A Retrospective of Three Artists: Theresa Musoke, Tabitha wa Thuku, Yony Waite

Circle Art Gallery, Nairobi, 26 January – 26 February 2022

With more than 100 years of art-making between them, Yony Waite (Kenyan, b.1935), Theresa Musoke (Ugandan, b. 1944) and Tabitha Wa Thuku (Kenyan, b. 1963), share a deep love and concern for nature and this has been a subject to which each artist has returned to often in their work.

This exhibition brings together a selection of paintings and drawings from different periods of their practices, dating as far back as the 1980s, highlighting their continued consideration of the natural world around them.

Waite’s compositions display a sensitivity for the interplay between natural light and the darkened silhouettes of flora and fauna, intermingling the two in a way that sometimes renders the subjects indistinguishable from one another. As a result, her paintings often take on a semi-abstract quality, with the light, shadow and patterns taking centre stage.

Musoke’s approach to painting brings together the precision of drawing – her fine draughtsmanship is evident in her drawings in ink and watercolour on paper – with a looser painterly style. Her paintings often begin with dyeing her canvases, using the loose dye stains as a base for the animal groupings that feature prominently. Her works are often suggestive rather than descriptive, the forms emerging out of a fluid interaction of line, shape, movement, her animals and birds inseparable from their environments.

Wa Thuku’s landscapes possess a dreamlike quality that speaks of the artist’s affinity to the places from which they are drawn, rather than an attempt to depict a realistic space. Bearing titles such as A Universe in a Village, these expressive vistas distil the artist’s remembering of particular moments and experiences, combined with subtle movements of colour and texture. They are equally illusive and immersive, capable of transporting the viewer into places known and unknown.

Over and above their individual accomplishments as artists, Musoke, Wa Thuku, and Waite have all made significant contributions to the artistic landscape in Kenya and East Africa at large. Waite was the founder of the legendary Gallery Watatu in Nairobi, a space that offered opportunities to many artists and contributed to the emergence of many important artists from this region. Musoke has held teaching positions in various institutions throughout her career including Makerere University, Kenyatta University, and ISK. Wa Thuku, on her part has been involved in formal and informal teaching and mentoring activities including workshops with young mothers in urban communities in Nairobi, teaching in primary schools and leading children’s programs at RaMOMA.

This exhibition is a celebration of their work as artists, and an assertion of their incontestable contribution to the artistic landscape of East Africa. All three artists will be joining us for the opening night. If you are in Nairobi, please come tomorrow to meet them.

If you are particularly interested in one or other of the artists we have extended portfolios that Danda can send you if you let her know.