6 Kenyan Artists and Artisans You Should Know

Dive into Kenyan artistry and crafts with these brilliant creators

By Google Arts & Culture

1. Masidza Sande Galavu

Masidza Sande Galavu was the creative force behind Shujaa Stories, an ongoing digital art series depicting legendary Kenyan figures as superheroes.

Galavu passed away in 2020, but his legacy lives on through Shujaa Stories.

Masidza Sande Galavu (2018)National Museums of Kenya

The exhibition encapsulates 400 years of Kenya’s history and traditions. Of the twenty-eight Shujaas in the series, ten of the heroes are women. This Shujaa Stories video presents the architectural ingenuity of the Gabra women.

Women Builders of Mana: Great Women Architects (Gabra Community) (2020) by Shujaa StoriesNational Museums of Kenya

2. Syowia Kyambi

Nairobi-based Syowia Kyambi is a multidisciplinary artist whose work explores race, gender, and Kenya’s history of colonialism.

This performance installation called Fracture (i) took place at a Limerick, Ireland, gallery in 2011.

Fracture (i) (2011) by Syowia KyambiEVA International

The emotional installation utilized physical media, projection, and performance to tell the symbolistic story of a woman named Rose who moves to the city from rural Kenya.

Fracture (i) (2011) by Syowia KyambiEVA International

3. Wangechi Mutu

Nairobi-born Wangechi Mutu is a Brooklyn-based visual artist whose striking pieces explore identity, African diaspora, and Afrofuturism.

These 2015 pieces by Mutu were exhibited at Biennale di Venezia in Italy. 

Forbidden Fruit picker and She’s got the whole world in her hands (2015) by Wangechi Mutula Biennale di Venezia - Biennale Arte 2015

This video shows an excerpt of Mutu's animated collaboration with the musician Santigold, exploring the beauty to be found in the grotesque.

4. Deepa Dosaja

Fashion designer Deepa Dosaja creates sustainable and ethical fashion in Kenya. This dress and shawl feature organic Kenyan silk and hand-sewn adornments.

Deepa Dosaja's look for The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange Deepa Dosaja's look for The Commonwealth Fashion ExchangeCommonwealth Fashion Council

Dosaja is pictured here working on the bodice for this intricate piece.

The dress was created with upcycled components, including Swarovski crystals and repurposed pieces of leather.

Deepa Dosaja painting flowers for the bodice of the look by Deepa DosajaCommonwealth Fashion Council

5. Manuella Numfor

Designer Manuella Numfor, shown here putting the finishing touches on one of her dresses, is a rising star in Kenya’s fashion world.

In 2018, as a student at Mcensal School of Fashion and Design in Nairobi, she won Student Designer of The Year at the Kenya Fashion Awards.

Brocade dress with satin sash by Manuella NumforOriginal Source: Mcensal School of Fashion and Design

You can watch her dressmaking process in this video, which follows her design process from concept sketch to finished product.

McEnsal School of Fashion: The Dressmaking Process by Manuella Numfor by Manuella NumforMcensal School of Fashion and Design

5. Tom Mboya

Visual artist Tom Mboya, not to be confused with the Kenyan author and activist of the same name, creates vibrant expressionist works using acrylics, oils, and other media.

Mboya joined the GoDown Arts Centre in 2008 and has had many successful exhibitions since. This piece, The Old Town, is inspired by his hometown of Mombasa.

The Old Town by Tom MboyaGoDown Arts Centre

Utamaduni Wetu: Meet the People of Kenya by Musa OmasiNational Museums of Kenya

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