Sujay Shah: Forgive Us for Our Skins

Circle Art Gallery, Victoria Square, Riara Road, 19 April – 20 May 2023

Sujay Shah (Kenyan b.1991)

We are delighted to launch our new gallery with a first solo show for Sujay Shah. Raised in Kenya, Sujay Shah has experienced the intermingling of cultural ideologies, myths and histories. Shah is interested in how we can cope with colonial and cultural pasts, which are built into our surroundings.

In his recent paintings, Sujay deconstructs, satirises and critiques some of the harmful legacies of colonialism through the lens of big game trophy hunting. The presence of certain objects in Kenyan homes, country clubs and Safari lodges, such as skin rugs, animal parts and mounted animal heads serve as a haunting reminder of this violent history.

In the depicted fictitious dioramas and still lives, acts of brutality go side by side with luxury items such as Victorian objects, silverware, candelabra, and cabinets challenging the notions of what it means to be “civilised.” Intertwining horror, humour and surrealism, the exasperated animals are subjected to various states of disrespect, further undermining and trivialising the convoluted nature of these hunts.

Allusions are also made to early conservation practices that forcibly evicted people from their lands, recasting them as poachers, and equally absolving these hunters who treated Africa’s wilderness as theme parks. By portraying aspects of museum displays, these different moments are merged into a single image to suggest how the perception and romance of Africa, to the outside world, was fabricated, exoticized, and stereotyped. Images of which still perpetuate and haunt us today.

Sujay Shah is currently living and working in Kenya. He graduated with a B.F.A in Painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2013. After college, Sujay lived in New York, working as a studio assistant for the artists Paul Bloodgood and Anne Chu. His work has been exhibited in the US (Savannah, Georgia and New York) and France (Lacoste). His work is in the permanent collection of the Savannah College of Art and Design. In Kenya he has been in group exhibitions at the Kenya Art Fair, If Not Now at the Cave Bureau, and I Will See What I Want To See at Circle Art Agency. In 2022, he was awarded a Venice travel fellowship by Wangechi Mutu Studio.