mr. Shah proved to be vivid as ever.

You know I met a few potential customers in Nairobi (read: wealthy Wazungu with red UN-number plates on their cars) who are actually interested in and willing to spend some mbeca on paintings. The only problem is that often they don’t know where to get those really GOOD paintings. And of course Mr. Shah knows his business too well – something, a lot of artists in Kenya dislike him for as he buys their paintings for a few Shillings and sells them for much more. Business, simple as that. Who wouldn’t do the same?

I think the most interesting development so far has been with the Kuona Trust – “a not-for-profit organisation set up to research, support, innovate and promote contemporary visual art in Kenya and East Africa” – and the best way to find out more is to visit their website (i like, i like! :-)

Gallery Watatu in Nairobi. Among the many artists they represent are Chain Muhandi, Charles Sekano, Francis Kahuri, Tinga Tinga, Eunice Wadu, Hans Seuren (R.I.P.), J.M. Mbugua, Jak Katarikawe, Sane Wadu, Wanyu Brush (LOL) and Zachariah Mbutha.

Opposite Gallery Watatu on Standard Street (Nairobi), we find the Sarang Art Gallery run by Mr. Shah – who has a huge variety of really good, but also expensive paintings. In case you are willing to invest some money into good artists, this is the place I’d recommend as he really knows which artists consistently produce (professional!) good work and he won’t try to sell u low quality. That is, this might help in case you can’t decide or have no idea what’s good and bad…

(Sasa Mahendra, now you’ve been blogged – hope u don’t mind! :-)
And then I realized that he has some really good paintings by our (old) friend Abushariaa Ahmed (Mohammed) from Karthoum (Sudan) which sell for a lot of money. Hey Abu & Afrah, in case you are reading this, please drop me a line, ok?

Sanaa, part 2 will be on Kenyan painter Evanson Kangethe whom I visited at his shamba and took some pics of his work. In case you like this, please stay tuned….THX!

Author: jke

Hi, I am an engineer who freelances in water & sanitation-related IT projects at You'll also find me on Twitter @jke and Instagram.

15 thoughts on “sanaa, part 1”

  1. I just remembered that Kuona Trust were supposed to be publishing a book on Kenyan Art. Do you know if it’s out yet?

    It sounded like it would be a must buy for anyone who’s interested in the genesis of Art in Kenya.

  2. JKE

    See, here is the thing. I love it when people have great ideas like this and do something about it. I say fly with it now!!! I have also been thinking of making art a regular column on my site . . . but was draging my feet. I guess I better get to it.

    I would love to get my hands on that book !

    BTW, JKE, have you seen Wangechi Mutu’s work?


  3. Hi there,

    I have 8 paintings of Abusharia, seize 20×20. I bought them in Namibia-Walvisbay a few years ago. They are now hanging at home in Switserland.

    Does anybody know the approximate value of one of his paintings?



  4. Hello,

    I am living in Uganda and I have just bought a painting by Abusharia who I have heard should also be living in Uganda. Would it be possible to obtain his contact info (email adress) as I would like to get the story behind the painting from him, and eventually buy some more paintings from him ?


  5. Hello, Im looking to buy more paintings from Abushariaa too, Im so in love with the two I have!!! Any one know how to get in touch with him, his hotmail address seems to be a dud now??????

  6. I just purchased in October a piece of Abushariaa’s art and I am in the US…….I wish now I had purchased more….I bought from Mr. Shah at the Sarang Gallery. in Nairobi…..I would also like to be in touch with the artist and to buy more pieces……

  7. abusharia is well and very active active still. I am sure he will visit this blog and you all his contact. We are basking in the sunshine of his brilliant colours here in Kampala.

  8. Hi Rachel, Sanne Anderson,

    To view some of the paintings by Abushariaa that are available through Sarang Art Gallery, please visit:

    Some of these may no longer be available, however there are several other paintings by Abushariaa that can be made available for viewing upon request.

    Alternatively, feel free to browse through the other artist’s works available.

    S. Shah

  9. 21/10/81, i puchhased a lovely wood carving of a lion and abird,
    which I treasure to this day. The artist’s name is Samuel Wanjan(uncertain about
    last name!). Purchased at Gallery Watatu, Nairobi.
    Is this artist still working? Are there other works by him?
    Appreciate your input!

  10. Hi, I have 3 Abu paintings that I love, unfortunately I have moved house and one of them is too big to fit anywhere, so if anyone would like to buy it drop me a line and I can send you pictures, you’ll love it too !Offered to good home only. x

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